Overcome your democratic exhaustion and vote today.
Overcome your democratic exhaustion and vote today. Charles Mudede

I voted, and I will continue to vote. But I will never vote with the illusion that the candidates I select will, if elected, significantly redefine social experience.

If you are on the left, as I am, the best your vote can do is help check the worst from happening. The changes that a leftist politician can make are constrained in a way that those of a politician on the right are not. And so we have a situation where the worst (more of the same: cars, inequality, environmental degradation, privatization) is free to accelerate when the opportunity is available; and the best (public transportation, really affordable housing, clean energy), is easily decelerated to the point of enjoying only the smallest of gains. This is why it's not an exaggeration to say the role of the left in the present democracy is to briefly make the worst happen slowly rather than quickly. The worst is the order of the day.

This is why my favorite speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is his 1966 "I'm Tired" speech. It was delivered not in Selma or some other place in the South but in Chicago, an industrial city in the North. I think we should listen to it as we vote in Seattle.

I don't mind saying to Chicago or to anybody, I'm tired of marching. Tired of marching for something that should have been mine at birth. I don't mind saying to you tonight... I don't mind saying to you tonight that I'm tired of the tensions surrounding our days. I don't mind saying to you tonight that I'm tired of living every day under the threat of death. I have no martyr complex. I want to live as long as anybody in this building tonight, and sometimes I begin to doubt whether I'm going to make it through. I must confess I'm tired.

Here we have MLK in a state or mode of feeling that we should all be in today: democratic exhaustion. For him, it was the constant marching and protesting and preaching for nothing more than the basic rights of American citizenship. King did not want to die for this cause. He only wanted a more rational world.

Today, we vote for people who have all the right (rational) ideas: Nikkita Oliver, Joe Nguyen, Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, Lorena González, and so on. We certainly wish them the best. But we very well know that the most they are likely to do while in office is offer resistance to (rather than reverse) the worst.

And although this kind of work is not meaningless—because it's still far better than nothing—one, at this point feels tired of just always slowing what comes so naturally to our society. When will we make real changes? When will Seattle build its rail system with real passion and urgency? Will we have to wait another 50 years for Seattle to build another tower devoted to really affordable housing? How many more socialists are needed to make the best happen on our council?

Some might say: The left has made progress over the years. It has not been about just checking the worst. But the truth is most of the substantial democratic gains in the US and in Europe were achieved during and right after two major World Wars and a massive economic crash. From 1947 on, leftist gains have been in decline. MLK arrived not at the beginning but at the end of the US's social democratic moment. He was very aware of this lateness, as his other great speech, The Bad Check, made clear. From the 1970s on, US politics has been about the right accelerating or not accelerating. If the latter, then the left is in power.