When I post my next Queercents article, we’ll have a new president-elect.
Yipee! (Hopefully, that yipee isn’t premature…)
For those of us still shell-shocked from the disaster of 2004 (not to mention 2000), the excitement and anxiety are overwhelming. I’m all too aware of the problems with electoral politics, the winner-take-all system, the undue influence of PACs, those wacky ‘undecided’ voters, the use of queer issues as the poltical football du jour, and so on. As a queer parent, I see my issues get misrepresented and/or ignored by virtually all parties. I’m skeptical about mainstream candidates’ commitment to our issues. I have often had to hold my nose before pulling the lever. I think a two-party system ill-serves the diversity of the electorate.
And yet I still believe voting is one of the most important acts of citizenship we can perform. Why?
1) Your vote is your family’s voice.
I’m not a fan of those “Babies for Obama” onesies; I’ll let my kid decide for herself which candidates/parties she supports when the time comes (I’m the same way about those “I Love My Two Moms” onesies; how do I know how she really feels about this, given that she’s too small to express an opinion about carrots vs peas?) I do fantasize about voting for her one day…which probably ensures that she’ll turn out wildly apolitical.
BUT—it’s a biiiiig but, actually—my vote really is a vote for my whole family. If we want our issues to get greater coverage, we need to show up! I’m committed to non-electoral forms of politics (protests, boycotts, third parties, etc.) but until there’s another/better system in place, the single most forceful way of representing my family’s needs and getting them counted is the ballot box. Since my daughter can’t vote yet, it’s my job to consider her best interests when I pull the lever.
2) By voting, you model engaged citizenship and critical thinking for your kids.
I have vivid memories of going into the voting booth with my mom and dad –though unlike Cristopher Buckley, I never actually pulled the lever for them! My parents talked to me about the candidates, the electoral college, their beliefs about democracy, and so on. My mom always recounted the struggles of women and people of color to gain the right to vote, which made me understand how important voting was. And is. So bring your kids. I’m bringing my daughter, even though she’s only a year and a half old.
If you’re critical of the candidates or system, bring that critique, too. When I hear folks cynically complain about ‘politics’ and the uselessness of voting, I recall that the word ‘politics’ comes from the Greek word for the state: polis, which means the people. We, the people.
3) Voting helps ensure the future for your family
This is true on so many levels this year: whether we’re talking about the environment, No on 8, or the economy, our children’s futures really do hang in the balance. If we screw this one up, our families face even more discrimination, the environment will be so compromised that we’ll have endangered our kid’ (and grandkids’) very survival, and we won’t be able to pay those ever-ballooning college tuitions. I can’t think of a time when so many key issues affecting our families were on the ballot. Buying organic, recycling, and saving won’t mean a thing if policy decisions are made that make the air unbreathable.
4) Voting gives you the right to complain.
If you didn’t bother to drag your tush to the ballot box, well, how can you really complain? Hearing my parents complain about, critique, and organize against both those candidates they’d voted against and those who’d gotten their votes and then let them down (hello, Bill Clinton!) provided me with a model of engaged citizenship.
I think of voting as the ‘gateway drug’ to activism. Keep protesting and organizing against the candidates you never supported in the first place, and hold those to whom you gave your vote accountable for living up to those oh-so-quickly-evaporating campaign promises (hello again, Bill Clinton!).
5) It’s free.
Okay, I’m sure you’ve been waiting for the financial tie-in, so here goes: contrary to the right-wing slogan, freedom IS free. (It wasn’t always so; we’ve had to fight poll taxes and other nonsense.)
And post your favorite voting memory below!
Photo credit: stock.xchng.