I was thinking that today we could discuss why voting is important. I mean, yes, duh, we all know why voting is important – so we can get those little football-shaped stickers to wear and be all smug in line at the grocery store. But deeper than that – why should anyone vote when:
"it's all rigged to begin with"
"they only give us a shitty two-party choice"
"[fill in your home state here] is so [red/blue] my opposing vote will never make a difference"
Here's why, in the words of my 10-year-old: "You should vote because it gives you a choice in picking out a leader." When I played Devil's advocate and said, "But I want to vote for a Democrat and Texas is predominately Republican, so why should I worry about voting if the Republicans are going to get the electoral votes anyway?" He answered, "If you don't vote then you have NO chance of winning. If you do vote, at least you have SOME chance." And then he looked at me with that classic "mom you don't know anything" look and went back to his Minecraft.
So before you ALL give me that look and go back to your Minecraft, I've set up a little FAQ here to help us all remember that we do not have to actually be the cynical assholes we play on the Internet.
Please vote on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. Let me repeat that in case your state muffed up your voter registration card (but only in Spanish) and told you your voting day is November 8th. YOU VOTE FOR PRESIDENT ON NOVEMBER 6TH. EVEN IN ARIZONA. EVEN IF YOU SPEAK SPANISH.
Q: But what if it's snowing/raining/hailing/too cold/too hot and I don't feel like going to the sketchy school/church/grocery store in my precinct?
A: 32 states and DC allow early voting. So if you're worried the weather may be crappy on November 6th, then vote early. If you don't like the smell in the elementary school where you have to vote on election day, then vote early. In Washington and Oregon, you don't even go to polls. You just mail those damn ballots in. If you aren't sure how things work in your state, here's a handy guide.
Q: Oh, holy shit, that line is long.
A: Yes. There may be long lines. But this is one day of the year. And even if you get snowed on or rained on, this is your chance to have a say in the American political process. Even if you're jaded. Even if you believe your vote doesn't count. You still GET THAT VOTE. You are lucky that you have the freedom to be too lazy to vote. But don't be too lazy. Be pleased that you don't have to worry about the military shooting you in the face because your finger was dipped in purple ink. Then go vote.
Q: Why should I vote for someone I don't like instead of writing in Mickey Mouse as a form of protest?
A: You want to throw your vote away? For every vote you're willing to toss in the garbage, there's some nutjob out there full of hate and misogeny who WILL vote. The trash can gets your endorsement, while someone actually on the ballot gets the batshit's x-marks-the-spot. Your protest just hands more votes to people you oppose. It says, "OK, lunatic, Imma let our country value your say over mine." You know one of the reasons why this country is fucked up? Because the lunatics LOVE TO FUCKING VOTE. They love to see you write in Marilyn Monroe. They eat that shit for breakfast with sprinkles on top. When you throw away your vote, you are helping the lunatics win. So pick a side that you feel is less populated with fringe psychopaths and VOTE. Choose a side as if your life may depend on it, because one day it might.
Q: OMG, I am going to have to bring all of my dozens of screaming children with me.
A: This is OK. You will teach them about their civic duty, and you will have the opportunity (if you want) to vote for someone who supports your right to have affordable contraception and healthcare so that maybe four years from now when it's election day you won't have to have a quadruple stroller accompany you in the voting booth.
Q: What do I do if I have to work two jobs and can't take time off to vote? If I leave early I won't get paid for those hours and we really need the money.
A: This sucks. But I have a few suggestions: look into voting early or voting by mail. Many states will allow you to vote by mail with no excuse. Some require an excuse. Please know that voting by mail often has a cut-off date that is earlier than the general election date (at least I think so), so you'll have to do some research. Here's a site that has a lot of helpful information.
I also suggest that if you are unable to vote early or by mail that you take the hit financially and get those hours off if you can. I know that really sucks, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry there are people in this country who go out of their way to make it difficult for others to vote. But this investment you make in taking time off of work so you can vote is an investment in your future. And I know that sounds cheesy, and that it probably makes you want to roll your eyes or punch me, but it's true. If you make the sacrifice to vote then you can cast your ballot for the candidates who will support people like you. If you mark your ballot you can have your say in choosing the decision makers who fight for wage increases and healthcare and other normal-mortal-beings costs. In the state of Texas, if everyone who worked two jobs to make ends meet went out and voted; if everyone who has six kids and can't afford doctor bills or groceries went out and voted; if everyone who wants to see themselves or their wives earn equal pay for equal work went out and voted we might see a drastic change in traditional voting returns.
Q: It's all a scam. It's all rigged. Why should I bother?
A: You know how you un-scam it? You know how you un-rig it? You vote. You pick a side and you vote. The un-scamming and un-rigging won't happen overnight. But think about this: if more people get out of their chairs and into voting booths, change can happen. Startlingly out of touch politicians will learn valuable lessons when actual normal regular non-hateful reasonable busy people take the time to cast a ballot. Because you know what? As hard as it to believe sometimes, normal regular non-hateful reasonable busy people are the MAJORITY of people who live in this country. If we all cast aside our cynicism for one day so we can cast a ballot, we will see change happen. Is it so naive to think that we can, one day, have a Congress that works together, along with the president and Supreme Court to make thoughtful and helpful and important legislation? I know it sounds incredibly pie in the sky, but think about it. Why is there such sniping and fighting and divisiveness in politics? Because THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE VOTED INTO OFFICE. Is it naive to think that if the reasonable people banded together and voted other reasonable people into office, that things might be different? Maybe. But don't you think it's worth a shot? Sure there will always be differences of opinion, but will there always be hatefulness? If both sides of the aisle stand together and say ENOUGH IS FUCKING ENOUGH, can there be change? I'd like to think so. But maybe I also like to think that one day a unicorn will clip-clop up to my house and poop a lovely rainbow on my doorstep. Cynicism is hard to shake. Even so, you gotta vote. And don't just write in your favorite unicorn's name.
The truth of it is this: the way our country is set up, we are allowed to scream from the rooftops how much we hate or love an elected official. We can yell our outrage or devotion into the vast depths of canyons and interwebs and into the 24-hour stinking tar pits of television "news". We can call radio stations and love on or fight with people all we want. We can make signs and protest. We can write letters. We can write blog posts with swearing in them. But to have your voice truly heard you have to cast a ballot. If you want your screaming and teeth gnashing and frustration and adoration to be acted upon, you have to vote. And you have to get your like-minded friends to vote. And you have to help the disenfranchised to vote. Because we can talk all we want, but nothing changes if we don't stand by our words with votes.
If you don't like any of the candidates you have to choose from, then choose the least horrifying candidate and begin advocating for someone new to run in the next election. And I don't just mean this for the presidential race, but for all elected office. Do you think your state legislature is out of control? Find better legislators. Do you think your school board is all kinds of fucked up? Find better school board members. We can whine and cry and cry and whine all we want, but this country is set up so that we can offer and then choose sacrificial souls to assist in the betterment of society. We can find better souls. We can vote.
You can vote.
You must vote.
November 6th. (Unless you can vote early, in which case VOTE EARLY, DAMMIT.)
Don't let opposing politics make you apathetic.
Don't let over confidence make you apathetic.
You don't have to be ignored. You don't have to be a pawn. You are the boss. These people work for you. Don't forget that. And don't let them forget it, either.