Election 2012 results depend on voters who show up, not complainers who stay out

Make it a point to vote this Tuesday. Photo: AP File Photo

WASHINGTON D.C., November 4, 2012 ― The worst thing you could possibly do this week is to believe and succumb to the myth that your vote doesn’t count. Whatever your feelings are about this year’s candidates or the parties in power, remember that elections are decided by those who show up, not those who stay home and complain. If America wants to see real change and lasting reform, it’s time to ditch all the negative talk and political self-handicapping and make it a point to go to the polls and vote.

The danger of an entrenched and persistent status quo where little or nothing often changes is it tends to make people complacent, even discouraged. And while these days there is certainly more than enough reason for voters to be discouraged, one must never, ever lose sight of the fact that the rules can always change if people are willing to show up and make their voice heard.

As a Libertarian, one of the things that I frequently read and hear among the liberty movement circles is that one shouldn’t vote because voting does not make a difference or worse yet “because elections are rigged.” Nonsense. If you keep staying home and believe your votes don’t matter, then they won’t matter. As a man thinketh, so he is – and whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!

We all know that politicians by very raison d’être are people pleasers. If they are pandering to select groups and special interests, it ultimately has to do with the fact that votes are involved. The more people consistently vote and organize to get others to vote as a bloc with them, the more likely elected incumbents and their challengers will pay attention to the issues of those high turnout groups.

Political scientists Bruce Cain, John Ferejohn and Morris Fiorina warn in The Personal Vote that “to understand legislative policy making, one must understand the electoral relationship between representatives  and their constituents … The nature of voter response is a critical variable, and voter response is a variable, not something etched in stone at the inception of a political system.”

Stephen Ansolabehere, James M. Snyder and Charles Stewart likewise reason in Candidate Positioning in U.S. House Elections that

“when a party is ideologically responsive to the districts in which it fields candidates, the infection of the party congressional caucus by ideological heterodoxy becomes more likely, as some of the party’s members win in the “wrong” districts. When a party takes a “damn the torpedoes” attitude toward the ideologies its candidates espouse in marginal and ideologically unfriendly districts, it wins less often (holding the strategy of the other party fixed), but its caucus is less cohesive. The party caucus consists of the candidates who won election last time, and they will push the policies that will help them win their own seats in the future. As a result, individual legislators will choose policy positions for their own party that will differentiate them from the opposition.”

The 2000 election controversy over razor thin margins of votes in Florida is a prime example of why every vote truly counts. (AP Photo)

All this goes to say that agenda setting power begins with elections and how you vote – or fail to vote – will determine the future of not just your local sphere of influence but the nation as a whole. Make it a point this year to have a no-excuses attitude about voting and do your part to be an active citizen stakeholder in your community’s destiny.

As a both a former campaign manager and a volunteer poll watcher, I’ve seen people give up on voting simply because they were asked to wait five more minutes until extra pens were made available. If a lack of writing materials is all it takes to discourage America’s voters, it’s no wonder that our country is in a state of decline. It’s time to revive our collective self-esteem and remember that America was once the home of the brave: a nation of people who braved rejection, disappointment, failure and pressed in until they got whatever it was they were pursuing in life.

Do whatever it takes to make sure you, your family and your neighbors vote. You matter. Your vote matters. The only way you can get the change you want is if you rise up and pursue it. If you have to drink extra cups of coffee Tuesday morning to get enthusiastic about getting your shoes on and going to the polls, then do it.

Get the people around you accountable and call them up to ask them if they’ve voted yet and if not, tell them you’ll pick them up and drive them to the polls to vote. Put a positive incentive behind it if you have to: tell them you’ll treat them to a free lunch after voting. Get enthusiastic and get connected.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “We here in America hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of man.” Today we still hold in our hands the hope of the world: it’s called a vote.

I’m reminded of the scene in the 1996 movie Independence Day where Bill Pullman, portraying the president, is flying an F/A-18C in battle and his missiles fail to connect with the enemy ship. Told to disengage and return to base, his wingmen peel off and break formation but instead he floors his afterburners and says, “Hang on, Command. I want another shot at it.”

That moment of pop culture speaks volumes about what kind of nation we are. Americans are courageous people. Americans hit the afterburners and charge at a crisis, not away from it. Americans play to win and frequently demonstrate to the world a persistent habit of accomplishing what others call impossible.

So what if things haven’t changed in the past? We have a chance to change them on Tuesday. So what if our favorite candidate isn’t on the ballot? We still have the chance to make a choice. Don’t let failure and disappointment bewitch you and steal your future by denying your vote. Call those things what are not as though they are – until they are – and vote.

America is a place where people take charge and move out, not complain and stay home. Are you an American … or an AmeriCAN’T? On November 6th, get out there and vote.


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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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