When my daughter was little, we were blessed with a marvelous babysitter I will call Claire. Claire was pure sunshine and we loved her to bits. She was also full of stories and one I will never forget was about one of her first jobs as a sitter. She was to look after a precocious toddler while her parents worked.
Sounds about right. Except for one thing. Precocious Toddler – hereinafter known as PT – was not to be inhibited in any way. Her parents wanted her to have free rein. Spoiled, you say? Just wait. PT, you see, was not to be inhibited by diapers. So our Claire was to traipse around behind her all day long mopping up whatever ensued.
Needless to say, PT needed a new sitter by lunch. Claire came from a family of 12 and had been looking after children since she was old enough to pick them up and she was not about to give PT or any child free rein. Why? Because it’s not good for them.
It’s not good for anyone to have free rein – especially when it becomes free reign. Which is why America doesn’t have kings. We have a democracy and we elect folks to represent us and conduct the country’s business in our name.
Sounds good. Except when it doesn’t work. Representative government depends on everyone – and I mean every American citizen – educating themselves about the issues and then looking at the candidates, their records and their proposals and making an informed decision about who should go to our various capitals and act in our name.
In other words, democracy depends on everyone voting.
It’s one of the main reasons for the development of public education. (The first reason was to teach citizens how to read so that they could read scripture but that’s another story.) Public education was supported and paid for in large part because we needed an educated citizenry in order for our democracy to function.
And yes, it’s work. It takes effort to pay attention to what’s happening in the community, the state and the country. It takes time to acquaint yourself with the candidates and their proposals. And it takes willingness to make a decision and vote.
All of which have been in such short supply that often contests are decided by a fraction of the population.
Frankly I think voting should be obligatory but we’re not there yet so we’ll have to focus on persuasion.
Which brings me back to why I vote.
Lets start with I don’t want anyone making decisions for me. My vote is my decision and if I don’t vote, someone else is deciding things for me. And before you say that one vote won’t count, it certainly will. Look at all the recounts in recent years, forced by margins of a vote or two one way or another in a handful of counties.
But, you say, it doesn’t really affect me, all these decisions in Washington or Hartford or even Town Campus.
Remember restaurants? (Ah… restaurants.) When you go to a restaurant, do you really want someone else deciding if you’ll have the tuna tartare or the mac ‘n cheese? Those are two very different experiences and if you’re not a tartare girl, you’ll be very disappointed if someone sends raw fish to your table.
And yes, the choices made by elected officials are just that personal. For example, do you want your elected officials taking away your right to go to your own damn beach? I certainly don’t. And thank you Peggy Lyons, for stepping in right away and making sure that when Hammonasset closed its gates, the overflow into Madison was handled expeditiously and my right to go to my local beach was protected.
Those sorts of decisions are being made every day by elected officials.
So if you want what you want – and who doesn’t – you sure as hell better educate yourselves on what the various candidates are proposing and vote accordingly.
But, you say, I’ve voted in the past and it hasn’t made a difference. I didn’t get what I wanted.
Oh you Precocious Toddler, you.
Let’s think about a functioning family. There’s a two week vacation on the horizon and we’re in a dream world where we can actually travel and go to theme parks and restaurants and galleries and concerts. And Mom wants to go to a city because she’s STARVING for culture. And Dad wants to go to Florida and watch the baseball tryouts. And Little Sis wants to go to Disney World. But Junior is a junior and he wants to visit Oberlin and maybe even apply Early Decision.
If it’s just about the votes, you’d all go to Florida and catch the baseball and frolic at Disney and then swing by Miami for some fine dining and a bit of gallery hopping. But in a functioning family, you’ll drive to Ohio and check out Oberlin. Why? Because it’s more important.
And that’s what you trust your representatives to do. You elect them based on how they have acted in the past when it came time to make decisions and then you trust them to stick to the principles they campaigned on and make the right decisions as they come up.
So no, you won’t get everything you wanted. But if you do your homework and make an informed decision and then vote, you’ll have a much better chance of having your principles and desires reflected in the decisions made by your representatives.
So think about what you’d like to see the government do to combat COVID and restore the economy and revamp immigration and heal the environment and expand equity. Because those are the issues facing all of us no matter what party you belong to and if you don’t do the research and make a choice and cast a vote, you’ll get what you deserve – a world where you have no voice.