On the eve of Election Day 2012, I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to do their civic duty and vote. I will be voting tomorrow at yet another new polling place; we've been consolidated with other jurisdictions and so instead of just strolling three doors down the street, we're going to head off down the block, around the corner, hang a left, and cast our votes at the American Legion.
We have very important choices this year, at the local, state, and national level. Syracuse is running out of money; New York, even without the ramifications of Hurricane Sandy, has many issues (among them figuring out what to do about her major cities running out of money); my congressional district is replaying a very contentious battle we just went through in 2010; we didn't like it then, and we don't like it now. And of course, we have the big decision on what our future should look like on a national and world scale, the choice between President Obama and businessman Mitt Romney.
At least in some races, anyway, my choice is easy. But even if they're not easy, I plan on making informed choices. I'm voting for the people I think can best help move my city, county, state, and country in the right direction. Hopefully the ones I vote for will win, and will live up to my expectations. And I'm trying to prepare for the alternative, in case they don't win.
Below is the heart of the message I post each year. Don't vote because I say it's important, vote because it IS important. Here's some motivation, if 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, perhaps this year more than ever. If you need information on where to vote, or other assistance, visit Vote411.org.
(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)