How Voting Maintains State Violence Under The Guise Of Sparing Our Lives

Estelle Ellison
3 min readFeb 20, 2023

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The mechanisms of capitalism are always safely housed within the domain of electoral politics. Electoralism invites us to legitimize state violence. Each party compels voters to tow a line, and each party line designates certain violences as necessary. Most of those violences overlap.

Just as imperialism exists to ensure that capitalism can continue globally, fascism seeks to remove threats to capitalism domestically and abroad. To vote is to concede that capitalism is here to stay for as long as the state continues to exist, and elections are always a reinvestment, an affirmation of the state.

Conceding this point about capitalism is supposedly the price of admission into a forum where individuals’ formally recognized and extremely limited political “power” can be exercised, surveilled, and contained. In this way, those who are allowed to vote attempt to negotiate the terms of when the state’s arsenal of violences may or may not be deployed. On the surface, this seems to be a compelling reason to participate. In reality, the state’s violences are already totalizing. Electoralism is simply the process of begging the state to reward our submission to its violence.

Why do we expect exemption from violences that we know for a fact are presently coming down on those who, by design, are not protected by hierarchical power dynamics? What pay raises do we expect for being on a manager’s good side? What borders do we expect to be prioritized within? What spaces and institutions do we expect unobstructed access to, knowing that more marginalized folks will be refused at the door? To what extent do people derive a sense of safety from knowing that certain systems of violence are less likely to target them while being all too certain of who will be targeted by those same systems?

The capitalist political spectacle erases the informal collective forms of power that we in the margins are forced to create or grasp at just for the chance of surviving this fascist period. Even acknowledging the growing evidence of the myriad ways fascism shapes life today, the existence of fascism remains a mere subject of debate.

Both political parties wield state power together and have already proven they can adapt fascism to fit their respective political objectives with lethal consequences.

Neoliberal fascism seeks only to move the death and displacement of marginalized people out of public view so that liberals can more comfortably access and push for a guiltless sense of normalcy. By contrast, fascism more typical of white supremacy revels in that same death and displacement, motivating more aggressive pushes for a malicious sense of normalcy. These are the options electoralism offers us.

Mass participation in these violences both from people inside and outside the state’s formalized institutions adds a malevolent layer to this historical period we are currently struggling through.

In this oppressive mindset, increasing covid transmission rates (and therefore deaths from covid) is a small price to pay for unmasked normalcy. American individualism makes co-optation and other tools of counter-insurgency look attractive and defensible. The business-as-usual mentality keeps landlords, bosses, and funders satisfied as tenants, workers, and members are further coerced into repression and disposability.

The state constantly makes voting out to be a matter of life and death and voters champion this framing. But this framing can’t bring loved ones back to life. It doesn’t reverse displacement. It’s no substitute for safety from violence. Be it the lives lost or ruined that you settle for, or the oppression they relish, electoralism maintains the death machinery of fascism as it inches closer to its total eclipse of life. Whatever comfort can be derived from voting will always be fleeting and it will never keep us safe from violence. Lasting and meaningful liberatory gains will only be won through courageous militant care, our ability to intervene against violence, and our collective capacity to make oppression obsolete.

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This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Estelle Ellison

Time dissuades us from getting free... Black Trans Disabled Writer (She/They)