On Nov. 6, voters who are inclined to cast their ballots will go to the polls. Many thousands, however, won’t bother to vote. People give many excuses for why they don’t — but they are just that, excuses.
In our democracy, the right to vote is the starting point for everything else. It is the foundation. Failing to vote is self-censorship, saying you are a nobody and you don’t care who runs the machinery of government and how your hard-earned money is spent.
Efforts around the country to suppress the vote are an affront to the democracy and constitutional system hammered out in Philadelphia after the successful revolution against the British. Read about current tactics being used in the state of Georgia to potentially disqualify thousands of voters, or similar efforts in some Plains states to challenge the right of Native Americans — the very first Americans — to cast ballots. The side doing this obviously doesn’t trust these voters to support them; hence, they want them disqualified.
The truth is that every single vote counts hugely. The presidential election of 2016 was decided by fewer than 80,000 votes cast in three key Electoral College states: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. More people go to a game at an NFL football stadium on a typical Sunday.
At every election cycle, we at Times Review Media Group newspapers weigh whether— and when — to publish stories, letters to the editor and guest columns that strongly favor one side or the other. In the interest of fairness to both sides, we have cut off these kinds of stories as the election draws near.
This decision has bothered a number of people who want their opinions published now. We want their voices in our newspapers, too, but we want to be fair and balanced going about that task, especially with just days to go before Nov. 6.
We are in the midst of an extraordinarily bitter time in our country’s history. Just a few weeks ago, at a far-right gathering in Georgia, a group of activists erected a giant Nazi swastika and set it ablaze. This is the America they want. Just 73 years have passed since the end of World War II, a war the Germans used as cover to exterminate the Jews in every country they controlled or overran.
Americans who fought in that war, and survivors of that extermination effort, are still with us. There are no words to describe how obscene a swastika displayed in America is.
Swastikas? In America? Who is to blame for the conspiracy theories that now abound and are promoted on websites? Our politics are not tribal, as some say; tribal sounds far too innocent. It is something else entirely, something tinged with threats, lies, mockery and insults.
Some politicians are denounced when they venture into a public space. Some are insulted and hounded out of restaurants and are subjected to death threats; journalists are labeled America’s true enemies. The tenor of the times is: I don’t simply disagree with you, I hate your guts.
Some have predicted that a second revolution will come in this country if the challengers succeed in “overthrowing” the side now in power. That kind of talk is un-American. This is not what our Revolution brought forth; this is not why the Civil War — meant to erase the stain of slavery on this big, clean land — was fought. This is not what tens of thousands of very young Americans who landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, fought and died for.
They fought for something big, really big. We are just rolling in the mud now, ready to pounce on each other, unsure of who we are and what we represent. The idea of America and its place in the world seems lost in the name-calling and in the waves of public anger.
So what is the answer?
This is only a partial answer, but it’s an important one: Vote. Get to your polling place Nov. 6 and vote. Don’t sit it out.
Civil discourse will not soon return to America. But, perhaps, long lines at the voting sites will show the world what we believe in.