Last night, while we were running errands, my wife casually asked me if I would like to go vote early with her. Our daughter has an appointment next Tuesday, and Rachel was worried that she wouldn't have enough time to get to the polls if she waited until then. All I could think about was standing in a 4-hour long line in the cold. So I quietly deferred.
She brought it up again this morning in a text. "I'm going to vote. Do you want me to wait on you, or are you just going to go on Tuesday?"
So much for deferring.
I swung by the house and picked her up, and together we drove to the Elections Office on Grayson Highway. Surprisingly, the line didn't seem too long; so we hopped out of the car and took our place on the front-lines of democracy. I enjoyed being able to talk with Rachel as we waited, and I got a ton of material for some great Twitter jokes. But in the end, we didn't have to wait long; within 45 minutes, we stood in front of our voting booth, side-by-side, staring at the first box on the ballot:
For President of the United States of America.
I pressed the little box next to a candidate's name. An "X" appeared. The big decision was made. Everything after that seemed to be a cakewalk (especially since apparently no Democrats want to run for certain offices. The number of unopposed Republicans was kind of surprising).
Rachel finished before I did, and when I turned in my little voter card and got my sticker, I felt a great relief come over me. I was done. My voice had been heard. My vote was in.
It occurred to me a couple of days ago why exactly I vote. It's not so much so my guy can win (because, let's face it, that's really an empty notion), and it's not because I think my lone vote would swing the election (thank you, Electoral College for making that a moot point). I vote because I feel that just being part of the process is what's really required of me. It's more important for me to simply cast a vote than it is for me to worry about whether or not my vote "counts".
There's been a lot of talk lately about how each party seems to be in danger of falling into the hands of a narrow few with a pointed agenda. And whether you lean left or right, there is some evidence that the middle - those multi-issue voters that are so hard to pin down - is increasingly considered a disengaged bunch. I've read more Facebook and Twitter insults towards people who haven't "picked a side" in this year's election than I care to admit. The thought being that the middle voters are a relatively small bunch, and the passionate are the majority.
I think it's the opposite. And that's why it's so important for me to vote. I may never get hot-and-heavy into politics (I've found it can be a less-than-pleasant arena), but I will always drag myself to the poll and vote because my participation is needed to keep the country balanced. So is yours. It takes all of our voices in order for this American dream to function, no matter who gets tabbed the winner.
Because if we abdicate our position, if we decide that we're not really represented by either party so we might as well not represent ourselves, then we become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By not voting, we silence ourselves and throw our country to the extremists.
This may read like gobbledy-gook. That's fine. I'm trying to make a very distinct point, and it may only make sense in my head. But our country needs the voice of everyone this fall, not to declare a winner, but to define a reality.
Each vote matters because each vote represents someone who cared. And that's what it will take to restore a once great nation. Not politics, not rhetoric; old-school American belief that every person helps captain our destiny.
Make your vote matter.