Every election, something a bit surprising happens. Approximately half of the country doesn’t vote. I get it — it sounds like a chore, and “what does one vote matter anyway?” But it’s actually fun! And I’m not lying. Also, that is the thing about society: we make dramatic, humongous, world-changing moves together, one action built upon another. You cannot get 200 million votes unless each of those 200 million people do their own part. On Election Day, no one can vote twice. You get one vote just like everyone else, from Tom Hanks to Lebron James to Cardi B. And you need a ton of people doing their own “insignificant part” in order to do something very significant.
But let’s get to the matter of fun for a moment. I was already about to write this article, and then I saw the following tweet (note that “ngl” means “not gonna lie”):
Waited at most 10 minutes.
First time ever voting, felt pretty damn amazing, ngl. pic.twitter.com/1ST0fB2D51
— Stephen Pallotta (@stephenpallotta) November 1, 2020
That is not an abnormal experience. Many people think of voting as a chore or a hassle, but then go and vote and feel great afterward! Many discover there’s a joy and excitement to voting. There’s a sense of being a part of something far beyond yourself, which is a totally awesome feeling.
It’s hard to describe, and it’s hard to get people to believe when they are in the invisible crowd that says it’s not worth doing anything, a matter I’ll come back to in a moment in order to tackle it from a few angles. First, though, I think we do have to recognize how big of a factor nonvoting is. Here are two charts on that:
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 16, 2020
Wisconsin — today is your last day to register to vote online or by mail. Apply online by 11:59 PM or make sure your mail application is postmarked by today.
Don’t let history repeat itself.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 14, 2020
It’s clear from those charts that non-voters are a humongous, highly influential part of society.
I’ll admit something here. In the past, I made many comments about there not being a big enough difference between the parties on some critical matters to the future of society. I’ve learned that’s not true. In fact, it’s dramatically not true. But there are a couple of reasons why it makes sense that so many people have this belief.
- It takes a long-ass time for change to kick in. It can take years from a law moving its way through Congress before it’s actually implemented, and certainly before you see the effects of it. It’s easy to get disillusioned when you vote for someone running on a strong message and then don’t see the issue solved or progress made on it quickly. But that’s just how it is. It’s like steering a giant ship. If you want to change direction, you have to turn the wheel, but you also have to be a bit patient and not just turn it back 10 seconds later.
- Unless a political party has full control of Congress and the presidency, it’s very unlikely anything significant will get through. Obama, for example, basically had two years. He and the Democratic Party spent that whole time trying to get a revolutionary healthcare bill through, which was a challenge in part because Obama tried really hard to work with Republicans in order to have it bipartisan and because there were a few Democratic senators from more conservative states who were really hard to get onboard. In fact, that is also why they had to push through without a public option — which, ironically, led to some progressives getting upset with Obama and turning on Democrats. The result was that Republicans had a big sweep election in 2014 and Democrats couldn’t really get anything good done for the following 6 years of Obama’s presidency, which led to more progressives and working class voters getting disillusioned with Democrats. After all, Obama was in office for 8 years, and what did he do after the giant stimulus effort to pull the country out of the Great Recession and passing Obamacare? (It is left unnoticed by many that Mitch McConnell happily took on the role of the “Grim Reaper,” giving the nickname to himself even, to kill everything Democrats wanted to do, every bill they wanted to pass. (He plays that same role today.) It was the quick loss of political power that made it so freakin’ hard for Obama to get more done. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to. And that led him to do things via executive order, but policies put into play via executive order were easy things for Trump to just undo via executive order.
Long story short: yes, it’s really hard to get the US government to make any notable changes that affect your life. But changes are made. When Democrats had full control of US government, they brought about the Affordable Care Act, bringing health insurance to more than 20 million more Americans. Their second priority was a climate and energy bill, but then they couldn’t do it because Republicans took control of Congress.
— Dimp (@authenticreel) October 14, 2020
FACT CHECK: the Trump administration wants to destroy pre-existing conditions protections https://t.co/UkDXKOktcd
— Truth (@BlueAmerica22) October 8, 2020
— The Onion (@TheOnion) October 27, 2020
Just a reminder: Amy Coney Barrett would never have become an appellate judge if GOP Senate had confirmed President Obama's nominee Myra Selby, a Black woman, to Indiana seat on 7th Circuit in 2016. But GOP blocked Selby, kept seat open & Trump filled it w/Barrett. #CourtPacking
— Leslie Proll (@LeslieProll) October 13, 2020
The left is more the giving type and is worried about others while the right are more the taking type and are mostly concerned about themselves. It’s also why the left can’t stand Trump since he’s the ultimate taker and gives almost nothing back.
