When I was two, we lived in Florida. Yeah, I know, woe is me. My parents, as you can tell from my mum’s choice of footwear, were total hippies. And in 2000, they were big fans of Ralph Nader, the American Green Party candidate for president.
I don’t know how much you know about the 2000 American presidential election, but it was, to put it lightly, a bit of clusterfuck. Long story short, George Bush was able to narrowly edge out Al Gore for the presidency, thanks to some election mumbo jumbo and loophole-threading. The state of Florida was the key to his success, as it flipped from Democrat to Republican and pushed the country into Bush’s lap.
Now, as a two-year-old, I didn’t have much concern for politics beyond which candidate promised to make a T-Rex the national animal, but that didn’t stop me from getting involved. My mum took me out to the polling station during the election, and used my cherubic charm to highlight her protest sign: calling for Nader to be a part of the presidential debates. Democratic voters were sympathetic to the plight of the Greens, and she was aiming to convince a few Democrats to vote with their heart this year, and vote Green instead.
In the US, you don’t pool your votes. You only get one choice, and once everything is tallied up, the person with the most votes wins, end of story. So every Democrat voter that chose to vote Green essentially made the already-tight gap between Dems and Republicans that much wider. There’s a reason that the two-party system has survived in the States: it’s a corporate trap designed to ensnare the masses and force them to choose between two established evils, neither of which has their best interests in mind, and to discourage them from voting for any party that aligns with their morals because to do so would be to undermine their preferentially-polished turd. But that’s another story.
As we’ll see, this can go very, very wrong. It is no stretch to imagine that a handful of Democrat voters decided, upon seeing my mum and I, that maybe they should listen to their gut. Maybe they should say “fuck the system”, and vote with their conscience, that they should be the change they want to see in the world and, politics be damned, they’re gonna vote Green! Oops.
Enough people at this polling station voted Green that the Democrats lost our county. Because our polling station flipped Republican, our county flipped Republican. And because our county flipped Republican, the state of Florida flipped Republican. And because Florida flipped, well… the rest is history. Bush was elected, some steel beams were melted (were they?), a third World Trade Centre building collapsed (how?) and here we are today (I guess).
So when somebody tells you that you’re too insignificant to make a difference, don’t listen to them. You can always make a difference. It just might not be the difference you were looking for.