Jim and I went out the other night and had a great discussion about the 2020 election. It wasn’t the first political discussion we’ve had, by far, but it was a really good one. First let me say that I’m very lucky we can have good political discussions, because he and I have never agreed on what the best candidate should possess, though what we want (or rather, what we don’t want) this year is closer than it has been in the past.
It hasn’t always been this way, the “having good political discussions” thing, which was actually the topic of that conversation. Like now, in our younger days he was always knowledgeable about the political process and politicians: he’s a history buff who eats this stuff up. On the other hand, I was unaware and honestly didn’t really care much, like the more typical younger person of years ago. Back then I neglected to spend much (any!) time thinking about what I wanted from our elected officials. It seemed to me like they usually had everything under control and what kind of difference could I make, anyway?
Lots of things have happened since around 2004 that have caused me to pay more attention, to WANT to pay more attention. The details of those events along the way are my own and don’t matter for the purposes of this post but suffice it to say that everything came to a head for me in the last couple of years when I became so dang sick of waking up daily, wondering what the heck is going on in our government nowwww. I have become a news junkie and it’s really tough, but necessary when one wants to stay informed. Most of us are weary and we need a break.
*steps onto soapbox*
Let me tell you this: needing a break is understandable but neglecting to prepare yourself to be involved in the election process is not. You do not have to volunteer with any campaign. You do not have to contribute money. You do not have to amplify any candidate’s message. Of course all of that stuff is great and it does make waves, but not everybody has the desire or time or money to be able to do that.
The very least we can do, other than nothing at all, is vote: and be an informed voter at that. It doesn’t take much effort at all; I promise. We’ve all heard the saying “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” It’s true, of course, but you can’t just vote every four years at the presidential election and not think about the primaries and various local elections that benefit your community. If you neglect to participate in all the elections, you’re missing a major piece of the puzzle.
Let’s say you need help getting started.
My biggest suggestion to everyone, starting yesterday, is to disregard all news reporting of polls. (Also caucuses but that’s another post.) For one thing, there are countless polls out there and both media outlets AND candidates enjoy amplifying the one that helps them the most. What it boils down to is this: polls don’t matter because it all depends on who actually goes to vote on Election Day. SHOW UP. (Or vote absentee if necessary!) Races have been won and lost due to voter laziness and apathy brought on by poll results:
“Oh, he’s far ahead of everyone else? I guess I don’t need to bother voting for my chosen candidate because my vote won’t count anyway.”
“Oh, she’s far ahead of everyone else? I guess she doesn’t need my vote: she’s doing great without me!”
If you like what’s going on in your local, state, or national government, vote to keep it that way. If you don’t like what’s going on? Vote to change it. It’s that simple. The polls don’t matter when you want to exercise YOUR right to vote, especially in the primaries.
Side note: this year there is no choice in Republican candidates (*bites lip to keep from saying more*) so this advice is based on choosing a Democratic candidate, but it can easily be reversed next time there’s a pool of Republicans to choose from.
Guys, the pool of Democratic candidates started at what, two hundred? (Slight exaggeration.) There are still ten left, and we don’t need to pay any attention to what happened in Iowa last week or what will happen in New Hampshire tomorrow to make up our own, singular minds. It’s on us to do our own learning.
How should you get ready to vote in the most basic of ways? Do just a little bit of research. It’s not difficult at all: I like this quiz from the Washington Post called “Which of these 2020 Democrats agrees with you most?” The quiz involves answering 20 questions on political issues like guns, health care, taxes, the environment, healthcare, student debt, and more. At the end of the quiz you’ll be able to see which candidates you’re aligned with the most. I recommend choosing your top five results and visiting their websites to read more in depth about their thoughts and plans. You probably won’t agree 100% with anyone but if you pick the person who shares your feelings on the most important issues to you, you’re on the right track.
Hillary Clinton appeared on The Ellen Show last week and gave some great advice: “Vote for the person that you believe can actually win in November, and the person who you think can govern our country because somebody has to get in there and try to bring our country together and try to put us on the right track into the future and restore our democracy and our standing in the world…” (Full interview including her own advice on deciding for whom to vote here.)
Many people in other parts of the world have absolutely no say in what happens with their government. We do. Please don’t waste that opportunity. Pay attention, learn, and cast your vote. Set all poll results aside. Set the opinions of your friends and family aside. Don’t vote for someone only because that person is your partner’s choice. In the voting booth it’s just you alone. Cast your vote for the person who you think will do a great job for you, for your community, for your state, and for our country. Thanks for attending my TED Talk.
*steps off soapbox*