American Voter: Aileen Garza

Al Jazeera asks the same key questions about the presidential election to voters across the United States.

Aileen Garza
Aileen Garza's top election issue is Reproductive Rights [Courtesy of Aileen Garza]

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, while Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US, asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Aileen Garza

American Voter Aileen Garza
American Voter Aileen Garza [Courtesy of Aileen Garza]

Age: 23

Occupation: Community Organizer

Residence: Hidalgo, Texas

Voted in 2016: Hillary Clinton

Will vote in 2020: Joe Biden 

Top Election Issue: Reproductive Rights

Will you vote why/why not?

“Yes, I will. From a young age, I always knew that voting was a part of our democracy and was definitely very involved. Once I became a teen, I began voicing my opinions and just being very loud about them. So, I know voting will not save us in the long run, but it can definitely stop a lot of damage from happening within our present.

“So, I will be voting, especially because I understand the severity of our options and how they can impact people in our communities whose voices are often left out. Coming from a family where my brother is underage, he’s currently 16, and my mother is a legal permanent resident, I understand other families who are mixed-status families and they have definitely been put on what feels like a butcher block in the past couple of years. It’s definitely something that we need to remember whenever it comes to our privilege and our right as citizens to have a voice at the ballot box.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to vote, and I do believe that everyone should be voting as our civic duty. But I also wouldn’t shame anybody for not because it’s definitely been a very hard couple of years, especially in movement spaces.”

What is your number one issue?

“As someone who works in reproductive rights, it is definitely abortion access and making sure that we’re voting in a pro-choice majority within our local government, within our state governments, and, of course, within our national government.

“Ever since the year started, honestly, abortion and abortion access has definitely been a very key and bold point that people are trying to make. As someone who has done a lot of volunteer work with abortion funding and volunteer work in reproductive rights, people always like want to take abortion access and reproductive health and throw it under the bus when we should be trying to protect it as much as possible, especially for people in my community who don’t have the access to transportation and don’t have the financial means to pay for an abortion. They (abortions) can definitely get very expensive very quickly because of the way laws have been written and the way laws constantly try to stop abortions from happening when that will never be the case because abortions have been around since before these laws were made and they will be around after.”

Who will you vote for?

“I’m conceding to Joe Biden because I morally do not stand by Joe Biden. But as someone who is a social work student, who’s done a lot of work in social justice and reproductive justice, I understand that I’m leaning towards the lesser of two evils for the majority of people. And this was honestly a very tough decision.

“At first, I was leaning towards a more socialist candidate, and then a couple of weeks ago, I was really thinking to myself, ‘I really don’t have to vote for a president. I do not have to make a choice, and I can just vote down the ballot the rest of the way.’  The state and local governments matter a lot more to me than national governments do and Texas is a very red state (tends to vote Republican), but not because there is a lot of [right-wing people] to vote, but because the majority of marginalised people don’t have access or as easy access to voting as others.

“But then again, talking to my friends, I know I will have to suck it up again to vote for someone who will not harm all people because harm is still going to be done, and it’s something that we have to acknowledge, especially within our democracy and the way our government is run. So, I will end up voting for Joe Biden. Just to save the few that I can save.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“In the end, you do the lesser of two evils because I know it was the same way in 2016, and it’s sad to say that it was because I would have really loved to see this election go a completely different way. Living in a very capitalist society, it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely difficult for many people to understand that we should all have a baseline of living in our society. There’s damage that had been that has been done and hopefully will not continue.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“As a woman of colour who has lived in a marginalised community on the US-Mexico border, I’ve seen and I’ve heard a lot that’s been happening across the country and it feels different. To be here while seeing news in Austin, where there is a lot of pushback from police, and then seeing the riots and the protests around George Floyd’s murder – It’s been very heavy because living in the southernmost part of Texas, trying to support any of the groundwork that’s been done across the country is difficult, but it’s been done. And it’s still ongoing, especially supporting our own community after having a Hurricane Hannah just like come through. It’s been a very difficult time, especially just this summer.

“The one thing that we can do is continue supporting our communities, continue supporting communities that are being over-policed, continue supporting people who are on the ground, doing the hard work, because that’s how we can continue and progress in making our country and our communities what we want to see. So, no, I am not happy, but I know that a lot of this stuff that is happening and it’s going to continue to happen is just building to something that you want to see in the future.”

What would you like to see change?

“I want to see a community that is continuously helping each other. I grew up in that living in a Mexican household where family really sticks with family. And I know sometimes that can be wrong of us to do, but it’s just a community that we’ve built within, and it’s something that is seen across other families of colour.

“Additionally, a society that can function without police and the over-policing and overt militarisation of police, because I know it’s something that we have to deal with a lot here on the border. Not only do we have funded police departments within every city, for the most part, but we have military, Border Patrol, and ICE constantly patrolling the streets, driving around, and constantly being that shadow in the corner of a room because we’ll never be able to escape it. So, it’s definitely just the dismantling of the police state and the law enforcement because they have definitely been a terror to communities like mine who are over-policed even on campuses, so I know for sure that’s one thing I always think about whenever it comes to change.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“Is there going to be immediate change? Not just when Election Day comes around and whenever inauguration comes around? Maybe within the hundred days of a new presidency. But we can definitely hope to progress in the country. Once a lot of the damage that has been done is reverted.”

What’s your biggest concern for the US?

“My biggest concern as someone who has to continue following this in the election is voter suppression. I mentioned at the beginning Texas is a very red state but it’s a red state because there has been so much voter suppression, and if we had made it easier from the beginning of the pandemic for people to vote, a lot of elections might have looked a lot different. So, I know like that one thing that I’ve been thinking about now. But, of course, there are so many other things that are also on the line, like with abortion access and Supreme Court- another Supreme Court nominee being given the power to overturn Roe [v Wade], but then also just the like the entire state of the country… We can’t just focus on one thing. So, we’re really being split whenever it comes to thinking about the issues. I’m voting and I’m just trying to keep sane at the same time. But I don’t know if that answers the complete question because it’s just such a loaded thing to think about.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you would like to say?

“In 2016, it was my first year in college. I got very involved in politics but if there was one thing that I don’t want to be repeated from 2016 is the thought that it’s only a presidential election that we’re voting on because there are definitely other races that are just as important happening locally and at the state level. It’s looking at a sample ballot beforehand and looking up the candidates most aligned with yourself is very important.

“And also, if your vote is to do damage control, that is completely fine and it shouldn’t be something that you should feel guilty about, because it’s definitely up to the person themselves to feel like they should be voting. Voting is important, but it also won’t save us. But if we can save a few, that means it is something that we should do. “

Source: Al Jazeera