Last week, President Obama made an appearance at a rally for Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor of Florida, and Senator Bill Nelson, the only Democrat serving in statewide office there. During the speech, Obama said two things that caught my attention.
The first came after he’d been interrupted by his fifth heckler of the day, who was yelling something we couldn’t hear. As that guy was being led away by security, Obama went off teleprompter to ad lib:
“Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time? It’s an interesting question. I mean, when I won the presidency, at least my side felt pretty good. It tells you something interesting, that even the folks who are in charge are still mad, because they’re getting ginned up to be mad.”
Such an excellent point.
The second instance came whenever Obama mentioned the names of Gillum’s and Nelson’s opponents. Each time, the audience booed, because that’s what partisan crowds do, but Obama put his hand up and said, “Don’t boo. Vote!” Later, he added, “Don’t hashtag. Vote!”
I couldn’t agree more.
The only way to achieve political change in the US is to vote. If you don’t do that, all of those anti-Trump posts and replies you put on Facebook don’t matter, all those retweets on Twitter are irrelevant, all the pussy hats you wore at a protest mean nothing. Sitting in your living room yelling at cable news while growing angrier and more frustrated and outraged and flabbergasted about the latest outrage from Trump or his Republican boot-lickers will not modify a single policy if you don’t put people into office who can effect change from within.
We all have friends who say they don’t vote because a single person doesn’t matter or because “we’re going to win this anyway” (how did that work out in 2016?). Those sentiments don’t stop them from clicking on every “like” button on social media. Or filling out a survey after eating at some restaurant because doing so will give them $2 off a coffee on their next visit. Or painting their face with the colors of their favorite sports team.
None of those expressions of your opinion has any real-world impact. Voting does. That’s true even if you’re a blue dot surrounded by a sea of red and have no chance of flipping anything, because math matters.
This election will likely have a higher turnout — from both parties — than most midterm elections do, but it will be interesting see how many millennials and others in what I call The Connected Generation (because they’re online and on their phones more hours per day than any other demographic) actually turn out to cast a ballot. We know that older Americans vote, but their children and grandchildren don’t. Perhaps the Parkland High School survivors had some influence, although they haven’t been heard from much in recent weeks, sadly. Perhaps women are seizing the moment in the wake of #MeToo and the derogatory remarks spewed by the Misogynist-In-Chief. Perhaps people of color have been so disgusted by the racist emanations from the White House and too many GOP candidates and media loudmouths.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. But it all means nothing if they don’t vote.
It’s the only way The Resistance can do more than send a message, but instead put in place elected officials who can execute that message — or block the other side from steamrolling its agenda through. It’s very unlikely the Democrats will win a majority in the Senate, but they’ll probably take over the House, and perhaps begin to reverse the tide of state legislatures and governorships turning deep red. Accomplishing any of those will not cure all our ills, but it will be a good start in the right direction.
With Republicans doing everything they can to suppress voting rights — closing or moving polling places in majority-Democrat districts, imposing absurd ID and signature-matching requirements, and, of course, gerrymandering — it’s vital to know what to do to be sure you can cast your ballot:
- If the line is too long at your polling place, stay and wait your turn anyway.
- If the person behind the desk doesn’t want to give you a ballot because you didn’t cross the T in your signature and it doesn’t match the official record, demand that you be allowed to fill out a provisional ballot.
- If they won’t let you do that, or you feel intimidated for any reason, call the ACLU’s Election Protection Hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
- Click here to confirm that you’re registered and where you should vote.
- If you don’t have a way to get to your polling place, Lyft and Uber and Zipcar and Lime are offering special codes for discounted (and in some cases, free) rides on election day.
So, if you’re a Democrat, be sure to vote tomorrow. And if you’re a Republican, vote Wednesday.