Exercise Your Right To Vote

November 6, 2018

Even though the nation’s Founders launched a successful revolution, they weren’t big advocates of sudden change. When it came to the machinery of the government that they built through the Constitution, they favored incremental and inherently slow processes — a constitutional amendment process that set a high and time-consuming bar for adoption, a Senate with six-year terms to temper the populist impulses of House members with two-year terms, a Senate confirmation requirement for numerous executive branch appointees, endowing the slow-moving Congress with the government’s most important powers, and so on. They also sharply limited the right to exercise the most potent instrument of change — voting — by reserving it for people much like themselves, and assigning the election of senators to state legislatures rather than to the public. Across the nation’s history, much blood has been spilled and passion expended over a very long period of time to change those restrictive standards in increments, so that now any citizen 18 or older can share in the power of representative democracy’s most potent instrument. Now, too many Americans decline to stand on the shoulders of those who sacrificed so much for the vote and instead shrug their own shoulders. The tragedy today is that so many Americans engage in self-repression, declining to use the power of the vote. Turnout of eligible voters in the 2016 presidential election was just 56.9 percent, the lowest percentage since 1996. Only 36.4 percent of Americans voted in the 2014 midterm elections, the lowest turnout by percentage in 70 years. The results — not just political division but polarization — demonstrate that apathy a neglect are not the answers. People at the far ends of the political spectrum always are the most motivated to vote, and the power of those minorities is enhanced when the people along the rest of the spectrum sit out elections. Many politicians count on it to press narrow agendas at the expense of the broader public good. Representative democracy is a system of majority rule with respect for minority rights. It is impossible to sustain when the majority doesn’t vote. Today is the day to exercise rather than self-stifle your hard-won right.

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