I’ve noticed today on Facebook that the election is all anyone can talk about. Many of my friends (Democrats and Republicans alike) have added an “I voted!” icon to their page, and there’s a ticker atop my home page telling me how many Facebook users have done their civic duty so far today (current count: over 9 million!). It got me wondering: is voting cool?
Low voter turnout has vexed politicians, newscasters, and pollsters for years. Even in the record-turnout 2008 general election, only a little over 60 percent of eligible voters showed up. Compared to other developed nations (including a few where voting is compulsory), the US lags behind nations such as Denmark, Italy, and Germany that have voter turnout near or over 75%.
The reasons for Americans’ aversion to the polls are too numerous and too complex to address in a simple blog post. That said, factors such as lack of education, voter apathy, distrust of the government, or even the perception that “one vote can’t make a difference” all play into the decision of each eligible person to vote (or not).
Politics is an alienating business. A bunch of wealthy, well-connected, highly educated people (mostly white and male as well) are part of an insular and often perplexing network of elected government officials. The important things that affect Americans’ daily lives are often seen as difficult to understand or simply not press-worthy. Meanwhile, small gaffes, partisan squabbles, and personal scandals are what interest the press and the public. It leads the average person to see politics as corrupt, ineffective, and generally elitist and unfair.
The galvanizing 2008 election inspired more people than ever before due to the political perfect storm of war, financial collapse, and tech-savvy campaigning that made many sit up and take notice. Many who hadn’t cared about politics started to care. Specifically, voters in the youngest age bracket began to see that a revolution was possible; maybe they could help keep the White House from being more of the same.
Things have certainly changed since Election Day in 2008, not to mention since Inauguration Day in early 2009. Many people have seen that the task of governing isn’t nearly as inspiring or exciting as campaigning. And our country is still struggling to pull itself out of a recession, pointing fingers across the aisles as we go.
But there are some things that we still remember from 2008. We remember that anything can happen. We remember that opting out of an imperfect system is no way to change it. We remember that the most empowering thing you can do is cast your vote.
The sentiments I’m seeing in the blogosphere, as well as on friends’ Facebook pages, is that voting is a foregone conclusion. Of course you’re going to vote. You have no excuse not to! If we want this country to keep moving forward, everyone (whose state is having an election) should vote today. I think our sixth president said it best (courtesy of Huffpo):
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
~John Quincy Adams