After a big day full of political news, I often find myself too overwhelmed to speak on the details or provide an intelligent post-mortem response. This is why I gave up on my dream as a talking head. I’d much prefer to let it all marinate and find myself in a place of understanding of potential policy implications. I like to do so in my own way and in my own time - CNN, please don’t call me. I am a perpetual over thinker and I have to process every event no matter how big or small. This is far better than my reactionary days; positions were taken and opinions were given with as much thought as deciding if I want fries with that.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t recoil at decisions handed down from the Supreme Court yesterday morning. In fact I did all of the favoriting and retweeting as quickly as possible. There were the requisite witty quips given in 140 characters or less just so i could point to my participation and that yes, I am paying attention. In the age of the 24 hour news cycle I often find it hard to believe that real insight is being provided from all sides rather than going with the gut. But that is beside the point. As I went to bed, head reeling, I realized the simple way that so much of our collective outrage (and I am, of course, speaking as a progressive in this instance) could be curbed. The easiest thing in the world. Fought for, encouraged and yet when the time comes oh, the foot dragging because why? So boring. And that one thing is this: Vote.
Did you think I was going to suggest storming the castle? Perhaps forming a coup? Yeah…no.
I watch C-SPAN with the same enthusiasm I have for the Real Housewives of Atlanta (read: A LOT). WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?! Can be heard from my living room as votes are cast and committee hearings go on which lead me to also question if this is a joke. Please say this is a joke. Before I was able to vote, I had all of these ideas of my first time. There would be a sticker and perhaps homemade cookies. i stopped short of wondering about fireworks after pulling the lever. In reality my first time voting was done via absentee ballot. The envelope was dropped off, casually, in the middle of running other errands. The first booth experience was less ‘booth’ and the celebration of democracy (I am a black woman! I can vote! Hear me roar!) was little more than making a mental note to actually get to the polling place (where is it again?) and then making the time to get there before closing. I filled out a few bubbles and was sent on my way with the slightest hint of joy from those watching to make sure I didn’t completely eff the whole thing up. Yes, an African American president was finally elected but there was no sticker to prove my participation in the democratic process.
Thankfully we live in such a place where elections aren’t blood sport. There are no bombings or military intervention and we are fortunate to live in a country that makes it so easy. And yet I find more and more people have become cynical about politics therefore voting? Pointless. I cannot blame them but I do gently suggest that perhaps voting and being a part of the electorate might change the outcome. I try to refrain from criticism and only use my WTF face behind a screen as I make an overture for voting. Like, maybe if you started to do so then the so-called “crazy fringe” wouldn’t wield so much power? Just a thought.
Last week during New York’s congressional primary Election Day, I was on Facebook professing my usual “It’s Election Day! I love Election Day” love and a follower was confused. Didn’t that already happen? In your state, maybe but today is the day in New York.
“Oh, we already voted in our local elections!”
“Yes, but this is for the midterms…”
And then I did it, I had to, I smacked my head on my desk because really? It’s a conversation that I have had a lot lately that there is a lack of enthusiasm and general awareness for the upcoming midterm elections. But hey, y’all. They are coming and will happen with or without your voice. The response was along the lines of “Oh, well, we don’t vote in those anymore. What is the point? Nothing changes.” To which I responded by dying. I am writing this post from the after-life.
Basically, there is a major national election coming up and no one gives a shit and it is killing me. Actually it’s more of a sadness that leads to plotting - so much plotting as of late - on how to engage a jaded electorate. Or at least as much of the electorate I can touch from my little corner of the Internet. Which leads me to yesterday’s events. In the evening I found myself in a brief Twitter conversation with a friend of a friend. The friend’s friend implied that it was pointless to mention voting when it comes to the Supreme Court as the justices are appointed. To which I replied that yes, they are appointed but they are confirmed by the Senate. The same Senate that we elect (1/3 of the body is up for election this coming November). You can read the full conversation below which basically ended in me being like ELECTIONS MATTER and friend’s friend saying OK. I GET IT. BACK OFF. But, you know, in a far more polite fashion.
I wholeheartedly believe in my ‘domino effect’ assessment. The midterms? The ones happening in just four months? They matter. Oh God, do they matter. What if there had been more moderate Republicans to participate in the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009? Would we be having the same number of cases questioning the validity of the law? What would happen if a current Justice retires and leaves a vacancy? Depending on the make up of the Senate there could be a constitutional conservative sitting on the bench. One thing affects the next and I cannot stress enough how important is to realize that elections, from local to state to federal, all matter. There would be no Samuel Alito - the justice who wrote the opinions for both Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Quinn v. Harris - if there hadn’t been a George W. Bush. There wouldn’t have been a George W. Bush as president if the people of Florida had voted for a different candidate in their statewide race for Secretary of State. Do you see now? How one thing leads to another?
This stresses me out - trying to figure out how to get people to feel engaged and to participate in this representative democracy of ours. Does your side win all of the time? Of course not. How boring would it be if one party ruled forever? But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate. The question that remains is this: How?*
*You know that there is more later. There is always more later...**