Get mad and vote
Kyle Palmer | Monday, November 3, 2014
In the 2012 Presidential election, 58.1 percent of those eligible to vote actually voted. Initially, one might think this isn’t half bad, “The majority of us that can vote, did!” one might say. Then one looks back at the number and starts to think, “Oh, wait a second though – less than 60 percent? That’s an F or, if we’re being generous, a D grade.”
The picture grows even dimmer when viewed against the whole. Approximately 66 million people voted to reelect President Obama, which, again on its front, sounds like a lot of people. Realize, however, that there were around 312 million people living in the United States at the time. That means that only about 21 percent of the United States population determined how the other 79 percent would be governed. This is a failure.
Here we are in what many of us would argue is the greatest nation in the world, and we as a populace can’t even make the time to get out and exercise the principle upon which our republic was based. Fifty-eight countries throughout the world have better voter turnout than we do. Some of those countries mandate voting, but even if one were to remove them, there would still be dozens of nations ahead of us on civic engagement. Brazil, Iran, Mexico, Ukraine and Russia (yes, even Russia) have greater voter turnout than we do. I won’t even mention the French (all right, I will: they have 71.2 percent participation).
We have among the greatest access to voting of any nation in the world. We have multiple polling stations, early polling stations and most counties will mail a ballot to you even if you are temporarily out of state. One doesn’t even need to leave the home to cast a ballot. Are we really the lazy, politically apathetic, and naïve Americans the world makes us out to be?
Admittedly, my own pessimistic nature would be tempted to affirm that claim, but in my deepest thoughts, I hope we are not. Nevertheless, it seems we as a whole are continuing to be content with the world happening to us. In the spirit of the 1976 film “Network,” a personal favorite, this is the situation of things today:
I don’t have to tell you things are bad; everybody knows things are bad. Employment outlooks are still gloomy; banks have gone bust; shootings happen every month in our neighborhoods; there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We sit watching the nightly news while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 violent crimes and dozens of sexual assaults, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We’re content that gas prices have finally dipped below $3.00 per gallon from $4.00 and $5.00 while forgetting that just six years ago we were paying less than $2.00 per gallon.
It’s like everything is beyond our personal knowledge or interest, so we don’t interact anymore. We keep our eyes down, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone. Let me have my Netflix and my iPhone and my Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.” Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t know what to do about the economy and the inflation and the terrorists and the crime in the street. All I know is that first; you’ve got to get mad. Figure out why it is that you feel you have so little say in what is going on around you and get involved in changing it.
The most basic of all possible courses of action is getting out to vote. Some argue that voting is a privilege; others argue that it is a right. I would respond by saying that because we are given the privilege of living in the United States, we are endowed with the right to vote. Voting should be open to every American citizen; I do believe voting is a right of all Americans. This, however, is beside the point. Rather than getting drawn into that old debate, I would simply say that voting is a duty. If you are an American citizen eligible to vote, you should do so. It is important that, even if you are of a minority opinion in your state, you vote to let those in power know you don’t support them. I often hear, “I don’t like any of the candidates, so I’m not going to vote at all.” I can understand this sentiment, and because of it, you need to make your “non-vote” count by voting “present/abstain.” Imagine the headlines if results of the Georgia Senate race concluded “Nunn (D) 33 percent, Perdue (R) 33 percent, Present/Abstain 34 percent.” The result of such a populist referendum would be unfathomable.
Republican or Democrat, just get out and vote.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.