By Randy Cunningham
We are hard core activists working in the electoral arena. We’ve got the talking points. We’ve got the walk lists. We’ve got the voting records of voters going back sixteen years for each precinct. We’ve got the polling data that makes us depressed or elated. We are the ones who know what is going on.
All this confidence crumbles when you go to a door, knock on it and talk to the person who answers, and they say, “No, I don’t vote.” “Why don’t you vote?” “Because it doesn’t matter. My vote does not matter.” That usually ends the conversation, and as you walk to the next door you shake your head and ponder why the person you talked to does not care what happens to them after the election or is just terminally disillusioned. Those are easy responses that people in the know, people like you, feel comfortable with.
The most important characteristic of the American political system is how few people participate in it. Which asks the question just how real American democracy is, or is it just a fraud, a lie and a con job. Which is pretty much the attitude of non-voters. And what stops us dead in our tracks is that many of us agree that it is a con job. We see the machinations of the two parties to suppress dissent in their ranks. We see the oceans of money that have made our elections into little more than auctions. We see how the need to “feed the beast” on the part of the media distorts the news and makes us more ignorant in the name of making us more informed. It is not hard to be cynical about American politics. It is easy. If we sat down with a non-voter and a six pack of beer and we discussed why America’s politics suck, we would be surprised at how much we agreed on by the time we finished the last beer.
However, we vote, and we urge others to vote because the bastards who run the system have not stomped all hope out of us and we know their sin is not as great as the sin of not using every opportunity we have to oppose them and make American democracy a reality. We know that the greatest sin is to make the dream of those who run our society come true. That dream is to allow our rulers to complete the task of turning us into field hands on a corporate plantation. If we give up, they win.
Why vote? Because those who want to wipe their feet on you don’t want you to vote. They show that they don’t want you to vote by doing end runs around democracy like Cleveland City Hall did with the Fight for $15 that denied you the right to vote on that initiative. Remember how they fought us on our effort to get the Q proposal on the ballot? They show that they don’t want you to vote with ever more complicated schemes to suppress the vote.
Vote because it shows that you have not given up on the one thing that they hate to bottom of their souls – democracy.
Vote because you want democracy to be real and not just an empty slogan.
Vote because you are a citizen and being a citizen demands action.
Vote because you are not one of those poor suckers who bitch and complain about things but do nothing to change those things.
Vote for those who cannot vote and have no voice.
Vote because it is a thumb in the eye of those who want to play god.
Vote because they want you to think that you do not matter, that your wishes do not matter, and that your dreams do not matter.
Vote because it is an act of rebellion.
Vote because it really pisses off those who want to turn this country into a tyranny.
Not voting says that you are a nobody. Be a somebody. Vote.
Randy Cunningham is a Steering Committee member of the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus. His book Democratizing Cleveland: The rise and fall of community organizing in Cleveland OH 1975-1985 has just been republished by Belt Publishing.