On the eve of what pundits are calling “historic mid-term elections,” I have only one message to share. If you haven’t already done so, VOTE.
There is a fear many voters will stay home out of apathy, disgust, discouragement or because they lack a compelling local or national reason to trek to the polls. It’s human nature to gravitate towards the excitement of picking a president, or elevating to office a person we regularly see in the supermarket. For many this election season, those reasons are missing.
We must still go and, using the ballot, share our thoughts.
In 1980, I was disappointed I couldn’t vote for Jimmy Carter. I was too young to participate in the electoral process, but I followed the campaign just as if I could. Two years later, I was old enough. I prepared to vote and did.
Every election since – at least as well as I can remember – I’ve gone to the polls and pulled the lever or tapped the touch screen. Since the privilege was conferred on me, I have tried to use every opportunity to exercise it.
There have been disappointments. No one was more devastated than I when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush. And no one was more amazed when, despite the lackluster campaign of John Kerry, the people of this nation doomed us to another four years of Bush policies and financial devastation.
There have been high points. The election of Bill Clinton to a second term, in the midst of an ongoing investigation, is one. And of course the election of the first Black president of the United States, Barack H. Obama, ranks right up there.
The good, the bad, and the too devastating to swallow, in every election my voice was included. I have braved the rain, snow, long lines, excessive waiting and what I considered “no viable choices” to cast my vote, even if it was for my favorite write-in candidate “None of the above.”
Why am I telling you all this? I’m sharing this because I want you to VOTE. I understand that it sometimes seems pointless and discouraging. Despite all the reasons, reasons which have come close to derailing my resolve, voting is important. If we do not include our voice with others of like mind, we will never have the collective strength necessary to change things.
We saw the strength and power of our individual votes when we elected a leader of the free world that looks like us, African-American. It wouldn’t have been possible without large numbers of voters using the ballot to share their thoughts. Believe it or not, there is no less at stake in this election.
Our country is in a serious predicament, with real troubles. We need people in office committed to solving problems, not committed to blocking the implementation of ideas that can make a difference. We need elected officials that govern based on the present needs of American citizens. We need elected officials that lead, based not on partisan marching orders, but in ways addressing with reason and empathy the diverse and complex issues of our economy, educational systems, health care and employment. We have lived through years of congressional gridlock. Those years are more than partially responsible for our current national circumstances.
For our president to get the job done, for our elected officials to get the job done, you must cast your vote for the candidates supporting the issues most important to you. Send to Congress and all your local legislative bodies the candidates needed to keep the country moving out of this mess.
I wish I could guarantee that if you VOTE, your candidates will win and everything will get fixed. But what I can guarantee is saying nothing, changes nothing. It all starts with you and your vote. Go to the polls on Nov. 2 and participate in furthering the change America needs to survive. VOTE!
Talibah Chikwendu is the Executive Editor for the AFRO-American Newspapers and a former columnist for the newspaper.