— Dan Marvin (@DanielCMarvin1) October 18, 2020
Scranton, Pennsylvania, isn't just where I'm from — it's the people I'm for. I'll fight every single day in the White House for the hardworking Americans who make our country run. pic.twitter.com/vahd9rc1Ja
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 1, 2020
Not sure why anyone believes Trump can manage the economy. Eight years of Obama/Biden turned to four years of increasing deficits even without COVID. And his personal debt is$400m+ and mostly never made money personally. pic.twitter.com/PxanZginGx
— Vinod Khosla (@vkhosla) October 17, 2020
Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein put in place this policy of ripping small children from their parents. The trauma to those kids is incalculable; it was essentially torturing children to discourage migrants. Too often we excuse torture because it's committed by men in suits.
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) October 7, 2020
There’s also the matter of the president’s cabinet. Obama had people running US agencies who believed in science and who believed in good public engagement on critical issues that were hurting and threatening Americans (like pollution and global heating). Trump put oil and coal lobbyists in charge of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and you have similar “foxes guarding the hen houses” at the top of several agencies. These things make a difference, and not a small difference. The differences just in the cabinet mean millions of people being affected by more or less pollution, by differences in the education system, by differences in healthcare, by more or less protection of our public lands and our waterways.
If your vote didn’t matter, there wouldn’t be intense, sometimes brazenly illegal, hugely funded campaigns to make it hard or impossible for people to vote. This wouldn’t be one of the biggest “partisan battles” if your vote didn’t matter. In the tweet below, you actually have the surprise of a Republican politician in Texas having to speak out and say how wrong it is that his Republican colleagues in Texas are trying so hard get 100,000 votes tossed out:
— Joe Straus (@SpeakerStraus) November 1, 2020
The Texas Supreme Court already said these votes are valid, and it’s totally absurd that some Republicans are trying to get them thrown out. But that is a reminder of how important your vote is.
If political players are going to spend a lot of money on lawyers to get votes in one county tossed out, based on nonsensical political arguments, it means that votes matter. Here are more examples, and more reasons to get out there and vote on Tuesday:
I warned about this on August 13, singling out Miami Dade County:https://t.co/G6RtJrhmRH
— JRehling (@JRehling) October 31, 2020
Here's a map of dejoys 'handy work'
Disassembled/scrapped barcode sorters (type used for ballots) in D leaning districts
Barcode sorters = 'dumpty-dumpties' they cannot be redeployed pic.twitter.com/s6kWMl6SmG
— Victor Cangiano (@viccan1) October 27, 2020
Speaking with a resident within the area and being told some in the area haven’t received their mail from the below mentioned post office in five days. PRINCETON, FL Post Office 13500 SW 250TH ST HOMESTEAD, FL 33032
— Kionne “Commish” McGhee (@kionnemcghee) October 30, 2020
(Note that if you are in Florida, you can go in to vote in person even if you requested a mail-in ballot — they will be sure that only one is counted.)
Don’t be discouraged by these efforts to suppress (or steal) mail-in votes. Get out there and vote! Do some phone banking and get others to vote! Counter the suppression efforts by doing more for the opposite, more positive effect.
Your vote matters. It really, truly does. And it’s genuinely fun to go vote. It feels super special and empowering. This year, I went and voted in person with my mom, because we for some reason didn’t receive our mail-in ballots in the mail, and I became concerned about trusting Trump’s/DeJoy’s extremely corrupted USPS anyway. It was fun. I got to talk to my mom for a while as we stood in the shade in some nice Florida fall weather. I am a workaholic and am otherwise constantly working or doing stuff with my young family, so it was nice to get a break for a short time that I could spend with my mom uninterrupted and without stressing that I should be doing something else.
Also, it’s 2020, not 1980 or 1990 or even 2010. If you go alone or need to stand in line for a very long time, you can watch a freakin’ movie on your phone! You can find funny videos on YouTube. You can scroll and read CleanTechnica. (We were just in line for a bit more than an hour, I think, and the lines got shorter in this area in subsequent days, but I didn’t even get to the point of needing to take out my phone.)
At the end of it all, I think you will feel great about voting! You will feel empowered, and like a part of a big movement, a part of solutions far beyond what any of us can do on our own. It’s honestly a little exhilarating, in a surprising way. I’m happy I ran across Stephen Pallotta’s tweet. It captured well the point I wanted to make, and it was made by someone who is new to the process and who had that feeling spontaneously pop out of him. Also, I think he just registered a few weeks ago.
It’s never too late to join the fun!
Oh, wait, actually … it is. Election Day is the deadline to vote. That’s Tuesday. Don’t miss out on this rare and special opportunity!