Don’t Mock Our Democracy: Get Out and Vote

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Letter from the Managing Editor, Travis Mossotti
Date: November 5th, 2012
Steel yourself against the long lines and the unpredictable weather, against the intimidation and suppression efforts being launched at polling places all over the country, and against the general apathy that can accrue over the course of a four-year election season. Afraid your state doesn’t matter in the grand electoral scheme of things? Been to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times and decided that the race is all but wrapped up (statistically speaking, of course)? Does all of this leave you uninspired? Then use your imagination (it’s free) and think back on how you got to this point in your life at this point in history on this little piece of land upon which you vote candidates into real local, state and federal government offices who are charged with representing the people that put them there (i.e., you and those around you).
Personally, I imagine the ships which carried my ancestors over to this country, how they suffered in the rotten bellies of those ships clinging to an idea of a country that was better than the one they left. Even if their expectations were a little too high (as an old Italian immigrant saying goes: “They told us that the streets in America were paved with gold. When we got here, not only weren't the streets paved at all, but they expected us to pave them”), I still carry my ancestors with me to the voting booth, and maybe you should too.
Think you’re too busy: the jobs, the kids, the appointments, the inconvenience? Simplify things. Call in sick. Put appointments on hold. Take the hit. Be proactive. Take the kids with you to the polls and help them to understand that the responsibility of a democracy rests on the sacrifices we’re willing to make as individuals for the sake of a very simple ideal: one person, one vote. Show them that a functioning democracy is the great equalizer. Tell them that out of all the things they’ll inherit from you when you’re gone, this is perhaps the most important and hopefully the most lasting.
Even if your vote doesn’t determine the outcome of the election, isn’t there more to your vote than just the effect of the vote itself? As Tonia Lomborzo notes in a recent post published on the NPR blog: “Perhaps voting serves ends other than influencing the outcome of the election, such as promoting civic engagement, or propagating those handsome ‘I voted’ stickers.” If nothing else, be hopeful! Regardless of allegiance, there must be some vision of the future that you’re clinging to which isn’t an overindulged scorched earth scenario. Don’t be afraid to call it what it is: hope. And don’t be ashamed to be proud of your vote—the lesser of two evils line has grown old and tired and boring, and let’s face it, you’re better than that.    
Lastly, perhaps the most cumbersome to your daily routine over the long term but also the most important to preserving our democracy, do not sit idly by and watch the electoral process get railroaded by a handful of bad apples with a political agenda. By doing nothing, “we don't just subvert our own democracy,” Andrew Cohen argues in his recent article in the Atlantic, “we preclude ourselves from turning to the world and proclaiming that we respect the value of a single vote and the dignity of a single voter.” It’s not enough to read about it and complain about it: those who would actively work to limit voter participation, who would suppress voters like you and me using fear, intimidation and disinformation, are actively doing so, and they should pay for those actions—not just politically, but they should be treated as criminals of the worst kind. They seek to undermine the duty we’ve been charged to perform as a collective in this country. Get involved (when/if the time comes), and sign petitions and participate in local/national events that will allow your dissatisfaction to be realized in action.
If you know someone who is on the verge of not voting, send this to them and ask them if the principles of democracy are worth one day every couple of years. Tell them that there are very few things to come out of this country as great as our system of government, and that we ought to be proud. And be proud when you pass this on. Promoting participation in the electoral process (regardless of whether those who you inspire actually share your political affiliations or beliefs) makes us a stronger more thoughtful community.