Unf*ck the vote! 3 ways creative action can win the election


Turnout, especially in polarized times like these, wins elections. The stakes in this election — whether we have a livable planet, whether kids are incarcerated in detention centers and, perhaps, whether we continue to have a functional democracy — are high. And when the stakes are this high, it’s time to get creative. 

While many means are necessary to combat a potentially devastating blow to American democracy (which would certainly send shockwaves around the world), creative, visionary tactics are fundamental. They capture people’s attention, provide an on-ramp for education, speak to the urgency of the moment and help us overcome potentially paralyzing fear.

Embracing a creative and playful strategy is essential to the development of a critical mass of political power. Check out the inspiration below from the Beautiful Trouble toolbox on how to win the numbers game, defend democracy and challenge business as usual to build for the fabulous future we all deserve.

1. Winning the election
It’s a numbers game, after all

Across the country, people are channeling the revolutionary spirit of Beautiful Trouble by using creative tactics to do more than simply get out the vote. They’re showing solidarity and strength in numbers by Dragging Out The VoteChalking The Vote with their kids and organizing with friends to deliver pizza to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots. [See BT Principle: Breakfast is Persuasive]. 

2. Protecting the election
Shifting gears to democracy defense

Motivating people to vote is only the first step of defending democracy. Repeat after us: First participate, then protect. Centuries of struggle have taught us that if we don’t exercise our freedoms, they disappear; if we don’t vote, the right to vote will be threatened. The more we engage, the more we win. But engagement doesn’t stop at the ballot box, it continues until every vote is counted, which could be days if not weeks after Nov. 3.

If we have a “stolen election” scenario — where ballots are seized and not counted, where there are discrepancies between the state certifiers and the Electoral College delegates, or when the loser refuses to concede — then we must exercise our full people power to right the wrongs. 

One of the main reasons that so many injustices persist is not that the powerful can simply do whatever they want with impunity, but that most people are ignorant of their power. If we understand that we, the people are governed only by giving our consent to those that govern, we recognize that we can withdraw that consent [see BT Tactic: General strike] and collectively wield power. Using the Pillars of Power analysis, we can imagine our government as the roof of a building, held up by pillars such as the education system, the courts, the military, federal employees, media and so on. Each institutional pillar that has the power to uphold or neglect counting votes is made up of real people. We can reach these people and get them to walk away from their role, weakening and possibly crumbling this pillar, thus bringing down the whole structure. 

Giant street murals — Black Lives MatterClimate Action Street Mural Actionchalking outside McConnell’s house and more — have offered a way to focus the energy of a crowd and make a huge statement, even while shutting down an intersection. In Ferguson, Missouri, during a march honoring Mike Brown, protesters carried a mirrored coffin “to evoke reflection and empathy for the deaths of young people of color who have lost their lives unjustly in the U.S. and worldwide … and to challenge viewers to look within and see their reflections as both whole and shattered, as both solution and problem, as both victim and aggressor.”

3. Depolarizing post-election

Flex our muscle in November, then power-lift for the next four years

Let’s imagine a scenario where Biden and Harris are installed in the White House. (Deep breath. Shelve your anti-anxiety meds.) Let’s be honest, the pandemic and white supremacist violence will still be very much alive in 2021. We will have witnessed (and been part of) the efficacy of creative action to increase voter turnout and stop election suppression, and it will be time for the next layer of innovative action. 

In polarized societies, the role of creativity and culture workers becomes ever more crucial to repair and heal society. Cultural action engages and allows dialogue, reaches hearts, gets us out of the purely intellectual realm and demonstrates patriotism by making visible the heart and soul of a nation. [See BT Principle: Re-capture the flag.]

A beautiful example of harnessing culture is the Myanmar Flower Speech campaign that began in 2014 during an uptick in anti-Muslim violence. Activists launched a social media campaign showcasing images of people holding flowers — a traditional Buddhist symbol of peace — in their mouths to call for purity of speech. These flowers became a viral symbol online, and led to a traveling education program as well. Recently in Slovakia, The Peace Sofas project helped launch dialogue around polarizing and controversial topics from the comfort of one’s own sofa.

As Joaquin Gonzalez shared on the Democracy Defense webinar, “The people power we showed cannot stop. It’s a continuing revolution. Whenever there is a threat we must come back to the streets and protect the ballot boxes again.” 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we can meaningfully talk about depolarization, we need to get in formation and win (and protect) this election. So find a group to work with, and call the Resistance Hotline at 1-800-NVDA-NOW with your questions. Trusted professional troublemakers are standing by to support you. 

Keep in mind this is not a finite struggle for the immediacy of the POTUS election; this moment is hopefully part of a longer-term movement toward systemic change. The problems didn’t start with #45 and they won’t end with #46; we must build people power for the long haul. Now is the time to shore up personal reserves, form an affinity group, make plans where you are (see an ambitious plan from a local group here) and get your creative juices going. Let’s remember all that’s at stake in this moment and get busy. We all have a part to play.

Additional support for this piece was provided by Jessica Lipsky and Andrew Boyd.


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