If you’re in the United States right now, I’d be willing to bet that you’re probably tired of hearing about tomorrow’s election. If you’ve watched TV at all or even just taken a drive around town, you’ve probably seen the advertisements for candidates and the other reminders of tomorrow’s impending election. Yes, I know it’s enough to make you want to curl up under the covers and wait until it’s all over so they’ll stop bothering you. Don’t.
I used to work for the Board of Elections for my county. One of the things that’s readily apparent is that people don’t seem to care about the mid-term elections. It’s like the only election that truly matters to voters is the one that occurs every four years when we elect the President. It always struck me as a more glamorous election. The Presidency is a big, visible job. It’s easy to get people to rally around a candidate. I mean, seriously, they make movies about presidents. You don’t see many movies or shows about the day-to-day work of state legislators or anything.
The thing people seem to forget about the President and the government figures on a national level is that they aren’t terribly effective. People complain that the President either overreaches the powers of the office or doesn’t do nearly enough. They forget that the President can’t just unilaterally make decisions without the Senate and House of Representatives getting involved. I’m not going to go into a full-on discussion of how politics are designed to work. We all know that their design and current ability to work are two separate things. It’s like we’ve been playing this long game of telephone with the Founding Fathers who were never anticipating a country that was this large nor the technology that we use on a daily basis.
So, yeah, people only seem to think it’s cool to vote when there’s a President on the ballot. That’s just unfortunate because, really, the President doesn’t actually have as much control over the daily lives of Americans as people would have you believe. On last night’s episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” John Oliver pointed out the obvious in that the people who have the most power and get the most done as far as actually passing legislation are the politicians at the state level. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch the segment. It’s really good and really depressing.
In the dozen years since I was legally able to vote, I haven’t missed an election. I’ve voted in every primary and every general election for which I was eligible. When I worked at the Board of Elections, I did my best to make sure that I got my friends to register to vote. I’d remind people left, right, and center that they needed to vote. It always bugs me when the response to my entreaties is, “Who cares? It’s not like it matters anyway.”
When you look at politics on a national level, it’s easy to get frustrated and disheartened. I get that. Oh, do I get that. By not engaging in the democratic process on a more local level, you’re making it far easier for the country’s government to remain on its current course. By not engaging in the democratic process at all, you’ve ceded your right to complain about it. That’s ultimately what I ended up telling my non-voting friends. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to bitch about things going wrong. You made your choice (or lack thereof). Live with it. I know it’s harsh, but I’m nothing if not pragmatic sometimes.
Look, if you don’t like something, work to change it. Volunteer for a campaign or a cause. Run for office yourself. Donate money. There are so many ways you can get involved. If we all did a little something to make our world a better place, just imagine where we’d be right now.
Look to the Future
There’s this young woman at work whom I often refer to as Youngest Coworker, mostly because she was (and still is) the youngest employee at the office. When she first started working with us, I remember talking with her about my time at the Board of Elections. We chatted about our love of Tumblr and some other pop culture odds and ends. During our chats, the subject of voting came up. I did my customary check to make sure she was registered and all that jazz. Then, she not only told me that she was registered, she was also researching all of the candidates and what not to make sure she could make the best informed decision.
Dear Readers, my heart grew so many sizes that day.
There was this nineteen year-old young woman talking about making fully-informed voting decisions. Hearing that made my day. I think it even made my week. So often we complain about how the younger generations are more self-involved and self-interested even though we know they’re really not. They’re just taking the world they’ve been handed. Admittedly, they’re being handed this spiky ball by an older generation wondering why they’re not more eager to catch it.
I’m not going to get into a multi-generational argument right now. I just want you to think about what sort of example you’re setting. I want you to think about the kind of world you’re going to leave behind for the generations to come. I want you to go to the polls tomorrow and I want you to vote for the people who will bring about that better world. Most people will tell you that they don’t care who you vote for as long as you vote. I’m not going to be one of those people. I do care about who you vote for because you should care.
We have the unique ability to make our voices heard. It might seem like the tiniest of whispers against the loudspeaker of special interests, but to let ourselves be silenced is to just resign ourselves to defeat. As far as I know, this country has never really managed to deal well with defeat just yet. I wouldn’t suggest starting now. So, please, take a few minutes out of your day tomorrow and vote. You’ll get a sticker. It might even be a bilingual sticker. Please don’t be that guy who insists that the other language be ripped off of your sticker because ‘Murica. No one likes that guy, but everyone likes stickers.
Now that I’ve danced on this soapbox, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled geeking tomorrow.