Americans are breaking voting records in every state and territory. Early voting numbers surpassed 2016’s early vote count in most places by October 22nd, according to the Washington Post. In Texas, early voting numbers are more than 100% of the total vote count for 2016.
I admit I participated in GOTV efforts for the first time this year. And it was a struggle for me. Vote Forward had a program that was perfect for a pandemic:
- print a form letter
- personalize it by hand with your story of why voting is important
- sign by hand
- address the envelopes by hand
- mail on the selected date
It was a struggle for me to write the 50 letters I did not because my inner cynic kept laughing and drinking gin and telling me expect the worst. The struggle was trying to articulate why voting is important.
Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in Washington, DC. Maybe it’s because my grandmother was a news junkie before the 24-hour news cycle was a thing. Seriously, ask me about our Super-8 home movies of JFK’s funeral which she filmed while watching it on TV. This is how I ended up having one of my earliest childhood memories be Richard Nixon’s resignation speech. Maybe it’s because I spent the Reagan years watching my mother and my step-father go to the polls and cancel each other out.
No, it was a struggle for me because I don’t understand how anyone fails to see that voting matters.
Americans aren’t taught to think systemically. It benefits those with power – rich, white men – to keep us thinking tactically.
Systems thinking requires strategy. It requires stepping back to see what levers can be triggered now to get a desired result a decade from now.
This type of strategy is how anti-choice, anti-abortion forces won the culture war; being “prolife” requires a lot more empathy than most of these people show when it comes to the social safety net.
These folks saw that controlling the language would buy them at least a decade, maybe more, to position themselves politically to pack courts with conservative judges and legislature with people sympathetic to their cause.
Voting matters because it is participation on the long game made visible.
Voting matters because the people who control your city council control your quality of life – everything from how frequently your trash gets picked up to if your street gets plowed when it snows to whether or not developers are allowed to fake their density numbers to get building permits.
I said in 2017 that the 2020 presidential election didn’t matter. It was a broad, sweeping statement, and not entirely wrong.
The 2020 election matters dearly. But how much better would our lives have been for the past two years if we’d understood the system, if we’d paid attention to the damage not caring about how state legislatures look or who is in Congress could really do?
And, assuming every single race in the country turns over to the Democrats, how much of a mess will we be left with because we paid no attention to the smaller races earlier?
Voting manifestly matters because if it didn’t those people in power wouldn’t try so, so, so hard to make sure that people who don’t look like them don’t vote.