Don’t sit out this election
By Ann McFeatters
Tribune News Service
To vote, or not to vote? That is the big question for a lot of Americans.
It’s easy to say everyone who can vote should. Otherwise, why have a democracy?
The tone (stench) of this campaign, however, has been so off-putting that many who have never thought of not voting can’t stomach the idea of stepping into a voting station.
There’s no point at this late date (although this has been The Election That Went on Forever) of rehashing Hillary Clinton’s good points and Donald Trump’s bad points. Or Clinton’s trust issues and obvious shortcomings and Trump’s take-no-prisoners diatribes against women, immigrants and anyone who offends him.
No matter what happens, 40 percent of Americans will be so disgruntled they will spend the next four years complaining and verbally trashing the victor. We are so polarized that the very idea of Ronald Reagan’s promise of “morning in America” makes us a little queasy. It’s so not happening this year.
Whoever wins will not be able to do most of what he or she promised. We will be disappointed and probably angry.
But we have had bad choices before and survived. Actually, many of our elections were deplorable. Think segregationist George Wallace’s candidacy. Consider the venom of the Barry Goldwater vs. Lyndon Johnson match. Recall the 1828 contest between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams, when Jackson’s wife was called a “convicted adulteress” because she was not properly divorced when she married Jackson. She died soon after the election. We’ve even forgotten that the nasty 2012 contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney seemed too dreadful to bear at the time.
Voting is a personal choice. The idea of having to make a choice we don’t like and then living with it may seem intolerable. But not making a choice – sitting out the election – is to turn our fate over to others. It is to ignore so-called down ballot races where there will be real consequences that affect each of us and our local communities for years if we don’t vote.
Immigrants who come to this country from dictatorships are appalled at how little respect many of us have for our right to vote. The Center for the Study of the American Electorate says 57.5 percent of eligible voters went to the polls in 2012. This was down from 62.3 percent in 2008, 60.4 percent in 2004 and 54.2 percent in 2000.
There has been a lot of talk that turnout in some of the big counties in swing states would be unusually low this year. The good news is that early voting shows an uptick and that there has been a large increase in people voting early. A key to this election will be whether millennials vote.
There probably should be a law that if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about the election or the aftermath.
When we thank our veterans for their service in protecting our country, we are thanking them in large measure for protecting our right to vote. Thousands have died to protect that privilege and duty.
It’s scary to think of throwing that away because of the flaws in the candidates. Whoever takes the White House may be a better leader than we think.
So, let’s hold our noses and do this thing.
We may not like the results, but in four years, we can do it all again! Ah, the power of hope.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC