Actually, it's the message I have been wont to broadcast indiscriminately over the last few years, any time an election appears on the horizon. Here it is again, because I think it's important. I hope you take it seriously. Because Democracy, besides being as necessary as oxygen to the healthy human condition, is as serious as a kick in the teeth. Or childbirth, if we want a slightly less disturbing image.
Mind you, Democracy is disturbing. So read, do, lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.
Consider elections, my friends. And consider well what you do before elections, the day of elections, and in the weeks and years between elections. What you do is important. The actions you take will either save democracy or kill it.
First, if you aren't registered to vote and there's still time, go out and register. It's easy, and you can do it almost anywhere. (If you haven't registered, then I promise I won't be ashamed of you if you at least volunteer to help get other people to their polling stations, and promise to register tomorrow.)
Next:, vote in the next election, and in every election, big or small, thereafter. Do it even if you aren't enamored of all your choices, even if you don't think it's an election that matters. That doesn't let you off the hook. Find at least one race that will affect you; make a choice, even if it *is* the lesser of two evils. Often "the lesser of two evils" turns out to be one of two things - "better than one expected," or "helping keep the greater of two evils out". In either case, your vote is important.
A political meme currently enjoying some coin puts forth the idea that a) one's vote doesn't count and b) one's vote is important enough to be withheld from the ballot box as a form of protest.
The illogic inherent between the front and back end of that message is staggering. If you want to sound like some first year Business Communications major/French Lit minor trying to impress a potential roll in the hay with your world-weary political sophistication, go ahead and believe it. If you are a Business Comm/French Lit student and understand the inescapable stupidity of that little conceit, my apologies.
The only person who pays attention to an "unvote" is the campaign strategist for the winning candidate; she's the one who's glad her opponent's candidate was the beneficiary of every single unvote not in the ballot box.
If votes don't count, we're to blame. Make them count again. Try showing up and voting, each and every election, in a way that Americans (and Canadians, unfortunately) haven't been regularly doing for 20 plus years. Bet you a nickel that they start counting again.
And after you've voted, don't walk away. You didn't think your responsibilities ended with the election canvass, did you? Our biggest job as citizens is just beginning.
We have a responsibility to keep ourselves informed on issues, even the ones we don't care about, because they can still be important. We must pay attention to what our elected representatives are doing, what they're saying, what laws they're drafting or co-sponsoring, what committees they're on,
That's not difficult, friends. The information is out there, and easy to get, via C-Span, the news, and reps' own web sites and newsletters.
Then we must use our phones, faxes and emails. Let our reps know what we think of their performance, their votes, their comments, how they're doing on subcommittees, etc. We have to tell them what we want them to do for us and for the country.
In short, we must hold our reps' feet to the fire. Surprisingly, it works. Our reps pay attention when we do that; take it from someone who's watched the system. Even the less than stellar ones will pay attention. It's hard, but it's the way human constituents must and should interact with their very human representatives.
And we're more apt to get civil, informed discourse in the political arena if we take the five minutes to call (even if you just speak with an assistant, be assured the message will get through) and say something like this:
"Ma'am, I want you to refrain from grandstanding. I support you when you support/oppose these things, so you don't have to play to me. Please listen to your opponents, and try to change their minds with logic, don't ambush them in front of the cameras. But please be brave enough to oppose them when you know you should, even if it's not a popular stand. Please be brave enough to ignore the lobbyists. Please pay attention to my streets, *and* to read the bills you vote on. You must take care of me locally and nationally. You don't have to hide the truth from me; I'm an adult, and I know how to take it. I'll respect you more if you do these things than if you don't. And please expect more calls from me. Thank you."
First we vote, then we hold them accountable.
Wait, let me think.
No. No, I'm right.