Editorial: You voted. Now what?

December 3, 2018

If you are like many people following politics, you are deep in your feelings after the midterm elections.

Regardless of where on the political rainbow you fall, the sentiments are much the same.

You’re happy because you had a substantial win. You’re disgruntled because you saw key losses. You’re disappointed because your party worked hard and came close but got edged out somewhere.

The fact that everyone is feeling like that is an illustration of exactly how close we are together and how far we have come in two years.

In the days after the 2016 presidential election, there were two divided camps that had nothing in common. One was ecstatic. One was wailing and gnashing teeth. From the minutes the results were in, the focus was on this race. What would happen in the midterms? What comes next?

What has come next, regardless of party and position, has been the thing that our democracy depends upon but which cannot be compelled. What has come is engagement.

The American voter is the horse that can be dragged to water but will refuse to drink, despite desperate thirst and dehydration. Historically, the voter turnout is appalling. In a country where people have fought and clawed and died for the right to vote, too many citizens shrug, say it doesn’t matter and move on.

But after two years of activism by both sides, and issues where both sides were passionate and determined, the 2018 election appears to have the highest participation of any midterm election. The New York Times is estimating 114 million votes, up 37 percent from the last midterm.

Now, with 325 million Americans, about 258 million of whom are of voting age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is still a lot of room for improvement, but let’s focus on the steps we took instead of how many are left in the journey.

Millions more Americans decided they wanted to participate in their country instead of letting governance be something that just happened to them without their consent. That is a victory that goes beyond a name on a ballot or the party in power.

But now what?

Now more. Americans, Pennsylvanians, our neighbors -- we all have to stay engaged, and we have to bring more people along with us.

We have to start with our municipalities and be consistently involved for another two years. We have to go to meetings, we have to run for offices and we have to stay informed and aware of what is happening and whether it is something we can support and defend. And we have to vote in every election, because every election is important.

We have to make participation a habit, and exercise involvement like a muscle.

Americans found their voices. We just have to keep using them every day.

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