There has been a recent movement, as politics have become more and more divided, to push everyone to get to the polls and vote. Celebrities get paid ridiculous amounts to appear for five seconds alongside Joe Schmoe and Jane Doe to talk about making your voice heard. Award show acceptance speeches to rally the public are crafted around the upcoming elections. They name complex issues that need to be addressed by our elected officials, as though if we just choose the right candidate, those problems will go away the day after elections. And then they tell you to grab a friend and head to the polls. Of course, each party is hoping that voters will go out and blindly vote for that party all the way down the ballot.
It’s true, politics have become ugly, and the parties are more polarized than ever, yelling and screaming about the evils of the right/left. But the answer is not to get the uninformed populace to the polls and vote for whoever sounds like they might best represent their interests (Jews voting for “Steinberg”, Latinos voting for “Gonzales”, etc). Voting one party all the way down the ballot does not make sense either. We will never have a one-party government, and thus, we need bipartisanship to ensure legislature is addressing the issues facing the greatest number of Americans as possible.
It behooves us all to put in a little effort. Look up your ballot and research the candidates. Write to them! Ask them about their opinions on the issues that matter most to you. If the cost of yeshiva/day school tuition is a burden, talk to the candidates on your ballot about how they will work to ensure non-public schools receive funding. Many districts provide both breakfast and lunch for public school kids, touting the belief that kids can’t learn when they are hungry. There is no reason non-public schools should be deprived of funding for meals. It’s not a religious issue; all kids need to eat. The same applies to bussing, funds for better STEM education, security and technology.
Check the candidates’ resumes. Do they have experience in the areas that you’d like to see them accomplish? Say the roads in your neighborhood are terrible, and the sidewalks are not stroller or wheelchair friendly. Given the choice between a candidate with a background in contracting, and one with a background in insurance, who might be better to address this issue? Would that same candidate be a good choice if the rising cost of medical care is a top priority for you?
Next, talk to your friends, and encourage them to do the same research. And THEN, get out and vote. Bring that cheat sheet and vote confidently, knowing that you’ve done what you could to choose the best option for your family and community.
Don’t think you’re done after casting your ballot. Politicians have a way of swiftly forgetting the issues that the folks on the campaign trail felt were concerning. They busy themselves with making friends with all the right people, to hold onto their seat and/or advance their way through the hierarchy of government. Therefore, it is our responsibility to remind them of the people they are representing, and that in the United States, the government is “for the people”. Heckle, nudge, and do all the things that would make your Yiddeshe bubby proud, to keep the issues you care about on the fore.
And lastly, never ever say that your one vote doesn’t count. If everyone who claimed that their vote won’t make a difference would go and vote, it might make a difference! Women fought hard and sacrificed greatly for the right to vote. Don’t let their efforts be a waste.
As a postscript, stop unfriending people on social media who disagree with your view. It’s shallow and childish, and will frankly lead you to have a very boring and homogeneous group of friends. Also, don’t defend your party if you’re not familiar with the issue being discussed. Everyone can tell when you are uninformed on a given subject, and you just appear bigoted.
*Steps down from soap box*