You hear the charge every two years, I don’t care who you vote for, just go vote.
Near and dears strike up the band for the cause du jour, distant friends and acquaintances whip themselves up in a frenzy, personal rivals and so-called enemies dig in just a bit more so that you drive yourself mad about the contrasting points of view.
And for a very brief moment on the morning of an election – whether the day of the state primaries or Election Day itself – some will sound the horn for civic duty. I don’t care who you vote for, just go vote.
With nothing but respect for those who believe in a founding principle of the American republic, that is pure and utter bullshit. You do care.
You absolutely care who your relatives, friends, colleagues, classmates, neighbors, work spouses, unreal and perceived haters, local clergy, fantasy starting pitchers of the day, the most retweeted people from Black Twitter, “thought leaders”, celebrities you want to (hold hands with), celebrities you want to (not hold hands with)… you absolutely care who they vote for.
The differences lie in who says it. If you are running for office or working on a campaign, you just aren’t allowed to say “vote for me, fuck everyone else, they ain’t shit!” despite having spent money and time doing something fairly close leading up to an election. And that makes sense because you very well may lose, you very well may need a job within someone’s administration, and you also just shouldn’t be that (borrowing from the new Twitter word craze), petty.
If you are not aiming or working for political office, however, we need to talk.
While it is wonderful to encourage those around you to engage in the democratic process, there is a strong chance it comes with a few winks and nudges. The proof is in the pudding; your stickers and signs, your t-shirt, your social media feeds and the #multiplehashtags #aboutyourcandidate #thattakewaytoomuchspaceforastatus, the attacks on the immediate opponent as if your desired leader’s hands are Palmolive clean, the Pavlov’s dog-like foaming of the mouth once a televised debate begins.
(Seriously, did we really need all of those debates? Hell, it’s APRIL!)
If you weren’t so enraptured by a candidate her or himself, would you be pushing those around you to vote? Absolutely not. Otherwise, your turn-up to get the votes up would take place for every pertinent election, not just the ones that end up on network or national cable television.
Not to mention that you are also preaching to the converted. It’s like telling long-time viewers of a television show to watch the season finale, despite having watched every single episode over the last five months.
So, let’s consider being honest with ourselves about this ongoing election cycle. You DO care if someone votes for an incredibly ambitious former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State who might have a few blind spots about her legacy. You DO care if someone votes for a Brooklyn escapee who spoke more exactingly about the impact of Southern black voters than about any real specifics about his “political revolution” (and good Lord, the campaign staff is terrible). You DO care if someone votes for a guy who’s probably still in this thing to get some free food. You DO care if someone votes for a man whose discriminatory practices and rhetoric spans decades in the city he grew up in, long before he made the demographically-typecasted forget that he’s “a Yankee.” And you DO care if someone votes for America’s newly most despised Canadian import* who has devoted his career to setting society back as far as he can.
But beyond all of that, what you DON’T care about is if the undecided and/or disillusioned– those who may or may not see these five candidates on their merits – will actually be compelled to make themselves heard. What you DON’T care about is if people can come to some consensus on what’s best for all parts of society, even those who are not full participants in the eyes of the law, the Lord, Allah or Beyoncé. What you DON’T care about is if whoever emerges from the November elections will “reach across the aisle” and make a real effort of breaking down our divisions. What you DON’T care about is if someone actually doesn’t drink the Kool Aid, so long as you can pour it down his or her throat.
Here’s the truth; whether you like it or not, there’s a reason why voter turnout rises quickly in Olympic years and splats in the three years afterwards. Millions of Americans of all political leanings are feeling pretty damn cynical towards the entire system, even those who actually cast ballots. But they aren’t just jaded towards the candidates; after all, with this sordid collection of presidential candidates, it’s pretty easy to not give a damn (“meh” seems to be making a well-timed rise in the lexicon). They are jaded towards people who approached an impending election with good intentions before suddenly veering off into a realm of psychosis only a highly-compensated psychiatrist could love.
America has enough insanity as is, my friends. Let’s try to tone down the crazy at some point.
(*Justin Bieber has been somewhat forgiven, I think.)