I’m starting this at 1:05 AM, EDT. Election eve and sleep is elusive for me. A tumbler of Glen Livett to my left. My notebook to my right. A slumbering 13 week old on the baby monitor. I’m now voting not just for me, but for the hopes and dreams I have for my daughter. I’ve mistakenly said throughout the year that my vote for president won’t count, since I live in Indiana, which always goes overwhelmingly for the Republican candidate. That’s not true at all. The state and local races are much closer, and the odds of my vote mattering are much higher. In every election, some county clerk or district dog catcher race takes 30 days and five recounts to determine a winner. I might be the person to decide that race! There are always ballot initiatives to contend with too. My vote might change the way the state government is organized, how tax dollars are shared through the state, or whether same sex marriage is allowed. A ballot in November of a presidential election year is ripe with opportunities to make a difference.
In the current electoral climate, even my presidential vote matters. As you may recall, we had two winners four years ago. President Bush won the electoral college tally. Vice President Gore won the popular vote. This year, every vote matters because it can provide added legitimacy to either candidate. What if all the Democrats stayed home in Indiana and Kansas, or all the Republicans stayed home in Massachusetts or Illinois? The electoral college count might not shift, but the raw numbers would change dramatically. So while I’m hoping for a big John Kerry victory later tonight, I’ll vote knowing that even my vote for him will matter in some small way.
Maybe none of that appeals to you. I’m not a person who says “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” I think that’s crap, since an overwhelming majority of people don’t vote in primaries, off-year elections, and small local elections but we all still complain. I believe silence is a legitimate method of protest. However, there is another route. Almost every ballot has third party candidates listed for most offices. You may have no idea what a Constitution Party candidate stands for, but if you can’t stand Bush or Kerry, go ahead and give the CP candidate your vote. I think if enough people who don’t vote out of disgust with the system or candidates showed up and voted for random minor party politicians, the process just might change a little. Every now and then, a Reform Party candidate might win a local election. If 5% of the population consistently voted for a minor party, it would force the Republicans and Democrats to chase those votes, thus opening up their platforms to different ideas. I think the two party system suits the American psyche and mentality. We like having someone to cheer for and against, enjoy knowing who wins before all our guests depart for the evening, and appreciate the stability our system offers. But there are other options if that’s what you’re searching for.
I hope all of you get out and vote today. You’ll each have your own motivations, whether they be the war against terrorism, fiscal policy, morality issues, health care, or international affairs. I’d be very excited if at least a couple of you vote because you’re afraid P. Diddy is going to show up and kill you if you don’t (Viewers of The Best Week Ever know what I’m talking about). Realize for all the rancor in this country over the last six years, for all the problems and rumors of problems there will be tomorrow, we live in the greatest country in the world where, in theory, every person over the age of 18 has an equal share in determining the political direction of the nation. Take a moment to appreciate that before you make your final selections in the voting booth.
Mmmmm, scotch. Scotchy scotchy scotchy scotch.