In a dirty gas station in Virginia, a checkout clerk had the TV tuned in to CNN. She told me she doesn’t usually watch it—it’s mostly for people commuting in to Washington. “I don’t like the president, and I don’t like to listen to him talk.” Sounded pretty fair, so I asked, “Did you vote for John Kerry?”
“No, I didn’t vote.”
Here’s the thing: You are entitled to your opinion. You can think the president is a blibbering idiot incapable of rational thought. If you didn’t vote, you don’t get to complain.
This is one of the single most irritating example of the complacency and ingratitude that plague American political culture. The irony of our beginnings to our present reality kills me. We fought a bloody, horrible war because we had no representation in the government, and now we don’t exercise our right to elect a representative? In 2000 voter turnout was a mere 53.7%. In 2004, it was 55.4%. Basically, only half of us bothered to leave the house and vote. Let’s break that down by statistics:
34% of the US population is classified as a minority race. The 15th amendment guarantees their right to vote. It was followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prevents states from enforcing discriminatory tactics aimed at preventing minorities’ fair opportunities to participate in the voting process.
51% of the US population is women. The 19th amendment was ratified in 1919 after years of struggle and protest.
So, if only 54.5% (avg) voted, it’s as if all the women stayed home, or not one person of minority background voted. That’s a lot of time, energy, money, blood, sweat and tears wasted. Even if you’re a white male who has, for the most part, always been able to vote in the US, consider all of our ancestors came from countries that were not known for democratic outreach.
I know it can feel as if your vote doesn’t count. There’s a lot of talk about the Electoral College, the popular vote, and voter fraud. The fact is, no matter who you are, someone, somewhere, died for your right to vote. Someone, somewhere, doesn’t have the right to vote, and would die for it. So regardless of who you vote for, VOTE! Don’t waste sacrifice. Don’t waste privilege. Don’t waste responsibility.