Since childhood we have learned about how fortunate we are to live in a nation in which we have the right to vote. Some of us remember the hard fought battles of the 60s that lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We have learned about the Women’s Suffrage Movement and its ultimate success. We are appalled by current attempts in some states to curtail and restrict the vote. Yet for some reason, though we know all of the history and understand the importance of this right, so many of us find reasons not to fulfill this obligation. In typical presidential elections somewhere between 35% and 40% of us don’t vote. In 2016 the non-voting percentage was even higher. In off year congressional elections the numbers are considerably more dismal. There seems to be a disconnect between our appreciation for the right to vote and our willingness to actually vote. We obviously don’t believe it when we are told that every vote counts. However, this past election has made that statement more pertinent than ever.
There have been times in our past during which millions felt compelled to mobilize in support of an issue or cause. In recent history we have seen this occur on behalf of women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights and the Vietnam War. In each case persistent activism affected change in policy, law and attitude. It is a fact, however, that while there was much going on outside of the halls of government, it was only when those in political leadership were willing to listen that changes occurred. Having the right people in power in all three branches of our national government as well as throughout our state legislatures and state houses is key to affecting and sustaining the kinds of protections and freedoms that we have fought for and have come to cherish. As a result of the 2016 election the majority of state houses, state legislatures, the house, the senate and the White House are all controlled by the Republicans. If we drill a little deeper we would find that we are not in a majority position on boards of education or county commissions either. Do these facts reflect the majority attitudes of our country or are they simply reflective of the attitudes and preferences of those who took the time and made the effort to vote?
Many of us have horrified by the words and actions of those currently in power. Let’s not focus only on the White House. While some of the most alarming actions and pronouncements have come from there, we most not lose sight of all that is happening in congress and in the individual states. Certainly the president has a major impact on both our domestic and foreign policy, but with the right people to balance those policies we wouldn’t be as concerned. Imagine if the senate had returned to Democratic control and that the majority margin in the house was much slimmer. Both were within reach in the last election. Certainly returning state legislatures and state houses to Democratic control would reduce the impact of attempts to radically curtail voting rights and reduce local regulations that impact the quality of life, education and safety issues. What is currently happening in Washington and around the country merely exacerbates the crisis that we confront. We are getting exactly what we were promised.
Elections have consequences and the choice of many not to participate created consequences that present an urgent need for engagement and activism. I need not enumerate all the concerns we share about the future of our country and the world. We have an opportunity in just a few months to begin to reverse some of what is happening. We can send a clear message to those in power that we find their behavior and actions repugnant and unacceptable. We have the opportunity to REPEAL AND REPLACE THEM. All we need to do is vote.