September 29th, 2008

Vote!

I would like to take a moment to make a heartfelt request of anybody who might be reading this.

Election day is coming up on November 4th. For goodness sakes, if you're eligible to vote, please do so. If you're not registered, do it now.

I know a lot of people try to play the whole "I'm too busy" or "I didn't get around to it" cards, or even worse, the "I'd rather avoid politics" one, but ultimately these all are rather unacceptable excuses in a society in which we're all collectively responsible for shaping and guiding the political process. Which, believe it or not, does ultimately affect us individually. Examples? Allowing two men or two women to get married. Improving air quality by mandating emissions constraints. Reducing energy costs (yes, that includes gasoline) and reducing our collective carbon footprint by "greening the grid" and increasing reliance on renewable sources. Instituting universal health care. Things like this can become realities and/or are in the process of becoming realities, but not without government support, which in turn will not happen without voter turnout. Don't think you'll make it to the polls? Employers are required to grant time to vote. Some communities have volunteer poll carpooling services. There are always ways.

Apathy ... it will accomplish its intended purpose marvelously. If you don't care, then nothing will change.

I'm not here to lecture. I just want to reiterate that we all share in the responsibility for what happens, good or bad. Think your vote doesn't count? There have been incredibly small margins of victory in some recent elections. If I were writing this as a professional journalist, I'd feel compelled to provide a list of examples. I'm not, and I don't have a lot at my fingertips, so you can either trust me or do your own research. But here's one biggie: whether or not you believe Bush was legitimately elected in either 2000 or 2004 -- two extraordinarily close elections -- a fractionally larger turnout could easily have put Gore and/or Kerry over the top. Nobody can say exactly how the last eight years would have turned out differently, but I'm quite certain they wouldn't have been nearly as bad as they have been.

Back on point: you might say "California is a blue state" (for those living in California) ... so why vote? Obama is going to carry California anyway. Indeed. Need I remind you that, among others, there is a proposition on the ballot aimed at stripping away the newly-won right of same-sex marriage that we've fought and waited so long for? And when you go down there to cast your vote in the presidential race, you also get to render your opinion on the propositions currently on the ballot. These often little-known political footnotes (in many voters' minds) really do matter!

Whether or not any particular religious doctrine supports or opposes same-sex marriage, a supposedly secular government obviously has no place determining the sexes/genders suitable for conferring the legal and social benefits of marriage. And if they don't want to call it "marriage," that's fine, but then marriage must disappear as a government-sanctioned construct altogether. Civil unions for all couples, gay or straight! I don't care what it's called, as long as it's equal.

California has it, finally. And now we're at risk of losing it, as fundamentalist religious dogma seeks to undermine hard-fought political and social progress. Proposition 8 must be defeated, and every vote counts. If election day comes and goes, and I run into any eligible voters I know who confess they didn't make it to the polls, barring a damn good excuse, you're going to get an earful. Whether or not Proposition 8 is defeated.

Oh, and in terms of the presidential election, there has been movement afoot to change California's electoral college system such that the votes will be distributed according to the popular vote, rather than the current "all or nothing" approach long used in most states. I confess I haven't been following this in the news, so I'm not sure where things are with that; but if it comes to fruition, then every vote definitely will count.

Even with the archaic, anachronistic electoral college system, however, every vote still does count in a way. Popular votes go into the history books alongside the electoral votes which actually decide presidential elections, and even a non-binding vote can still be seen as a mandate and used as leverage by progressive lawmakers.

Long story short: VOTE! Our ancestors fought and even gave their lives for that right. And even if you are understandably frustrated with the state of things -- even if you think turning out will accomplish nothing -- I can guarantee only one thing: not turning out will definitely accomplish nothing. So if you're happy with the way things are, by all means, sit at home on election day. If not? You've got something on your to-do list for November 4th.