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Youth in Power — summer 2018
Photography Ryan McGinley, styling Emma Wyman

Why you need to show up and vote in the US midterms

Make your voice heard

The 2018 US midterm elections are taking place today (November 6) and we can’t stress how important it is that you make your way to your nearest polling station and vote as soon as possible.

For those who aren’t totally clued-up, the midterms are happening at the halfway point in Donald Trump’s presidency, and offer American voters the chance to significantly reduce presidential power over what happens in the states during the next two years. By electing new members of congress (made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate), Democrats could gain more control over any future laws proposed by Trump and the Republican party. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs ,with the Democrat party looking likely to win a majority (by flipping 23 Republican-held seats), and if a similar victory is made within the senate then upcoming measures proposed by Trump could be blocked, making life very, very frustrating for him in future… (sorry, not sorry).

This means that the current political landscape of the United States could be monumentally changed, and you have the power to do it. Voting early can make a huge difference, and reports are already suggesting that there could be record numbers – The Guardian proposes that “if trends continue, this turnout could beat the 49 per cent recorded in 1966, a number that has not been surpassed since in a midterm”. An important thing to remember too is that the midterms are state elections – so even though you’re voting for individual candidates, it’s going to reflect more of a referendum on the Trump presidency. You might not feel 100 per cent in agreement with the policies of your local Democrat or non-Republican would-be rep, but this is a lesser-of-two-evils situation that could define the country’s future.

While such predictions currently point toward an impending partial defeat for Trump and a huge step forward for the Democrats, your vote could still make all the difference. US correspondent Greg Milam has even suggested that, while those who sent Trump smugly to the White House in 2016 are likely to vote again in droves, “‘it is far less certain that the young will change the habits of a lifetime”. With that said, and if you’re not already convinced, here are seven key reasons to show up and use your vote...

ABORTION RIGHTS ARE AT STAKE

The midterms provide a vital opportunity to safeguard reproductive rights all over the US, and abortion rights play a vital part in women’s basic right to govern their own bodies. While the majority of democrats have rightly aligned themselves with the pro-choice movement, a 59 per cent Republican majority still believe in denying abortion as a fundamental right for women. Recent statistics overwhelmingly support the need for abortion rights, with a report from the American Journal of Public Health in 2017 suggesting that 25 per cent of American women will have an abortion by the age of 45. Abortion access will appear on the ballot in Alabama, Oregon, and West Virginia this year, which could ultimately prohibit access to funding for abortion in cases not resulting from rape, ectopic pregnancy or life endangerment – so it’s vital to go out and vote if you’re based in one of these states.

Recently, we covered some of the moving stories told with the 1 in 3 campaign, which uses portraits to show the human nature at the core of America’s crippling abortion debates. “I’ll stand in the frontline and share my story in order to change the culture around abortion,” one participant, Jessica, said.

WE NEED TO LEAD THE CONVERSATION ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change poses a developing major threat to the whole world, and the impending doom spelled by recurring environmental crises means that the world may have as little as 12 years to limit warming this century to 1.5 degrees celsius. Extreme weather-related disasters like flooding and hurricanes have already cost the US billions in damages, not to mention claiming thousands of citizen lives. Although the Paris Climate Agreement is currently in place to unite the world’s nations in combating climate change, President Trump withdrew the US’s involvement back in 2017, as well as slashing important environmental regulations. It is imperative, then, that we lead the conversation about climate change, and make the US a part of that collaborative movement. Luckily, a group called ‘Vote Climate US PAC’ has put together a handy ‘climate change voters guide’ to help voters see where this years midterm candidates stand on the matter.

MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT GUN CONTROL

Gun violence has killed 428 times more Americans over the past decade than terrorism, we reported back in 2015. Since then, the debate over gun control has pretty much been continually stop-starting; and with Trump now at the helm, reports of mass school shootings seem to have only increased tenfold. The only reasonable solution (it would seem) would be to revise the policies regarding gun ownership and firearm accessibility to members of the general public. Trump seems to think otherwise, though, suggesting after the Parkland shooting in February that the best way to prevent rogue students shooting up a school would be to … arm teachers as well? Thankfully, in the lead-up to the midterms, Democrats have been aggressively campaigning in favour of stronger gun controls, so a majority vote in their favour might finally ensure a long-overdue revision of US gun laws, as well as an all-round safer America.

We also need to continue the conversation around police brutality, and the brute force used on people of colour. People of black, Hispanic and Native American background are disproportionately killed by police, even more so in recent years. Police officers killed 1,129 people in 2017, yet only 12 were convicted of any crime. Several candidates across the states favour “police accountability” and believe more should be done for officers to restore trust in their communities. 

LOVE IS LOVE & TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

In the last few years Trump has continued to roll back vital LGBTQ rights, from the trans bathroom guidelines and the banning of trans people from serving in the US military, to erasing the word ‘trans’ from official policy entirely. These examples seem to be part of what can only be described as a recent anti-trans tirade, spearheaded by Trump himself. Last week, Dazed reported that the Trump administration was announcing a policy change that would mean your gender would be decided by your genitalia at birth and unchangeable thereafter, which has already resulted in a quadrupling of calls made to trans suicide hotlines.

Intersex rights are also seriously at risk here – model and activist Hanne Gaby Odiele recently led a march to campaign against the act of non-consensual surgery on intersex youth. Ahead of today, The Guardian has reported that “LGBT and civil rights activists (have) urged Americans to vote in the midterm elections ‘like lives depend on it’”, and the truth is, they really do. While it might seem like representation in congress is a little thin on the ground, you can also find a useful list of nine LGBTQ+ candidates running in the midterms here.

PROTECT YOUR HEALTHCARE

More than one in five voters, 22 per cent, said in a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll that healthcare is their top issue in the November midterm elections. Clearly, healthcare is of huge concern to most Americans – unsurprising when considering that Trump has been pretty vocal about reversing Obama’s previous advancements in healthcare since his presidential campaign began, even promising to repeal Obamacare in his first year. While this (thankfully) hasn’t happened entirely, healthcare is slowly becoming more of a privilege than a right to a vast majority of the American population. In supporting a lawsuit which seeks to eliminate Obama's pre existing conditions, Trump has made it clear that his version of America is one where those who need healthcare the most are the least likely to receive it. The chart below is one of many examples of staggering statistics which show that your right to healthcare needs protecting.

THE DEPORTATION AND SEPARATION OF IMMIGRANTS NEEDS TO STOP

Trump’s anti-immigration policies have been perhaps the most widely publicised facet of his heinous work since the start of his presidency in 2016. This year, family separation policies have been totally inhuman, with The Guardian recently reporting that the (Trump) administration has set up what can only be described as a concentration camp near the Mexican border for detained migrant children. The grim reality that the current president of one of the world’s biggest nations is setting up child-concentration camps should surely be enough to bring voters to the polls in the midterms. With Trump showing no sign of changing course on immigration any time soon, a majority for the Democrats could be enough to block some of his upcoming policies, including that plan to build a wall between America and Mexico.

MAKE IMPEACHMENT POSSIBLE

This political shake-up will not only inevitably knock Trump down a peg or two, but could even set into action the long overdue impeachment proceedings against him. If a Democrat majority can be secured, the house of representatives would have the opportunity to vote for the impeachment of President Trump. And after that? The president could possibly then be put on trial by the senate on charges of ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours’. If a two-thirds majority of senators found him guilty, Trump would be removed from office and replaced by Vice-President Mike Pence. Trump would be the first president ever removed from office by the impeachment process – wouldn’t that just be the ultimate “fuck you”? Next after that would be removing homophobic, evangelical Pence, but baby steps.

So there you have it, your vote at the midterm elections today could help to define the next immediate era of American politics – so get up and get at it!