Why I Want Cardi B to Vote

“Black Vote, Black Power,” a collaboration between Keith Boykin and Word In Black, 
examines the issues, the candidates, and what’s at stake for Black America in the 2024 presidential election.

by Keith Boykin

Cardi says she’s not voting. But if voting didn’t matter, Republicans wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop us from doing it.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Cardi B explained why she won’t be voting in the November presidential election. “I don’t f*** with both of y’all n*****,” she said. 

I love Cardi, but I hope she reconsiders her decision.

I am, too. Anyone with a conscience wants lower prices, higher wages, and fewer wars. But not voting is not the answer. It’s the problem.

The reason why we face so many problems in America is because too many of us aren’t voting, and we’re letting other people who disagree with our values set the agenda.

Although inflation is down from its peak a few years ago and wages are up, Cardi is right that the federal minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 an hour because all 50 Republican senators and eight conservative Democrats voted to block an increase in 2021. 

(Photo by Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images)

The issue isn’t Cardi’s description of the problem; it’s her prescription. If you don’t vote, then what’s your strategy to create the change you want to see in America? Is it going to happen magically? Is the government going to see millions of Black people not voting and think, “Hey, let’s listen to the people who didn’t bother to vote”? 

That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if we don’t speak up, we get less attention, not more.

This is why we can’t just show up once every four years for a presidential election and then complain when things go wrong. We have to vote in every election — for Senate, Congress, governors, state representatives, mayors, city councilors, prosecutors, judges, and school board members. Those are the people who make the majority of the decisions that affect our lives, not the president.

If voting didn’t matter, Republicans wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop you from doing it.

But voting, by itself, is not enough. We have to hold our leaders accountable even after we vote for them. The way to do that is to negotiate for your vote. That’s what people with power do. They don’t walk away and refuse to vote when they’re upset. They demand some specific deliverable in exchange for their vote. That’s what we should do, too — prioritize an issue and demand attention to it.

Voting is not just aspirational; it’s transactional. You’re not selecting a spouse for life. You’re hiring an employee for a specific amount of time. You don’t have to fall in love with them. They just have to do the work. 

When anyone tells you it doesn’t matter who you vote for, you’re being played. If voting didn’t matter, Republicans wouldn’t be trying so hard to stop you from doing it. And, trust me, they’re not telling white people not to vote.

Voting is not about choosing the lesser of two evils. It’s about choosing among the available applicants for the job. Sure, I would love to vote for a young, charismatic, powerful, progressive Black woman who reflects all my values, but she didn’t apply for the job this year. So, I gotta choose between these two old white guys. And I don’t agree with Biden on several issues, but I don’t agree with Trump on any issues.

The most enduring impact the next president will have on the future is the appointment of judges. Donald Trump and George Bush already appointed the conservative Supreme Court justices and federal judges who eliminated affirmative action in college admissions, overturned Roe v. Wade, struck down a rescue plan for Black farmers, ordered the Minority Business Development Agency to serve white men, and declared a Black woman’s venture capital fund to be illegal.

Not voting in 2024 gives Donald Trump the chance to stack the Supreme Court and the federal bench with right-wing judges with lifetime tenure who will be able to block any progressive legislation that you support for the next 30 years. Not voting doesn’t help advance a pro-Black agenda. It stops it dead in its tracks.

I’ve worked on six political campaigns in my life, and I’ve learned that no candidate will agree with everything I believe in, unless I run myself. That means we need realistic expectations about what candidates can and cannot do. 

Let’s say you’re in Atlanta and you have to choose between two cars to get to New York City to see your ailing grandmother. One car will take you all the way to Philadelphia, while the other car will take you back to Biloxi, Mississippi. Neither one is going to take you exactly where you want to go, but at least one car is headed in the right direction. Sure, you could wait a few years until the perfect car is built that will speed you along to the Big Apple, but granny doesn’t have forever.

So, don’t believe the people who tell you that your vote doesn’t matter. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just 79,000 votes spread out over three states — Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — in 2016. You could fit them into the USC football stadium in Los Angeles.

George Bush won re-election by just 118,000 votes in Ohio in 2004. And Bush won his first presidential election by only 537 votes in the state of Florida. That’s the size of my high school senior class.

The lesson here is that every vote counts. Whether you’re a well-known rapper or a little-known restaurant worker, don’t throw yours away.

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