Our right to vote is a civic treasure and a solemn responsibility. In the silence of the voting booth we exercise our first line of defense and our last resort for our democracy. When our elected officials fail us through avarice or complicity or misguided policies, we have the power to change the direction of our discourse and protect the Constitution. We can express our dissatisfaction directly and immediately to affect a needed change.
We all win when we all vote. We need to have our voices heard. Subtracting from voting rights by placing undue additional burdens on voters weakens democracy. Encouraging and facilitating voting strengthens our democracy.
There is a lot to think about in this election. But, for me, it boils down to one basic issue and that is that America has never been a zero sum nation. A rising tide of opportunity lifts us all. Much of the current rhetoric emanating from Washington and elsewhere promotes the false calculation that one person’s gain must come at the expense of another person’s loss. This misguided rhetoric asserts that the only way one group can get ahead is if another group suffers. To enact such divisive policies requires that politicians single out some groups as enemies and as “others”.
As a nation, we should focus on addition, not subtraction and division. Good governance discovers win-win policies that do not pit neighbor against neighbor. In that light, our elections should celebrate our unity in diversity and bring us together as a nation and not drive us apart.
In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “What we need in the United States is not division, what we need in the United States is not hatred, what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.”
There are policies and programs out there that give us all more than we give up, that help more than they hurt and provide the greatest good for the greatest number.
Good candidates support these net positive programs such as expanded access to affordable health care and protection for those with pre-existing conditions, reasonable immigration policies, a living minimum wage, and protection for the environment.
I have to be both proud and partisan now since we have so many great Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. Our candidates have local, state, and federal policies that can add to our quality of life, the health of our economy, and the protection of our environment. From Talbot County to Annapolis and the First Congressional District, our candidates have all worked hard during the campaign to meet voters and to listen to their concerns. Our candidates have heard the message from voters that we want positive policies and plans that bring us together as Americans and not divide us, that expand rather than contract our opportunities, and leave no one behind as we move forward into a brighter future.
We Democrats are proud of the depth of experience and diversity of our candidates up and down the ballot. All these candidates deserve your consideration and your vote next Tuesday. Please consider supporting our great Democratic candidates in this year’s crucial election.
And to be honest, many if not most Republican office holders have been complicit in condoning if not outright supporting some of the Trump Administration’s worst actions such as attempts at repealing health care protections for those with pre-existing conditions, rolling back environmental regulations in the face of climate change, attacking the free press as an enemy of the nation, abrogating treaties and trade agreements that have kept us safe and our economy healthy for many years, accumulating huge federal budget deficits to fund tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, separating children from their parents at our border, and the hundreds of other daily absurdities emanating from the White House.
You vote does make a difference. History is replete with close elections – won or lost by a few votes per precinct. Imagine how history might have been different if John F. Kennedy had not won the Presidency by less than 2 votes per precinct in 1960 or if Hillary Clinton not lost Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan by less than 5 votes per precinct. Who can forget that Al Gore lost Florida and the Presidency by only 537 votes in the entire state in 2000?
Election Day 2018 is a chance to prove that our democracy is alive and well and that we cannot be discouraged from voting. Whether you plan to be a voter for the first time or plan to be a voter for the first time in a long time, make this a vote you won’t forget. Early voting has shown that many of your friends and neighbors have already cast their ballots. Now you can join your friends and neighbors in voting this Tuesday. For younger and first time voters especially, your first vote in these midterms can be the one vote that you will remember for a long time.
If you want one last reason for voting, think how much it will annoy Vladimir Putin and all those that want to suppress your vote when you do cast your ballot.
Maybe you were unable to join in the marches that have occurred in the last two years, whether for women, for affordable health care, for the value of science, for protection of the environment, or against gun violence. But all of us can march to the polls to cast our vote and that can be the most effective protest of all.
Rick Schiming is president of the Talbot County Democratic Forum and lives in Easton.