Get out and vote!
Wear comfortable shoes in case there are long lines. Wear warm clothes if it might be cold. Bring an umbrella if it looks like rain. Bring this number with you — 1-866-OUR-VOTE — in case you have any trouble with voter suppression or intimidation. (It’s the national election protection hotline set up by the ACLU.)
But do not be complacent. For the love of Loki, if you haven’t already done so, get out and vote.
This election is going to be determined by voter turnout. That’s actually true of all elections… and usually not for the better. But it’s quadruply true for this election. The reason this election has been going the way it has is because of an unusually galvanized electorate, with excited and active citizens from groups that traditionally tend to sit elections out.
That’s wonderful. It’s inspiring. It makes me feel all giddy and hopeful. But it’s not going to be very helpful if the galvanized citizenry doesn’t actually vote.
What’s more, you can’t count out the role of voter suppression in this election. From insufficient voting booths, to deliberate lies being spread about when and how to vote, to threats being made to young voters about losing their financial aid or even getting arrested if they vote, to legitimate voters being taken off the voter rolls, and so on and so on… a lot of people who want to vote, who should be able to vote, may wind up not voting. (There’s a good summary of this by Rachel Maddow, and a more insanely detailed summary on TPM Muckraker.)
It is the height of hypocrisy that the Republican Party — the ones who gas on in stirring abstractions about democracy and freedom, patriotism and the Founding Fathers — are so insultingly cavalier about the actual reality of democracy; so much more concerned about winning than they are about the principle that citizens of a country should be able to, you know, vote. But they are. And we have to not let them get away with it.
Besides, there are a lot of elections going on today. It’s not just the one for President — there are elections for senators, governors, representatives, city councils, school boards, ballot initiatives, and more. The race for President may turn out to be not very close… but other races are close, and they’re almost as important as the Presidential race. More so in some ways. (It gives me chills to think of Prop 8 passing because it rained in San Francisco on Election Day, and San Franciscans thought Obama was in the bag, and didn’t bother to vote.)
There’s an African folk tale — I don’t remember the name of it — in which the whole village is invited to the king’s wedding, and everyone is asked to bring a jug of palm wine to pour into a communal pot for the celebration. One man says to himself, “I’m just going to bring water — with so many people bringing wine, one little jug of water in the pot isn’t going to make any difference, and nobody’s going to notice.” Then the feast comes, the wine is served from the big pot… and it’s all water. Everyone thought the same thing — “My little jug of water won’t make any difference” — and so all there was to drink at the wedding was water.
Don’t let that be the story of this election.
And maybe most importantly:
Voting is its own reward.
People fought and died, got beaten up and sent to jail, for our right to vote. Most obviously in the American Revolution… but also in the civil rights movement, and the women’s suffrage movement, and the movement to stop the poll tax, and so on and so on. They fought and died and so on, so that government could be the way a society decides how to pull together and pool its resources for everyone’s betterment… not the way a king, or an aristocracy, or a plutocracy, makes the rest of us pull together and pool our resources for their betterment.
Voting is how that works.
I don’t even care that much about how you vote. (Well, I do, of course. My two cents: Obama; No on 8 (support marriage equality), No on 4 (no forced pregnancy for teenagers); Yes on 5 (treatment instead of prison for non-violent drug offenders).) But honestly? It’s not nearly as important to me how you vote. It’s way more important that you vote at all.
Do it today.