Since last week’s SCOTUS leak, I’ve gone through a kaleidoscope of emotions, including deep sadness that my marriage is likely to be next on the chopping block given the language of Alito’s draft. But I’m putting that aside to look at this moment through a ‘civics’ lens.
Sometime in June the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade even though poll after poll show that two-thirds of Americans don’t want it overturned. (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/where-americans-stand-on-abortion-in-5-charts/ )
We are living through a real-life example of civics in action, a real-life example of what happens when too many people don’t get involved in running their own country. Apathy allows those with a minority viewpoint to take control. This is true regardless of your political views.
Robert Mann just published an essay in the Washington Post about how he and his wife almost didn’t vote in East Baton Rouge’s April 30 election for district judge. But they did make the effort, and ‘their guy’ won—by two votes.
The turnout rate in this election was about 10%. This means that 90% of eligible voters did not vote. Let me say that another way: 90% of Americans in this city didn’t care enough to vote for a judge who will rule over their lives through his district court decisions…and who may one day be appointed to a federal circuit court…and who one day may be appointed to the Supreme Court.
You see where I’m going here, right? I know nothing about either candidate, but that’s not the point. The point is that in a city of over 440,000 people, 90% decided to let 10% choose for them.
The people of East Baton Rouge (and I’m sorry to pick on you, but seriously, 10% is pathetic) either don’t know, or have forgotten, that democracy only works for all of us if all of us participate. If only the extreme vote, then all you will get are extreme policies and extreme politicians. Once again, this is true no matter which political party you support.
The good news is that Americans are catching on. Voter participation in the 2020 election set a record: 66%. (I know it’s bragging, but my state, Minnesota, had the highest turnout of 81.3%.) As a country, we are moving in the right direction for voter turnout.
Even though some citizens only pay attention to federal elections, it’s important to vote in every election—local, state, and federal. Every election is important because every elected position comes with power that can either be used for good, or abused. And local elected positions are stepping stones to higher office.
So, now what? Yes, creating change in a democracy is a long, slow, messy process filled with compromise and disappointment, but that is no excuse for sitting back and letting the loudest voices run your country, and your life. Be a voter in every single election.
Too many obstacles to voting? Yes, there are, but don’t let those obstacles stop your voice and your choice. Be a voter even if it’s hard.
Don’t like any of the candidates? Suck it up and be a voter anyway.
Worried your vote ‘won’t count’? Elections are not meant to make you feel important, so stop feeling sorry for yourself and be a voter.
Can’t be bothered to vote because your candidates always lose and it’s just too hard to deal with the disappointment? Lose the apathy and the hopelessness. It’s lazy and self-indulgent. Your apathy only helps those you disagree with.
Stop blathering on about the evils of the ‘other side’ and get off your butt. Engage in the running of this country, not by yelling at each other on social media (such a freakin’ waste of our limited time on this planet), but by voting, by writing letters to the editor and to your elected officials, by volunteering, by participating in your community, by running for office, by making suggestions and finding solutions by compromising.
From this moment forward, be a voter in every single election in your community.