I first voted in 1996. For the 2000 election, I wanted to create a chart that described the candidates, so there was an easy comparison. At the time AOL Time Warner had done one that was pretty good, along with a few others. (Must’ve been a collective consciousness to inform the electorate.) There was talk, constantly, of the lesser of two evils.
In 2004, after the second presidential election I participated in was decided by the courts (remember the Florida Chads?), we had another narrow battle of donkey vs elephant. In 2008, the margin wasn’t as slim, but the vitriol spewed took a bent not quite heard in some time. (See 270towin for past election details.) No longer were the candidates simply white males. Now, we had white women and a black man participating, and the tones changed. Threats cut deeper and more below the belt. We continued to showcase our lack of civility and our desire to … just get nasty.
In 2012, the first black president won again, and then in 2016, the country seemingly revolted. Or, the Russians interfered and manipulated our populace. (You did see how if you’re liberal, you saw one Facebook feed, and if you were more conservative, you saw another, right?) Regardless of the reason, we have a need to be more aware of what’s going on around us, raise our critical questions, and talk civilly to our neighbors about the issues that are important to us. We have to learn how to hold disagreements. We have to learn to hear when people are “advocating at the top of [their] lungs that which [we] would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of [ours]” (The American President, 1995).
Well, this year, we have midterm elections, on top of necessary local politics. As a citizen of this country, it is YOUR job to stay informed of issues that dictate your life. You don’t stay informed? You should lose your right to complain. Did you know that typically, since I began voting in 1996, about half of all eligible Americans vote? In 1996, it was a whopping 49% (down from the previous year). In 2016, it had risen to 55%. Only HALF. Half of all people who can exercise their civic duty and makes a choice for this country actually do so. It doesn’t matter to me that we have 200,000 registered, a stunning landmark for sure. We are still only exciting around 50% across the whole nation to exercise their civic duty. This is a problem. Especially since voter turnout is usually higher in presidential elections. And, it’s the small elections that matter a lot.
Your mayors, commissioners, and county boards decide your immediate life. Your states dictate how your schools will run and how your roads will be updated. They set the tone for your immediate culture, what is important to you. At the national level, we should be choosing those we feel best
Now, the trick is, we need people to run for office that we can feel passionate about choosing. So often, since I started voting in 1996, those around me complain more and more about terrible choices and the lesser of two evils. You don’t like the choices? Then YOU should run for office. If you are a Democratic woman, connect with your local Emerge branch and they will even TRAIN you to run for office.
If we learned ANYTHING from the last election is that WE have been too complacent. We have been sitting on our laurels NOT talking about the things important to us, and we are now, I daresay, represented by a fool. A fool we collectively chose, no matter who you voted for. Because I guarantee there were many you didn’t talk about politics
This is one of the reasons I started my listening campaign. Check it out if you want to learn more.
I will leave you, though, with this tool. The New York Times has put together a comprehensive map of which electoral voting precincts voted in which way. (The only thing that would make this map better is if it were distorted for the population.)
I’m not sure how I will continue to write about politics, but it is becoming quite clear to me at the time of this writing that this is something I must do. So, stay tuned. Be a part of the conversation. Host a dinner party. But, above all, hold your tongue when someone says something you disagree with and really try to hear what they are saying. I promise you there is a kernel of truth there that is important. And, if you don’t even try to find that kernel of truth, we will have another shit election like the last 20 years of elections I’ve participated in. Let’s change this. We have it in our power to do so.