From the time I was old enough to vote, which was a few months before I was sent to Vietnam, I have wondered why almost half of all Americans choose not to exercise one of their most precious rights as citizens of this country. In some parts of our nation, voter suppression is cited as a primary reason, but from my observations, making it more difficult for folks to register or to find a mail box or voting booth appears to actually motivate them to participate, at least for a few election cycles. Time constraints have historically been problematic for many people, but we are no longer restricted in most parts of the country to casting our ballots at a single voting site, on a single day.
Perhaps the most common reason I hear from people is their sense that their vote doesn’t matter. “They’re all corrupt, so why bother?”
The political ads we see on TV reinforce this notion. Rarely do they tell us much about a candidate’s political views, but more often are focused attempts to create doubt about the integrity of their opponents. And then we have social media which afford us the opportunity to spew venom and denigrate one another rather than serve to identify problems and share ideas as to how to address them. Even the semantics that politicians use can discourage civility. We’ve all heard statements like, “If you elect me to office, I’ll fight for….”
Fight? Seriously? Maybe debate monitors should introduce the candidates with something like, “In this corner weighing 245 lbs…” No wonder cynicism abounds.
When discussing this with a friend of mine, he really caught my attention with this simplistic yet abundantly true statement. “Democracy is hard work.”
It’s not just about registering to vote, then casting a ballot. It involves a litany of tasks like fact checking, researching information from multiple sources, monitoring the actions of those we have elected and holding them accountable, regardless of party affiliation. Indeed it is all hard work, inconvenient and time consuming, but contrast that with storming a beach at Normandy, raising a flag at Iwo Jima, or boarding enemy ships in the middle of the night in the Straits of Hormuz to search for weapons and contraband as my own son recently had to do.
Election outcomes at every level involve transferring power. What would happen if we think of it as transferring RESPONSIBILITY? I think we would all prefer to vote for someone in pursuit of responsibility than for someone fighting for power.
It’s time for us to get to work.