It's that time again - the night before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That means it's Election Eve, and time for me to do my darnedest to encourage you to vote.
We don't have a Presidential race this year; we know that’s coming next year. As of today, there are three candidates on the Dem side: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders; there are fourteen wanna-bes on the Rep side, I think: Jeb! Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump. I hope I haven’t left any out (and I sincerely can't wait until there are fewer of them to track).
In my neck of the woods this year, there’s a lot of nonsense happening at the county level, where allegations of threats and infighting have been rampant for months surrounding the County Executive race. Republican Joanie Mahoney is running for her third term; she’s got a huge bankroll, an underfunded opponent, and of course she got the endorsement of our less-than-popular Democratic governor, one of the least surprising announcements of support in recent memory. Mahoney is only the third county exec we’ve had, so if history holds, the job will be hers when well before we go to bed Tuesday night.
Perhaps the most important choice we have to make here in Syracuse is for school board. The superintendent has had a very rocky tenure; we have 18 schools that are in local receivership at this time; and we've recently learned that the graduation rate may actually creep up to a disappointing 60%. Obviously, there's a lot at stake in the Board of Ed races. We don’t have kids, but we have skin in the game, because this - Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York - is our home.
Yes, I’ll be voting. And I want you to vote, too. Not because I say it's important; you should vote because it IS important.
As I do every year, I offer the following motivation, in case you need it:
After some thought, “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” (1) Actually “The idea of an election is much more interesting to me than the election itself…the act of voting is in itself the defining moment.” (2) And why is it that “When the political columnists say ‘every thinking man’ they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to ‘every intelligent voter’ they mean everyone who is going to vote for them”? (3)
We know it’s true that “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who didn’t vote” (4), and that “A citizen of American will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” (5) Do we still not realize, after all these years, that “lower voter participation is a silent threat to our democracy… it under-represents young people, the poor, the disabled, those with little education, minorities and you and me”? (6)
After all, “the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men” (7) and “to make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not just observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” (8) And complain we do, after every election, when the wrong guy wins. If only people who actually voted complained, it’d likely be a lot less noisy.
Some folks may not vote because they don’t know how to pick the right person. There are a couple different schools of thought on that. On the one hand, some might think that “politics is the art of the possible” (9) while others may subscribe to the thinking that “politics is not the art of the possible, it consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. And it is true that, the great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter the chance to do something stupid.” (10)
Said another way, a “Vote (is) the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” (11) But that’s OK – “personally, I believe that our American system works as long as you participate in it. You must vote and make your voice heard; otherwise you will be left out.” (12)
It’s generally true that if you “ask a man which way he’s going to vote and he’ll probably tell you. Ask him, however, why – and vagueness is all.” (13) But voting’s really easy; and “all voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong.” (14) And just about everyone likes to play a game every now and then, right?
The bottom line is, “voting is simply a way of determining which side is the stronger without putting it to the test of fighting;” (15) “voting is a civic sacrament;” (16) and “the future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.” (17) If all of that seems like too much pressure, you have an out: “Vote for the man who promises least. He’ll be the least disappointing.” (18)
Please, vote. It really does matter, this year and every year. If you need information on where to vote, or other assistance, visit Vote411.org or contact your local Board of Elections.
(Thanks to these folks for their words of wisdom: 1 - Charles DeGaulle; 2 – Jeff Melvoin; 3 – Franklin P Adams; 4 and 13 – Andrew Lack; 5 - Bill Vaughan; 6 - Nancy Neuman; 7 - Lyndon B Johnson; 8 - Louis L’Amour; 9 – Otto Von Bismarck; 10 – Art Spander; 11 – Ambrose Bierce; 12 - Mari-Luci Jaramillo; 14 – Henry David Thoreau; 15 – H.L. Mencken; 16—Theodore Hesburgh; 17 – Dwight D. Eisenhower; 18 – Bernard Baruch)