Sunday, November 4, 2012

Have You Decided Not to Vote Because Your Vote Won't Matter?

If you've decided not to vote because you think your vote isn't going to count, I'd like to challenge to think about something:
If you don't demonstrate your presence by voting, even if right now you're pretty sure your vote is on the "losing" side, the party you wish was stronger in your state or area will never have a reason to make an effort to strengthen itself. In staying home from the polls, you will have affected nothing and you will continue to bemoan the fact that you have no real choices in future elections  In short, you've shot yourself, and your community/state/country, in the foot.

Can I try to get inside your head a little? Right now, you're thinking, "Why bother voting?" Maybe you live in a state that is already firmly predicted to go to Romney. You support Obama, but voting for him won't matter, so why go through the hassle? Or you live in a certified Obama state. Your Romney vote won't make one bit of difference. Or perhaps you fit a third category; you don't like either choice, so much so that you can't even bring yourself to cast a vote for either the Democratic or the Republican presidential candidate. Your third party vote or write in vote is surely a waste.

You see yourself as disenfranchised because the other guys control your state and you feel you have no chance of making a difference.

You know what? You're right. Your vote, and with it your opinion of what is best for your country and your community, won't count, because it will never be counted as long as it remains silent.

I read more and more lately, and hear from people I consider to be educated, the phrase, "Why bother when the state is already obviously going one way?" I feel your frustration. I live in the state that put the "tea" in "tea party" and has left moderates like myself out in the cold. A large part of me wants to bury my head in the sand and wake up when the election is over.

Here's the deal, though. If you and I sit out the election, the political process will operate just fine without us, and we will wake up on November 7th having missed an opportunity to declare, "Hey, I'm out here! I may be in the minority in my state/community, but I'm out here!"

Here is some food for thought, no matter where you fall in the political spectrum. I'm going to use my state of Texas as an example since I am most familiar with it. Texas is now taken for granted as a Republican state, both at the national level and in state offices. However, a quick glance at electoral college results since 1960 shows Texas has supported the Democrat presidential candidate several times. As recently as the early 90's we had a Democrat governor, and historically 39 of our 47 governors have been Democrats. You wouldn't know there had ever been such a presence in Texas if all you listen to is today's politicians and political coverage. (If your state leans heavily toward one party or the other, has it always done so? I challenge you to do a little research!)

In recent years Tea Party Republicans have changed the flavor of politics in Texas. So much so that in my local races I had no real choice in whom to vote for in the primaries. The candidates in any opposed races were just different flavors of Tea. In the general election, my State House Tea Party candidate is running against a Libertarian (which I wouldn't even know if I weren't doing my research) and my State Senate Tea Party candidate is running unopposed. Do you notice what's missing in both of these races? A Democrat. Check out these 2012 election brackets, especially on the state race tabs. The D's are few and far between.

I don't fully embrace the Democrat agenda either, but you know what? I'm worried that they seem to have disappeared in Texas because lack of balance in the political process is unhealthy. Once you get a particular party in control with no one to stand up and challenge their ideas, you're in trouble. In general, what is best for all of us (or least harmful to all of us) comes about as a result of ideas on multiple sides of an issue bouncing off of each other and coming together somewhere in the middle through negotiation and compromise.

So why have the Democrats in a historically Democrat state given up the fight? Because a large number of the folks who might vote for them are not making their presence known at the polls. Why should the Democrats in Texas make an effort if all of the data they have at their disposal says it's not worth it? On paper, there is no base to appeal to.

So I challenge you, disenfranchised voter, no matter what your political leanings, get out there with me and vote and bring some balance back to this process. Are you tired of Congress being deadlocked and focusing on what you feel are the wrong things? Do you care about your local schools and your city and your town? If the presidential race is "locked up" in your state, there are still tons of local races and issues to be decided, the outcomes of which will affect your life more directly than the President of the United States will. Can't bring yourself to vote for any major party candidate in a race? Write someone in or vote for a third party just to say, "There are other voices out here!"

This quote from an Austin American Statesman editorial sums up the danger of a lack-of-balance nicely:
Republicans who still support the Earned Income Tax Credit, public broadcasting, and Planned Parenthood commit apostasy and invite primary challenges. But on the national scale, Republicans have to worry about losing to Democrats. Here in Texas, Dewhurst is coming to Jesus on the TSA groping bill and Perry is finding Satan in the separation of church and state. And Texas Republicans will keep acting this way until they’re more worried about losing to Democrats in general elections than they are about losing to tea party candidates in the primary. (emphasis mine)

A couple of final thoughts. The Declaration of Independence says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. (emphasis mine)
The founding fathers gave us a gift - a government which requires we let it know what we want it to do. Even when your vote is on the minority or losing side, you are recording your wishes for how you want our leaders to run our country. Get your opinion recorded; it might help inspire momentum among those who share your views and impact what happens in future elections.

And last but not least, never forget that the media and public opinion polls do not decide elections; voters do. Just ask the Chicago Tribune and President Truman.