Election Day is here, and you know what that means. Yes, the TV ads and the dinnertime phone calls will finally come to an end. But it’s also time for my biannual plea for you, no matter what your political leanings may be, to go to the polls and bring your kids with you.
You may think that your vote doesn’t count for much, but it does. You may think that you don’t care about politics, but, if you will indulge me for just a moment here, I will prove to you that if you are a parent, you do care. (And then I’ll even help you find your polling place. How can you not be with me so far?)
Do you care if you can find a job to support your kids? Do you care if they have health insurance? Do you care if they’ll be able to have it in twenty years? Do you care if they breathe clean air and eat disease-free food? Do you care about their educations, their schools? Do you care if your kids’ civil rights will be protected no matter who your kids are when they grow up? Do you care if they will ever be sent to fight in a war? Do you care if they will be secure in their retirements? Do you care if they will have to support you in yours?
Do you care if your kids will be the victims of violence in this country, either via terrorism or “garden-variety” crime? Do you care if they will become victims of domestic violence or hate crimes? Do you care what happens to people who victimize kids? Do you care what resources are available to help you find your kid if he or she goes missing? Do you care about what would happen to your kids in a public-health crisis? Do you care about getting accurate, effective information in any public crisis?
You may believe that politics is full of dirty tricks, people who talk a lot but don’t say much and individuals who are focused on power. And you are right. But politics is so much more than that. At its core, politics is about the world we live in and trying to achieve the world in which we would like to live. It can be hard to maintain that vision when we are bombarded daily by negative attack ads and the words of candidates who seem only to think of winning. But these are just the most visible trappings of the efforts by many people who are trying to improve our cities and towns, our states, our country and our world. If you scrape away these dingy covers, you will find that real issues affecting real people—us—lie beneath the surface, and their outcomes depend on the business of politics.
Moreover, if you think “one little vote” doesn’t matter, think again about that one, too. We’ve all seen instances over the past ten years where relatively few votes have made a big difference, and one can never tell in advance where those instances will crop up. In 2000, a small number of votes in Florida were responsible for the outcome of a presidential election. Imagine how few might be the number of votes on which a town council or state senate election might depend.
On November 2 this year, we go to the polls. We take this privilege for granted in the United States because it is our right, but there are people around the world who die trying to exercise that right. My kids are eight and five, but I will take them to the polls with me on Tuesday as I always do in order to educate them about this most fundamental participation in our democracy. Sure, they’ve listened to my rants about politicians and platforms I don’t like, but in the voting booth, they see first-hand why I pay attention in the first place. Politics isn’t just a bunch of yahoos calling each other names; it’s about real problems and real people. It’s about all of us.
So join me on November 2. Get out and vote, and bring your kids with you.
Just in case you don’t know where to vote, here’s a little help from Google: enter your address in the location where you are registered to vote into the app below, and Google will reveal your polling place to you. It doesn’t get much easier than that, does it?
(November 7, 2010: I’ve removed the Google App. If you haven’t found your polling place yet, it’s a little late now.)