You want change? Vote. Does your hair catch fire every time you turn on the news? Vote. Do you think the country is on the right course? Vote. Do you want to make a difference? Vote. Do you love your Senator? Vote. Is your Representative a captive of special interests? Vote. Can we do better? Vote.
In the 2016 election over 100 million eligible voters sat on their hands. If the non-voters had run a candidate they would have won hands down. They accounted for about 44% of eligible voters. Clinton won 28.43% of them and Trump 27.20%. A democracy is weakened and becomes vulnerable when almost half of those eligible don’t vote.
We all know the excuses. My vote doesn’t matter. I don’t like either candidate. The system is rigged. Special interests call the shots. Big money determines the outcome. It’s inconvenient. I meant to, but ……
To quote that eloquent and impassioned young survivor of the Parkland shooting, “To this we call BS.”
True: money plays an enormous role in political elections. Elections have become a cottage industry, costing millions and millions of dollars. But it costs only shoe leather or a bit of gas to get to the polls.
True: politicians become beholden to their well-heeled backers and their wishes. But there’s one thing that politicians fear more than big money: voters. Voters have the power to turn them out of office. They know it. And voting is free.
History tells us that significant change often comes from the ground up. The civil rights movement, ending the Vietnam War, furthering LGBT rights all resulted when citizens had had enough and organized against entrenched interests that appeared insurmountable. Young people were often the driving force.
Politicians act when they realize enough people are demanding it. Roy Moore is not sitting in Congress because people turned out to vote, particularly black women. They made the difference.
When it comes to gun control, politicians have paid no political price for voting against even the mildest, most sensible proposals. But that may change. Young people who have been on the front lines in school shootings, who go to concerts or out clubbing aren’t ready to give up or give in.
They have seen the recent power of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements when enough people speak up. They are savvy to the ways of social media and its power. So now they have launched the #NeverAgain movement, already a powerful force.
Young people can organize and reach out to those who are tired of being told nothing can be done. They can even reach out to members of organizations like the NRA, whose leaders use false fears and all-or-nothing scenarios to cloud the issue and prevent rational discussion. Gun owners are not monolithic and they are not dumb. They know when they are being manipulated.
We can tune out those costly political ads and be skeptical of the conspiracy theories popping up on multi platforms. We can listen to the candidates themselves, research their records, and see if their actions match their promises.
Then, as Donald Trump’s chief of staff bluntly, if inelegantly, put it when referring to eligible Dreamers, we can get off our asses and vote.
Cecelia Blalock is a freelance journalist who is a frequent contributor to Not Fake News. She is based in Savage, MD.