“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
— President John Quincy Adams
Guys, I totally get it.
This election cycle objectively stinks to high heaven – I agree with you.
You don’t like either candidate – I hear you.
You might even just outright hate both of them – I won’t argue with you.
As a result, you’ve probably decided, or are very close to deciding, to just sit this election out altogether and not vote. After all, everyone sucks, climate change is real, and we will all be dead before we even make it to the restroom – I’m with you.
However, in my humble opinion, here’s why NOT voting is not such a good idea. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more at stake than just the next POTUS. We’ve been so fixated with Clinton v. Trump that we often forget the fact that there’s a lot going on down ticket as well. One of the bigger reasons why you should vote is because much of the Senate is up for reelection. There are 100 seats in the Senate, two for every state. The current breakdown is 54 Republican, 45 Democrat, and 1 Independent. There are 34 seats up for reelection, 24 Republican and 10 Democrat. Basic arithmetic tells us that a party needs 51 seats to hold majority Senate. If the Republicans hold serve, they will maintain the majority. If the Democrats are able to pick up at least 5 seats, they’ll have the majority. Why is this important? Keep in mind that these boys/girls are one half of the group who creates and considers new laws. The House of Representatives are the other half of that group. If recent history has taught us anything, though, it’s that we must be mindful of the considerable amount of influence the Senate has not just on the laws and policies that shape our country, but on the every-day functionality of the United States government. Remember the past eight years of obstructionist politics that we just sat through? Remember when the government was allowed to “shut down”?
Among the Senate’s duties is the approval, or consent, of whomever the POTUS would appoint to certain offices/roles like, for example, a Supreme Court Justice. To this day, the Senate, which is currently majority Republican, STILL hasn’t held a hearing for Merrick Garland, whom President Obama nominated to replace the late conservative Justice Scalia back in March. Yes, that is March of 2016. Furthermore, recently there have been rumblings of the Senate continuing to hold out on hearings for Supreme Court Justices “indefinitely” should Clinton win the election. Apparently, not only is this within their full power to do so, but some argue that the Constitution allows for it. Folks, we’re talking about a possible scenario where we do not have a fully functioning Supreme Court of nine justices, because petty.
That’s just the Senate, mind you. I haven’t even gotten into other state and local offices, as well as issues, or “questions” on the ballot. In Massachusetts, for example, there’s Question 2 which is about charter schools and whether or not there should be more. People have strong opinions for and against this and the conversation invariably lead to matters of public funding, class, and race. There’s also Question 4 concerning the legalization of marijuana. That’s a bit easier. People generally get along on this one. 🙂
So we’re talking about key votes at not only the federal level, but at the state and local levels as well. These are key votes with significant implications across the breadth and depth of our government. That’s a very big deal, guys.
Now, I’ve said all of that to say this – voting is not a duty, it is a right. There’s a distinct difference. The former is a moral or legal obligation, the latter is a moral or legal entitlement. You are not obligated to vote but, as an American citizen, you are entitled to vote. With that being said, there’s an element of responsibility tied to that entitlement. If you’ve been so unmoved by this election cycle that you’ve fully removed yourself from it, if you have little to no idea at all what the issues are and what’s at stake, if you have no opinions whatsoever, then I would agree that you’re better off staying at home. Just sit this one out. But, if you’ve been following this election cycle, even though you still may be unmoved by it, if you have a reasonably good grasp on what the issues are and what’s at stake, and if you have informed opinions, then I highly recommend and encourage you to hit the polls next week Tuesday and exercise your right as an American citizen.
Remember, ours is a government of checks and balances. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches each have different and unique functions but also exist to keep the others in check. So, effectively, it “doesn’t matter” if Hillary becomes POTUS if the Republicans control a majority of the Senate. Conversely, it “doesn’t matter” if Donald becomes POTUS if the Democrats control a majority of the Senate. For better or for worse (from what I’ve seen lately, I’m leaning towards “worse”) this is the way the game is played. May the odds be ever in our (“We, the people…”) favor.