Thomas Jefferson, our third president, once said, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
How true dat, in the parlance of our times, is that? This November, races all over the country, including the presidential race, will be won and lost not by people who are taking the time to vote, but by those who could vote and don’t. These are Americans who either 1) Could register to vote and don’t, or 2) Are registered voters too full of apathy to exercise their sacred duty.
There are billions of people around the globe who don’t enjoy the rights and freedoms we have in this country and surely yearn for the power we in a democratic republic have. But thousands, probably millions of Americans, won’t even bother to put their ballots in the mail or get to the polls, effectively letting other citizens, who do care enough to vote, decide their fate for them.
A sentiment I often hear from other Americans is, “my vote won’t count anyway.” Are you kidding me? Bush vs. Gore 2000 anyone? How close and disputed both the popular and electoral votes were. Hanging chads, broken chads, renegade chads, ballot recounts, hand counts, too close to count, phantom chads, metaphysical chads, quasi-existential Kozhevnikovian chads? Your vote could be the one that decides the election.
Never was this point more clearly illustrated to me than in eighth grade when one of the jocks ran for ASB president against a soft-spoken, female Laotian immigrant. We were stunned when the results of the election were announced over the intercom– it was a tie. When we concluded the second round of voting, the female candidate had won, with grumblings among the so-called popular kids that she’d only won because people felt sorry for her (realistically, she was a very kind and intelligent person, and don’t feel bad for the jock; he was a smart kid too and is now a lawyer).
If just one of my fellow middle schoolers had decided not to vote, either candidate could have won the election the first time out. I remember hearing afterwards how a kid named Scott was out sick during the first vote, and had he been there, the obvious choice would have won the first time. But fair’s fair– ultimately more people voted for the female candidate and she got the job.
This is how I envision the 2012 presidential election and the Washington State gubernatorial election. Millions of people who are disenchanted with politics, or maybe never cared to get involved in the first place, are going to stay on their couches and gripe about how things are rather than vote. It is precisely those people who could swing these contests one way or the other.
I’ll never forget the time I was listening to an acquaintance ramble on about their strong political views. I’d heard these worn platitudes before, some of them straight from the mouths of wonks and whistle-stoppers. Finally the complainant was asked, “well, do you vote?” I was floored when they said, “no.” “So,” I mused, “you take all this time to complain and moan and accuse the other party of high treason, but you won’t exercise your right to do something about it?!!!”
The older I get, the more common this seems. People tell me, “my vote won’t count.” “What’s one vote?” “It doesn’t really matter.” Wake up, my fellow Americans, because in a mid-sized suburban town, a few hundred people not voting means the special interests land the choice seats on the City Council. At the state level, one thousand people not going to the ballot box can assure one candidate’s victory over another. In a nation of 300 million people, if a million people wallow in their jaded apathy and don’t vote for president, they’ve essentially just guaranteed that the other guy will get elected.
Technically, it could take far fewer than a million lazy Americans to make this happen (for those who want to argue about the electoral vote, only four presidents have taken office by winning the electoral vote and not the popular vote). The point is– don’t whine unless you’re willing to do something about it. That’s been a longtime personal motto. If you want to sit there and be a victim instead of voting, do it silently, because you’re choosing to pass up a chance to make history. Don’t air your grievances to your family and friends all year long, then crawl into a hole on election day. Get off of your derrière and get over there– whether “there” is your local polling place or the mailbox.
We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. Right now we’re being asked to do more than pick which guy looks more presidential or select the right personality for the job. In 2012 our votes decide whether we should grow our government and try to make it all things to all people, or keep government in check and let people decide for themselves how best to manage their lives and finances.
My personal views are no secret; I’m a fiscal conservative who has serious concerns about the truthfulness and integrity of the present administration and the very dangerous foreign policy decisions that have been made. I am extremely concerned about our human rights, our constitutional rights, and our liberties, and the massive, violent, international movements that want to subjugate me whether as a woman, a Christian, or as an American. In other countries they rape, torture, and murder people like us. I want to protect my people– Americans– from the evils and murderers in this world whether I agree with them or not. The current administration has had a very polarizing effect on our country at a time when we need to be uniting against these threats to ALL of our freedoms.
Some of my friends and colleagues will be voting with me and some will be voting for the other party. Some of us vote from emotion and some of us vote from reason. Some will vote with their hearts and some will vote with their heads. Thank God we live in a free country where we can disagree! And I am very thankful that no matter what people I know or like or love think, they will be out there VOTING.
Voting is a right that millions of people have fought and died for. It should never, ever be taken for granted or abused. If you are someone who just can’t be bothered to complete your ballot, please take a moment to think about all of your fellow Americans who have given up their lives so that you can have the freedoms you so passively overlook. If you feel like your vote just isn’t going to count, stop right there. It takes just ten like you, or a hundred, or a thousand, to hand the election over to someone you don’t believe in and can strike deep at your morals, security, quality of life, freedoms, and bank account for the next four or more years.
I don’t care what you believe. I don’t care if this outspoken, passionate woman agrees with you or not. We have something tremendously important in common. We’re Americans– we can vote. So no more grumbling. No more armchair quarterbacking. If you believe what you say you do, and you have the ability to vote, get out your ballpoint, fill in a few bubbles, and chart the course for the next generation. Our kids and grandkids have to live with our decisions in this election and all the privileges or burdens or breaks or costs or victories or tragedies that may ensue.
As FDR said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t deprive others. Don’t let your apathy decide what future generations will be dealing with. We live in a time in which you can kick back in your recliner with your iPad and read about candidates, then color in simple bubbles and pop a piece of paper in the mail.
There’s no excuse. If you can vote, vote, if not for your own sake, then for the Americans who come after you. They have to live with your decision, whether you choose silence or you choose action.
See http://www.ontheissues.org/Quiz/Quiz2012.asp?quiz=Pres2012 to take a quiz that could help you determine who to vote for this November. I can’t vouch for how skewed or scientific this is, but it did a good job matching my views to particular candidates. There is a lot of useful information on the http://www.ontheissues.org/ website.
If you’re in Washington State, check out the EFF’s 2012 Informed Voter Guide: http://www.myfreedomfoundation.com/index.php/causes/VoterResourceGuide.
©2012 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.