East Phillips Park Cultural and Community Center the morning of the primary election in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
East Phillips Park Cultural and Community Center in Minneapolis on the morning of the August 9 primary election. Credit: Drew Arrieta | Sahan Journal

Dear fellow progressives,

Please vote this November.

I know this past month has been brutal. Like you, I am also disappointed that primary season has ended the campaigns of many progressive candidates. It is disillusioning that moderates who were challenged by progressives are prevailing in nearly two-thirds of all races across the country and that Democratic voters elected middle-of-the-road candidates forNovember’s ballot. 

It is especially frustrating when compared to the 2018 midterms where progressives were winning elections at historic rates. I too, am in favor of fierce, young, passionate left-wingers like Representatives Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez who took over the political arena and gripped the public’s attention. I love that they brought awareness to progressive causes and put pressure on moderate Democrats to finally recognize the left wing of the party. I was elated that “The Squad” ushered in a youth-led progressive movement within the Democratic Party.

For the first time in politics, I felt heard and represented, and I know you did, too. I don’t want that to end. I want the progressive coalition across the country to grow–to have a bigger voice. But unfortunately, that’s not going to happen this year. 

But we knew that, right? We’re organizers and activists–the most politically active group within the Democratic party. We stay informed. And in modern politics it’s been a longstanding rule that the president’s party loses ground in the midterm election. So, it makes sense that Democrats would opt for more moderate, electable candidates in the primaries. And although this outcome was foreseeable, it still hurts.

It may not feel like it, but our votes matter. When we show up to the polls in masses, we influence election outcomes.

I know you want young, fresh progressive faces to hold seats of power. I know you are frustrated with the establishment and feel like party leaders are overlooking the issues you care about. I, too, am fed up with the status quo. Every year that moderates continue to prevail, I feel disengaged and disenfranchised, and I know you do, too. But please, don’t let your disappointment dissuade you from the ballot box this November.

It may not feel like it, but our votes matter. When we show up to the polls in masses, we influence election outcomes. Compared to the 2016 election cycle, youth voter turnout rates in 2020 increased by 11 percent–impacting key races across the country. Our support helped propel President Joe Biden to victory in swing states like Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania–states that were key in delivering Democrats the White House. We weren’t thrilled about Biden being the nominee, but we voted for him anyway. Because to us, the alternative was unacceptable. 

This election is just as important, if not more so. Look what’s on the line: abortion access, gay marriage, contraceptives, the future of our democracy, and so much more. We don’t have the luxury of staying home–staying silent. If we do, our rights will continue to be eroded. As it stands, November’s election does not look good for Democrats. Republicans are favored to win the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats barely have an edge in the U.S. Senate.

We can’t afford to let Republicans flip Congress. So, let’s show up–let’s put aside our disappointment over the primaries and vote to safeguard our rights. If we turn out in full force like we did in 2020, we could preserve power in Washington, or even strengthen it. This means finally being able to codify Roe vs. Wade and Obergefell vs. Hodges into law–consecrating our fundamental right to privacy. These are issues that, as progressives, are a core part of our platform. We must prioritize that over intra-party fighting; the future of the country depends on it. 

However, voting isn’t just about the short-term political future; it’s also about the long term as well. When we vote and make our voices heard–make it clear that we hold political capital–we gain political power. By demonstrating our consistent influence over election outcomes, our desired policy initiatives will finally gain traction. It’s already happening.

After the spike in youth turnout in 2020, Biden and other establishment Democrats started paying heed to progressive demands. Biden’s recent student debt cancellation policy–something progressives have been pushing for years–was in part an attempt to galvanize young voters. If we stop showing up to the polls, elected officials will stop listening to us. They will disregard any future policy pushes.

If we want to push a national progressive agenda, we must have consistently high voter turnout rates. We must speak with our votes, so party leaders will be forced to pay attention to what we have to say. By showing up to the polls in November, we are making our power known and our demands unavoidable. 

While we may be disappointed there aren’t more progressives on the ballot, we must look past that and focus on what’s at stake this November. Are we willing to lose our rights over minor intra-party disagreements? Do we want to risk future policy initiatives over frustrations with party leadership? I certainly don’t, and I don’t think you do either.

We need to show up and secure our rights because no one will do it for us. The future of the country is in our hands. So, please, fellow progressives, I beg of you–please vote this November. 


A fellow progressive

Trinity Hanif is a freshman at Carleton College and a former member of the Minnesota Youth Council. She helped a state representative's campaign this summer with policy research and speech writing.