We vote every day. We vote with our dollars and wear our team’s colors. We like posts on Facebook and favorite tweets on Twitter. In schools, students raise their hands when asked, “Who likes recess?” and cast ballots for homecoming courts, student councils and FFA chapter officers. We vote every day without thinking and yet when THE day to vote rolls around, collectively we the people often don’t.
It isn’t hard to pinpoint why. The state of affairs in the state and federal political arenas are dismal at best. Lead news stories are laden with corrupt politicians and policies. Rarely do we hear of something actually working the way it was promised, and rarely do we find a person doing what he/she actually promised. Positivity is in short supply.
Authenticity seems to be lacking in the actions and words of politicians; yet it is not allowed. Political correctness has erased any forgiveness for choosing the wrong words or the wrong cause. A politician shouldn’t be an overly devout Christian, but should always be seen giving praise on Sundays. A politician should support the unconventional family structure, but should only be seen enjoying dinner with his wife, two kids and the family dog. A politician must promise to invest in education, but will be condemned because she has chosen a private school for her children. A politician should be successful in business; it shows good fiscal responsibility. But success in business? Well, he must be corrupt. OY!
The issues, measures, amendments and referendums only confuse things more. Proponents speak in half truths; opponents may resort to name-calling. Robo calls, op-eds in papers, well intentioned folks putting their personal stories out only to receive public flogging.
In the midst of all the doublespeak, finger pointing and outright bullying of candidates, we the people are expected to rally and head to the polls. Because it is our right, declared in the very birth certificate of our country some 238 years ago.
I’ve voted in every local, state and federal election since I turned 18. Some years, I’ve walked into the voting booth not knowing a single name on the ballot. Other years I’ve spent some time learning who was who and what was what. I collect my “I Voted” sticker, wear it all day and in general, feel rather patriotic about this piece of the democratic process.
But as the years go by, I am less and less the enthusiastic voter. In fact, I’m dreading this Election Day. Here in Illinois, so many races are shaping up to be a choice between two evils. No one candidate has my full confidence. But that is my disdain for government talking, not disdain for voting.
A democratic government works because we the people show up and deliver our vote. Casting a vote can send a loud message to both the ‘winners’ and the ‘losers’. We are telling politicians we’re done with one party’s ramblings and ready to try out the others’ antics. We show our support for new policies or demand better fiscal responsibility with the current taxes we pay. We make decisions that can deeply affect our neighbors or direct the future of our communities. Our one vote does count.
With a vote, we enter into a contract of sorts. When the day is done and all the ballots are counted, the ‘winners’ need to be held accountable; the issues must be fully scrutinized without the glare of the Election Day spotlight. We the people must follow through and follow up, staying abreast of the issues, making calls, checking in, and sharing our thoughts. This is how democracy is supposed to work, should work, how we hope it will work.
And it all starts with a vote.