Imagine you only had 16 dollars to spend for the rest of your life. That’s it. That’s all you have. You will never receive any more income. And you can only spend a dollar every four years, but you cannot save them up. If you do not spend the dollar, you lose it. You would think long and hard about how to spend each one. You would cherish each and every dollar. They would be precious and sacred.
The average lifespan in the U.S. is about 78 years. You can only vote during 60 of those years. There is a presidential election every 4 years. You will get to vote for a president about 16 times in your life. That is not a lot of times to vote for president.
The presidential vote is the most powerful political capital that we, as citizens, have. The care and thought that you would put into spending each of those 16 precious dollars in the scenario above should be the same care and thought that you put into voting for the president. That’s how all voting should be. It is a serious endeavor, and, as serious, engaged and thoughtful individuals, we should approach it with consideration and respect — even reverence — and openly encourage others to do the same.
When many Trump supporters explained why they voted for him, I read and heard many expressions along the lines of “needing a shake-up,” “the liberals had Obama for eight years and now it’s our turn” or “successful businessman.” These types of reasons are unthoughtful, vindictive and misguided, respectively. (That last one is a particularly pervasive and damaging shibboleth. The institution of government, and of academia, incidentally, has fundamentally different goals than those of businesses, and success or perceived success in one has little bearing on performance in the other.)
The reasons why we now have such a fundamentally unqualified and flawed person as President of the United States are many and complicated and still not fully understood. Much of the early explanation that too quickly concluded it must be due to the economic anxiety of the white working class, has not stood up to scrutiny, and likely plays a much smaller role than initially thought. However, one important but rarely discussed axis of the multi-dimensional phase space of a presidential election is how much importance an individual places on his or her vote.
Our increasingly digital existence, combined with our finely honed consumer-based society, puts a bewildering number of choices before us each day. We are asked, implicitly or explicitly, to choose, to judge, to prefer or to indicate desire on a near constant basis every single day of our lives.
While a vote is a choice among options, it is much more than just a statement of preference. It is not a like. It is not a follow. It is not a swipe to the right. It is not a late-night impulse buy on Amazon.
A vote is a reflection of your morality. A vote indicates how you want to make the world a better place. A vote is a way to put your ideals and your vision of the future into practice.
Feb. 5 is a very important day. It is the last day to register to vote in Texas for the upcoming primaries in March. Because of how badly the Republicans have gerrymandered our state — check out districts 10, 21 and 25 for some of the most egregious examples — in many districts, the winner of the primary is all but assured to win the general election. Voting in the primary has a huge impact.
And when you vote in the primary, in the upcoming midterm elections and in future national, state and local elections, spend some time to think deeply about the act of voting itself. To do your duty as a citizen, you must participate. But to be a truly engaged citizen, you should also have an appreciation of the significance and weight of that act of participating.