“I’m just not going to vote this year. I don’t like any of the candidates.” I’ve heard many, many people utter these words in recent months. And it was mostly older people who said it. As a senior citizen (yeah, I admit it), I recall hearing such talk in many past election cycles. This time, though, it started sooner and keeps building. The pundits say people at the grassroots level are fed up with the “establishment” agenda and want to take a different direction. If some folks can’t have their way, they won’t participate at all. By avoiding making a choice, they actually contribute to the success of the candidates they would have voted against. Makes your head hurt, doesn’t it?
For years, we’ve lived with the two-party system. In my lifetime, the 1992 Bush-Clinton election was the only one in which an independent candidate (Ross Perot) had any influence. Today, with the electorate pretty much evenly divided between Democrat and Republican sympathizers, the incessant polling can drive a person crazy. Anyone planning to vote with the majority, waiting for one candidate to take a big lead, probably has whiplash injuries by now. If we’re not all totally sick of it yet, we will be by November.
As I browsed the internet for resources for this article, I ran across a quote from a 1960s comedian and Southerner, Dave Gardner. He said: “Say, a Democrat is somebody who expects somethin’ fer nothin’, and a Republican is somebody who expects nothin’ fer somethin’, an’ a Independent is a cat that greases his own car.” He meant it to be funny, but it’s true. Politicians spout talking points for their party instead of honestly sharing their own beliefs. Anyone running as an independent doesn’t have the resources to compete with party communications machine. The independent greases his own car, while the party candidates have people to grease it for them. We get disgusted with the whole system, but especially with politicians who say one thing while campaigning and do another once elected. It’s our job to vote, whether we like it or not. It’s also our responsibility to hold the politicians’ feet to the fire after they take office.
So, this election year, if you’re considering your option “to vote or not to vote,” let’s consider the possibilities.
To Vote: Voting is my job as a citizen. That’s the first thing that comes to mind for me. I grew up in an era when America was celebrated. The world was recovering from WWII, and America was the world’s hero. I’ve always felt fortunate to be a citizen of the United States. Living for a short time in two other countries has made me even more thankful to be American by birth. Voting is not required of me. Nobody can make me vote. But I owe it to my fellow citizens to make a choice, whether I like those choices or not. Think of all the countries out there where the citizens have no voice at all. We at least have the right to vote.
Not to Vote: Some people have never voted—never even registered to vote. Others, especially younger people, say they don’t have time. But, we’ve always had absentee voting, and now we have the early-voting process. So, the “no time” excuse doesn’t fly. People say they don’t like any of the candidates (and haven’t we had a flood of them this election season?). “I don’t want to vote for the lesser of two evils,” others say. But isn’t that always the choice we have? Nobody’s perfect, especially politicians. Some say they can’t vote for anyone, so they choose a candidate to vote against. Again, if you don’t vote at all, the person you least preferred is, in effect, benefiting from the fact that you did not vote.
So, whether you’re a first-time voter or a veteran at casting your vote, do your part this year. When the polls open, whether it’s local, state, or national elections—do your duty. Go vote. Make a choice, even if you need to hold your nose.