On a news blip this week I saw people on a California street being asked how they voted. Since California hasn’t held its primary election yet, I guess this was supposed to be funny when people told the reporter how they voted. One woman even said she didn’t have an ‘I Voted’ sticker because her polling place ran out of them. The reporter then stuck an ‘I Lied’ sticker to her shirt.
I don’t usually write about politics. And, I’d prefer not to hear about the candidates and all the hoopla surrounding this year’s presidential election in the United States. That said, this election cycle is like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime. But, more unsettling is that as each four years passes, fewer and fewer people vote. The apathy highlighted by the above mentioned comedic street scene is actually no laughing matter.
As a high school senior my history class teacher required her students to read either The New York Times or Newsweek and be ready to discuss politics and weekly historic events in class. At the height of the Vietnam War, the war, demonstrations and the Kent State killings gave us plenty to discuss. This was serious, sobering stuff for seventeen year olds. I’d like to think we all continued to pay attention to politics and events affecting our country and the world.
In fact, I thought my generation would never stand idly by in apathy toward anything. But, the day Martin and I went to vote in the South Carolina primary, we walked into our voting venue with no line before us. We were voters number 6 and 7. The polls had been open for an hour.
I’ve heard all the excuses over the years from people who don’t vote. Everything from my spouse votes for me to not liking any of the candidates to my vote won’t make any difference. Now I’ve heard someone say how they are too old to be bothered with this year’s election.
Whether you like any of the candidates or not is irrelevant. There is no perfect candidate. I have never seen eye to eye on everything any candidate proposes. The reality is someone will win the slot whether you totally agree with their views or not. It’s a matter of choosing the one who comes closest to your way of thinking. And, if enough of us speak out, we may change their way of thinking.
Every vote makes a difference. Throughout our history there are elections where the winner took the seat by one vote or only a handful of votes, including the Presidency of the United States, gubernatorial, congressional and state legislator races. What if those few people made an excuse and didn’t vote? When we vote, we, the people, write history.
Wherever you are in the world, if you have the right to vote, don’t squander making a difference on indifference. Register. Know when the election takes place, date and time. Go stand in line at your polling place _ hopefully there will be a line. Walk up to the booth.
Kathy, I’m with you. Voting is a very important right and obligation. Even though this year looks like a slow motion head on train wreck, voting is so important.
So true! Thanks for writing this, Kathy.
I totally agree. There is no excuse for not voting. I understand people’s despair about the current Republican candidates, but people still have an obligation to vote, even if they write in a name instead of choosing one of the registered candidates.
You are so right Kathy. People died for the right to vote and now that they have it, they don’t use it. Watching the US elections over here in England I was amused to see a post that’s gone viral in response to Trumpmania entitled ‘let’s make the US Britain again.’ If people don’t vote then they may get something they don’t want without even having had a say in the matter. The apathy of people never ceases to amaze me when it comes to exercising their democratic right!
Voting is a privilege that should not be abused. Many people around the world with a dictatorship would love to have the opportunity to vote. Here in Australia, voting is compulsory and although some people complain, most see it as their responsibility to elect their Government.
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I remember my parents going out to vote after we got home from school. Although our politics diverged over the years, they provided a great example. I’m proud that both my sons make it a point to vote. Also, we’ve had some issues in our town and state and it’s become even more evident how important local and state elections are. Those are the elections with the most embarrassing turnouts yet the stakes are often high. As a teacher, I always got up early to vote, so I could wear my “I Voted” sticker to school. Yes, people have died for the right to vote!
Jan, It looks like you passed on your parents great example to your sons and students. My parents never missed any election either. So, as with everything else we learn as children, parental influence apparently plays a role. You are correct about the importance of state and local elections, yet the largest voter turnouts are in presidential election years.
Kathy, I’ve recently found myself wondering if our low rates of voting are a result of the very idealistic version of our political history that we like to tell. We look backward through rose-colored glasses rather than recognizing that American politics have always been rough and tumble. The campaign between Adams and Jefferson was so bitterly fought that the two old friends didn’t speak to one another for decades. One of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was killed by a political opponent in a duel. Fist-fights used to break out on the floor of Congress. When Andrew Jackson threw open the White House for a public reception after his inauguration, the public trashed the place. In the 1850’s angry white Protestant men supported the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic “Know-Nothing” party. Because we don’t know or acknowledge this history, our current politics seem like a political nadir; and the result of disappointed idealism is political cynicism and not voting.
Jean, Thank you for this perspective. I learned much of what you cited in history classes but must have donned my rose-colored glasses when I wrote this post. I didn’t think about any of it until I read your comment. I agree with you! We have either forgotten or fail to acknowledge our boisterous political past. That may be a reason for the disappointment in the current political season. Well said!
Well said, Kathy! I hope that all of your readers take your advice. As Janice wisely summed up, voting is a privilege that should not be wasted.
Thanks for posting this important message.
Ever since I discovered your blog, I’ve appreciated its thoughtfulness. Thank you especially for this post. I remember seeing photos of people lining up for days to vote in South Africa, and here we let the “fringe” determine our futures by not voting.
Bravo! I hope your post urges a few more to Vote. There is so much at stake. Esp this year! Womenlivinglifeafter50.com
Here in Australia, where you can be fined for not voting, I often think that the system in the US allows the people there to abdicate their responsibilities by saying “well I didn’t vote for her/him” and blame “other people” for the politicians they end up with. At the moment in Australia they are trying to change the current system to reduce the chances of smaller parties being elected. These alternative parties have been making headway recently and the big two political parties are not happy. In my opinion, this new trend is the voice of Australia telling the two main parties that we are not willing to vote for either of them until they change the behaviour of their politicians and secondly that we do not agree with their policies.
My message – exercise your rights otherwise you risk having them taken away from you!