I saw this quote on State Rep. Bob Hagan’s Facebook wall this morning:
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
Maybe you’ve been asked by a spouse or a daughter or a friend, Who are you voting for?
Maybe you’ve even heard, I don’t like anyone!
But inside you know you can’t *not vote.* I know I can’t not vote.
And some people will argue that not voting is still a participatory choice, while on the other end of the spectrum:
Can’t one blue state, just one of them, try compulsory voting by initiative and see if it sets off a constitutional chain reaction? After all, the states are supposed to be “laboratories for experiment.” That’s why we have 50.
Plato would love that debate.
But this is Ohio, where third parties and casting ballots with some sense of integrity to one’s principles aren’t very welcomed by our state’s electoral system. For comparison, check out what New York’s primary ballot looked like this year:
For example: down the left side? Those are all the different parties for which you can vote. The candidates listed in the horizontal line for each party is the slate that party has selected for you to select. So you can choose incumbent Gov. Cuomo, but you don’t have to vote as a Democrat. You can vote as the Working Families Party.
So what’s the message? How do you convince people to vote?
Of course, we have to make them care, and that comes from a personal appeal. This can be in person, by phone or by postcard – a common tool of the grassroots campaigns.
What can you say? You can commiserate, for starters. It’s pretty easy this year. I’m not loving some of my choices and I’ve been honest about that. But having a candidate you love – has that ever been a realistic expectation for each and every electoral choice we have to make? Of course not. But not loving a political candidate is no excuse for not exercising your right to vote.
So then what? For me, thinking about the alternatives and the consequences of the alternatives winning or losing is where I go. In many races, you can look at the candidates’ position and past record on issues that matter to you – education, minimum wage, job creation, anti-discrimination, renewable energy, caretaking our natural resources assets, reproductive rights, infrastructure investment – and realize that you know with great clarity how a candidate treats those issues. I’ll throw in my two must-haves that aren’t yet standard-enough benchmarks by which we measure candidates but we’re working on it: transparency, openness and use of civic engagement.
I don’t think anyone seeks to be a one-issue voter, but if you know you don’t want someone in office who you know, before casting your vote, is going to make decisions opposite to what you value, then knowing who to vote for becomes clear too. Are you always going to like that answer? No. But we have who we have in front of us, and if we don’t vote, and we end up with the person we know won’t be supporting what we value, when we had a chance to speak with our vote, we only make it harder for ourselves and others as time goes on.
In my experience, this angle is very successful. It highlights how our vote matters, even as a block against another candidate who might otherwise want to claim a mandate. This claiming of a mandate is no small matter given how it can get wielded to supersede what a more democratic (with a little “d”) approach might pursue, and for purposes that go beyond anything the now-elected person, while candidate, might have ever mentioned when they were supposedly working to earn our vote. (There’s a lot of excellent writing on the topic of mandates but leave it to Minnesota to produce one that nails it in, “When does a politician have a mandate from the voters?.”)
In Ohio, Governor Kasich has been asked about his re-election intentions regarding Right-to-Work, making Medicaid expansion permanent, the Common Core, support for Lake Erie and stunting the growth industry of renewable energy precisely because of a concern about how he might take an electoral win of any size and use it to say, “Well, that was the people’s will (aka mandate) when they elected me.”
And I promise you, if you do not vote at all, you will contribute to another candidate’s win or attempt to claim a mandate. If you do not want that result, then you – and everyone you know – needs to vote. Up and down the ticket (more about down the ticket in a subsequent post).
Now if all that is way too complicated and long, there’s always the “our jerk is better than your jerk” rationale. I didn’t come up with it, but for some folks, I understand it works. As long as you get to the polls and vote, I’ll take it.