Decisions Are Made By Those Who Show Up

A cautious patriot's treatise on life, liberty and voting-while-cynical
  1. Many Americans watching this election cycle unfold are hurt and angry and confused. They feel like neither candidate represents them. They feel like their voice isn't heard.
  2. Our two party government, our federalist bureaucracy, our factions and special interests—it's a mess.
  3. So many of you want our democracy to better: more accessible, representative and reactive. Those are the right things to want.
  4. In fact, if you're paying any attention at all, you will have valid criticisms and concerns of our democracy. I know I do.
  5. Recently I've read tweets, status updates and even li.sts (one in particular that I can't find but was actually part of the inspiration for this list) that echo these frustrations. They say, essentially, that inaction is not apathy; not voting for Hillary is not a tacit endorsement of Trump; you can care about America and still not vote.
  6. In my collegiate studies on compulsory voting laws and populism, mainly in the Latin American context, one thing I really came to appreciate about the US is the concept of Liberty. Specifically, that you have it whether you choose to use it or not. You don't have to exercise your rights or defend your rights to be entitled to them.
  7. I know that's an oversimplification of the reality of equal protection, but on its face liberty is an awesome thing.
  8. You can burn an American flag and that flag basically symbolizes your right to burn it. You can belong to a religion that discourages voting, like the Baha'i faith, and your right to religious freedom is protected by the Constitution: the very document outlining our democracy.
  9. That, honestly, is a little crazy to me. But that is America.
  10. So yes, you DON'T have to vote. You don't have to participate in democracy to openly criticize it. You retain your freedom of speech and every other inalienable right you are promised. You still have your liberty.
  11. You have the right to bear witness to every problem and injustice in this country, to see your opportunity every November to speak up about who you want making decisions in your town, city, state and nation, and let that chance pass you by. It's your right as an American to stay home on November 8th.
  12. Yes, there are many, many, many avenues for political participation.
  13. But voting is the easiest—way easier than volunteering to knock doors for a candidate or running for office yourself. Voting is the most effective—way more effective than tweeting your congressman or putting up a yard sign.
  14. And when you know that one candidate for president wants to ban Muslims from entering the US—a country where freedom of religion is explicitly protected, even for religions that discourage political participation— it is clear that voting is the most important.
  15. When you know that it was 7 votes that prevented the US Senate from passing common sense gun reform in the wake of the worst mass shooting the US has seen since 300 Lakota Sioux were murdered at Wounded Knee, it is clear that voting is the most important.
  16. Last night at the DNC, President Obama gave a moving speech about the importance of participating even when you're discouraged with US politics. "Democracy is not a spectator sport," he said.
  17. I say, vote for whomever you agree with the most and then continue participating. Hold your elected officials accountable. Tell them how you feel and tell them often.
  18. Or don't. It's your right to stay home. So few people vote, particularly in local elections, that NOT voting is actually pretty fucking American.
  19. But, in the words of Aaron Sorkin, decisions are made by those who show up.