It’s Primary Election Day here in California, and for the very first time in my life, I am starting to feel the whole “What difference does it make” feeling that so many have expressed to me through the years. For as long as I could vote, I have always said that every persons vote matters. Even here in California, where Party line voting and lack of critical thinking skills have so eroded the electorate that there is no chance that competent and capable people will be elected. Instead we get criminals and con-men, drunks and ballot initiatives that always do exactly the opposite of whatever they say they will do. Why bother anymore?
The first time I ever voted I was on leave at home in Ogden, Utah, and I went to the polls in my uniform. It was November of 1982, and I was ever so proud of what I was doing. I cannot recall a single issue or candidate on that ballot, but I felt like I was doing my duty as both citizen and servant. I missed the 1984 election, but I comforted myself with the idea that I was underwater and sleeping between the missiles that made certain such elections were possible. The OOD steered a course that let us pick up Armed Forces Radio, and for the only time when I was onboard, I used the ships entertainment system to listen to the returns live as we cruised the Pacific, maintaining our watch.
In 1988, I started a huge argument in my office over whether or not I should vote for Tacoma to fluoridate the water supply or not. Men who had never been to Tacoma, standing some three thousand miles away from Tacoma, bitterly argued over the issue as I held my absentee ballot. For the record, I voted “Yes.”
In 1992, most of my fellow Seminary students supported H. Ross Perot for President, on the basis that he gave lots (and I mean a LOT) of money to our organization, The Salvation Army. It was, I suppose, an early lesson in how vindictive religious people can be when one disagrees with them. I may not have agreed with everything George H.W. Bush did, but the respect I have for the man who led us through the Gulf War is to this day, immense. Even as a Reagan sailor, on a personal basis, Bush 41 is still my favorite.
In 1994 I sat at a table at a small pizza place in Decatur, GA, while across from me a campaign worker for the local congresswoman asked me to vote for her candidate. I listened until she was done, and then I told her that I would never vote for her candidate, even if she was the only one on the ballot. In fact, if she was the only one on the ballot, I would quit my job (I was a minister) and run against her. I went back to my lunch, and when I looked up, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (“The cutest little communist in Congress” – Neal Boortz) was sitting at my table asking me why I would not vote for her. So, in the loudest “command voice” the Navy had taught me, I laid out my case for why she should not be in Congress. When I was done, there was a stunned moment of silence. She said, “Okay, then,” and got up and left. A few moments later, the manager came over and picked up my bill.
In 1996, I worked for Dole and the local guy running against McKinney. I even went to the “Victory Party” that night, which was laughable in the sense that much like California is today, there was no way in hell McKinney could loose – and by the by we DID have the local equivalent of her kicking puppies off the Golden Gate Bridge. It didn’t matter. And of course the only thing Bob Dole was going to beat that night was death.
By 2000 I was in California, watching the returns as they flipped and then flopped into the mess that became Bush-Gore. And by 2004 I was willing to vote, but not much else. By 2006, I was in the studio with Bill Mick, listening as a “Republican” explained to me why he was running on a platform of Democrat Party ideals and positions.
And I think that you pretty much know the rest.
By now, the feeling of “What difference does it make?” (hereafter WDDIM?) has weighed heavily on many of us as we have watched the GOP take power and then fail to do anything whatsoever with that power. The only question is did they lie up front or did the just wimp out once they got there? The answer is, of course, both. but you know that already.
So what do we do?
The answer is, of course, we vote. We vote loudly, proudly, militantly and without fear or shame. We’ll lose, but we cannot allow ourselves to be silenced. That is what the left wants – our silence. But silence equals ratification. To not participate means that we lose the right to critique.
There is nothing that I can say that will inspire some miraculous come from behind stunning victory, the die is already cast. The Candidates we support, the ideas we support are going to lose, especially here in California. But if we quit, if we throw away our voice because “we can’t win,” how are any different from those who stood on the sidelines in 1775? Not the loyalists, but those who wouldn’t lift a finger to help either side? How are we not “Sunshine Patriots,” happy and eager to fight when it goes our way, but cowering and hiding when it doesn’t?
Vote loud, vote proud. Vote your conscience and vote your ideals. If you’re a pragmatist, vote strategically. But vote.
They say that nobody remembers second place, but that is not entirely true. For all of eternity, that voice is still there, standing for itself and its beliefs. As long as we still speak, someone will hear. You never know for certain who that someone might be. It very well might be your children.
That could change tomorrow, and all the tomorrows that follow.