I remember counting down the days until I turned 18, and not for any typical kid reasons. No, I was oddly excited that I would vote in the next set of elections. Taking part in our governmental processes interested and intrigued me and at long last I had my ticket for the party. Therefore, voting was my top “turning 18” achievement.
Over the next years I did my best to learn about candidates in local, state, and national elections and took time to reflect on how they represented my changing views of our world. While never what one would call super political, I was involved to the point of being an informed voter who most importantly actually voted.
For years I continued this trend, both confident my vote mattered and somewhat arrogant in my feeling that due to my voting I had a real say in how my country worked. Then the election of 2000 happened. I had read about similar historical elections, I knew how our electoral college system worked (that’s a whole additional post!) and what the possible outcomes were. I watched as the person I voted for won the popular vote but did not become our president. While frustrated I made a critical mistake … I changed nothing about my behavior. I still moved forward doing nothing more than voting at each opportunity.
Fast forward to November 8th, 2016, the most contentious presidential election in my life and likely our nation’s history. Once again I held my opinions to myself, I did my duty and voted, and I watched as my vote for the popular winner again did not coincide with the elected president. In hindsight, the first occurrence in 2000 resulted in the election of someone who I simply disagreed with at a political level. While not ideal and not happy with how the resulting 8 years went, I was still confident in our country and processes. On November 9th, 2016 that is not how I felt. A vile human being, with no qualifications beyond being a rich white man “won” our presidency.
I realized this was “my” fault. I didn’t campaign. I didn’t assist people with voter registration. I didn’t offer to drive people to polling stations to cast their ballots. I didn’t openly discuss the pros and cons of candidates for each election. I was quiet and I just voted. That inaction failed me, my family, and my country. I’m not one who takes kindly to failure.
Today I’m doing my best. I’ve registered with my local and state party offices. Every bill or vote of any consequence sees letters sent to my state and national representatives and governor and phone calls made. I follow activist groups looking for opportunities to allow my voice and the voices of those like me, a greater reach. I will campaign. I will place election signs. I will do the things asked of me to help make a difference. If the next election also proves a failure it will NOT be a personal one and will not leave a guilty conscience weighing me down.
I ask … no, I beg each of you reading this to please do the same. Get involved and active. For those with opposing views, let’s not snark at each other, doing so has led to this mess. Let’s sit down at a table, have coffee or a drink, and realize that while we may have some different ideas and opinions, we all want to move things forward. Sitting by and just voting will never again be enough.