So remember how I warned all y’all that there were going to be more rants about voting as elections come ever closer?
I hate, hate, HATE how my generation seems so ignorant and unmotivated about elections! And as most of my blog readers know, I also hate the use of exclamation points, but I had to use one to close the last sentence because there’s really no other punctuation mark that accurately expresses my total, utter loathing and disdain for people — especially young people — who refuse to vote.
And maybe it’s just because I represent the tiniest fraction of people who happen to be hyper-informed about most everything. News quite literally is my life, and political news is my specialty. I am plugged into the 2012 election practically 24/7. I’m two weeks away from turning Politico into my homepage.
I understand to some degree that people can’t afford to be as informed as I am. I acknowledge that there are people out there who have lives that do not revolve around campaigns, press releases and proposed legislation. I get that.
But I also have to argue that it is SO DANG EASY to stay even marginally informed nowadays. It wasn’t like in the past when the public’s only access to election information was one hour every night on the television, or when it came in the form of a newspaper delivered every morning. With the Internet, people can stay on top of the election just as well as I can. And just learning the basic facts about any given candidate is too easy. With information as accessible and affordable as it is now, there really is no excuse for anyone not to stay informed about the elections in their area.
The advent of this rant comes from a conversation I had with a friend from back home. I told her that I had been focusing on a lot of election coverage at work lately, since the election day is 10 weeks away. Her reply was:
“I’m not registered to vote.”
I almost popped a vein, I was so angry. And I was angry for several reasons:
- She’s my age
- She’s my friend
- She’s a woman
- She lives in Texas
Admittedly, on the surface these reasons make no sense whatsoever. So let me explain them.
She’s my age, which is obviously old enough to vote. But not only that, she was old enough to vote in the last presidential election in 2008. WHICH MEANS SHE WASN’T EVEN REGISTERED TO VOTE FOR WHAT WAS PROBABLY THE MOST EXCITING AND HYPED UP ELECTION OF OUR GENERATION. I mean, seriously! The 2008 election happened while we were both in college, so even though I voted for the guy who lost, I still got swept up in all of the excitement and hopeful rhetoric. AND SHE DIDN’T EVEN VOTE IN IT. I’m retroactively pissed.
Second of all, she’s MY friend. She knows I’m a political reporter. She knows I’ve been a political nerd since fucking high school. She knows how passionately I believe in democracy and elections. And most importantly, she’s heard me rant about all of the above more than once.
Third of all, she’s a woman. SHE’S A WOMAN. Do you know how hard our founding mothers fought for suffrage? Real role models like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton picketed, marched, lobbied, rallied and even got arrested just to give women the chance to vote. They fought long and hard so that their sisters and their daughters could have the chance to make their voices heard. And their sacrifice is just taken for granted nowadays. My friend doesn’t properly appreciate what it took to give her the opportunity to vote. She just throws away that opportunity like it’s a fucking nuisance.
Fourth of all, she lives in Texas. This is the last year before senior republican senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison retires. That means her seat is up for grabs next year. The race is between Democrat Paul Sadler and Republican Ted Cruz. But here’s the catch: Ted Cruz is a Tea Party Republican, meaning he’s on the far right extreme. My friend gets to vote in one of the most contentious Senate races of 2012 and she doesn’t even appreciate the importance of it. And how can she when she purposely chooses to remain uninformed?
And to further add to my anguish and ire, I saw another friend of mine post this as his Facebook status the other day:
“[friend’s name] has noticed a tangible sense of excitement in the air from many people regarding something called an “election season.” He appreciates and shares that enthusiasm, but how are so many people misspelling “football” so badly?”
I almost flipped my shit. And by “my shit,” I actually mean the desk that my computer was sitting on. I wanted to throw everything within arm’s reach.
And perhaps I’m blinded by my own ignorance of what really matters to people my age. Maybe I’m just too close-minded to try and understand their wants and needs, what drives their decision-making impulses.
BUT HERE’S THE THING.
The elections that my peers have such cavalier disdain and apathy for decide our entire fucking livelihoods. Take the 2010 mid-term elections as an example. The American people practically overthrew their congress and elected handfuls of Tea Party candidates to the House of Representatives. Since then, our Congress has:
- Played an incredibly detrimental game of Chicken over the debt ceiling which resulted in America’s credit downgrade and the loss of millions of jobs
- Enacted the rule of sequestration, which would automatically cut $500 billion in defense spending by January 2013; If sequestration cannot be stopped, military installations all over the United States would GREATLY diminish in size, and there’s no telling what would happen to the communities surrounding them
- Earned a collective disapproval rating that has remained below national record since 1974
And this is just our federal legislators. What a lot of people also fail to recognize is that our local legislators have MUCH more power and influence over our daily lives than our federal legislators. Our local legislators decide the state of our roads, how much we’ll pay in taxes in any given fiscal year, and they get to decide how to spend the tax revenue. These are decisions that directly affect us, and yet no one seems to give a flying fuck.
So I posted this on my Twitter account the other day, in response to my ignorant friend and to express my general frustration with such a disinterested electorate:
“There’s no telling what this country could accomplish if people were half as excited about election season as they are about football season.”
I whole-heartedly believe this. America is special in the fact that, of all the many democracies in the world, we consistently have the lowest voter turnout. How can we possibly call ourselves the greatest nation in the world when our own electorate doesn’t even give a shit about how it’s run?
We have a unique opportunity to have a say in who leads us, and there have been men and women who have died in the fight for these opportunities.
Don’t allow your ignorance to waste their sacrifice.