I’m feeling whiplashed and seriously discouraged by the political news. The chaos escalates, making me want to switch it off and return to gardening, kayaking, cooking or anything else to avoid hearing about what’s going on nationally.
Information overload numbs the senses, which can move into “I don’t care-ness” that spells disaster for our democracy. From there it’s a small step before less mindful politicians read our disinterest as a signal allowing them to make all the choices—themselves. Soon they believe the public will ignore elections, thinking their votes don’t matter. . . until too late they realize that they do.
Why are people disillusioned about voting? The nation’s demographics profile is changing, personal income for the middle class is stagnating, political parties are leaning left or right neglecting the middle– the traditional home of American parties, trust has eroded in government, education, religion, and political parties—once the anchors of American life. As humans we move forward without a crystal-clear vision of the future.
“The good news is that we have come through such darkness before,” American historian Jon Meacham, points out. “There is a natural tendency in American life to think that things were always better in the past . . . Nostalgia is a powerful force and in the maelstrom of the moment many of us seek comfort in imagining that once there was a Camelot—without quite remembering that the Arthurian legend itself was a court riven by ambition and infidelity.”
Human failings occur in every generation, but we need to guard against one person’s human frailties undermining our democracy. We know, as did the Founders, that no one person holds all knowledge necessary to run a country that now stretches to 329 million people. One person is not capable of making all the decisions. But we are linked together, no matter our position in life, for better or worse.
Linked together as one people and one nation. The week before he died in Memphis, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed this unity while preaching at the National Cathedral two weeks before Easter.
“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Government of the People
The concept of “government by the people” traces back at least to John Locke (Second Treatise of Government (1690), which formed a foundation upon which our Founders stood. (Before that the “divine rights of kings” ruled as monarchs, who owned massive amounts of land and forced others to work for them growing and harvesting their food, making the land productive while the serfs remained in poverty.
In “Democracy,” a fancy word for “we the people,” we together make the decisions, not a single person or body of people. But democracy can be endangered without constant attention and support, through decisions that limit registered voters from the deck against candidates or voters of either party, or lock out new candidates through intimidation.
In this American Republic, we elect people to represent us since we can’t all gather in one place, like the Colonists in New England once did, to make our choices known. To protect the nation from the fallibility of future leaders, the Founders built in a system of checks and balances to help ensure that leaders would not ignore the Constitution or the will of the people. In order for that system to work, we need to vote our choices and communicate with our representatives. Standing up to be counted during local, state, and national elections is vitally important and a key responsibility for all citizens. Democracy can be challenged, trampled upon, and experience tough times, but now is not the time to quit. Our combined power can yield a government that will serve us.
Working to Achieve a Future Built on Hope
Building a future on hope and effort yields a better outcome than one based on sedentary fear—Action vs. Inaction. Act using the website: www.Vote 411.org. By putting in your zip code, you can learn where to register and receive a sample ballot for your precinct, no matter where you live in the United States.
The deadlines for the 2019 November elections are coming up in the next few days in Texas and other states. Once you’re registered, you can vote early in many parts of the country—check your state’s Election Commission website for dates, times, and locations. Where it’s possible, consider early voting. Don’t risk missing out—this is what you do for yourself and for your country. If these words do not move you, listen to Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady during World War II:
“The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voice of the people themselves.” Eleanor Roosevelt, Tomorrow is Now. 1862
One action, your vote, can impact a nation.
- The nation’s demographic profile is changing.” Peter Wehner, The Death of Politics, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2019) 43-45.
- “The good news” Jon Meacham, The Soul of America, (New York: Random House, 2018) p. 5
- 329 million—2018 U.S. Population Clock, U.S. Census.
- “We are all tied together” Martin Luther King Jr. , A Testament of Hope: Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. Edited by James Melvin Washington. San Francisco. HarperOne, 2003
- Eleanor Roosevelt. Tomorrow is Now. New York: Penguin Books, 2012. First published in 1963, the year after she died.