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This Is My First Election, and I’m Terrified

Kendi K
Aug 12, 2020 - 4:29

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Donald Trump was elected my freshman year of high school. 

I didn’t stay up to watch the results. I was one of the people who didn’t think there was any way in hell he’d win. America was crazy, but not that crazy. 

I remember the moment so clearly. 

I woke up on the bottom bunk of my bed in the room I shared with my four siblings. Sunlight had barely begun to peak through the windows. I had a headache. I was thirsty but too lazy to get a glass of water. I suddenly remembered the election. Half conscious, I grabbed my phone and googled, 

“Who is the president of America?”

And just like millions of people across the world, I saw the demonic orange face of nightmares. Donald Trump had won. He was the president of the United States. He was my president. 

I fell back to sleep and googled it again a few hours later. I would spend the rest of my day refreshing that same page, asking the internet that same question, because I refused to accept the answer. 

Since that day, me and my friends have been dying to vote. We spent all of high school attending protests, leading walkouts, and hosting fundraisers to try and help undo the damage the Trump administration has done, but we always understood how limited our power was. Before we turned 18, we could only do damage control for the detrimental policies politicians passed. 

I registered to vote months before my birthday, (in many states, if you will be 18 by the election, you can register to vote early. Do it). I was thrilled at the idea that Bernie Sanders would get to be the first president I ever helped to elect. My family and I  campaigned with him. He came to our house and had dinner. He told me his favorite ice cream was Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, same as my dad’s, and I made us all heaping bowls of it. I didn’t know it was possible for me to have as much faith as I did in an old, straight, cis white man, but I did. I believed he could change this country for the better and, by proxy, change the world. 

But he isn’t the president I will get to help elect, Joe Biden is. 

Yesterday, Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate. Although neither Joe nor Kamala can be characterized as revolutionaries, there is something radical in her being chosen. When the news broke, my grandma texted me and said, “There is going to be a vice president that looks like you!”  While I don’t see the resemblance, I understood her text to mean there could be a woman of color in a position where one has never been. I will not discount the importance of this.

That being said, I cannot bring myself to be thrilled about the prospect of either of them in office. America is in need of dire changes and neither of them has expressed an interest in bringing about. The critiques of Biden are endless, while Kamla’s actions, and sometimes lack of action, as the District Attorney of San Francisco exposes her views as being far from the liberal label she has taken on. 

It is a struggle for me to support two politicians who I do not fully believe in, who have made statements and decisions I am morally opposed to. Up until now, I shouldered no blame for who controlled this country. I was fourteen when Donald Trump was sworn in and I could only bear witness. Now, I have a say in who controls the white house, and literal lives depend on that decision.

I will be the first in line to cast my vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris because it is what must be done. 

I am learning to be okay with that. 

I am learning that change can be achieved many ways. 

I am learning that sometimes democracy means settling for the lesser of two evils, and Trump’s evil far outweighs Biden’s. 

My faith in this country is next to non-existent. It was chipped away with every law and policy passed and abolished by the Trump administration that further limited the freedom’s of America’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised groups. As an 18-year-old launching into election season for the first time, it is easy for me to feel powerless against the oppressive systems of government that stand. The fight feels too hard, and the struggle too great, but I am from the generation of radical kids who have been pissed off for too long, and we’re ready to raise hell. 

Now, we have a tool we did not have before. 

Our vote.

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