Breathe deep. You’ve almost made it again.
After Tuesday, the ads are over. The junk mail can stop. The robocalls and surveys can find another topic for a while (and surely will). And with Daylight Savings over, you’ve even got your lost sleep back so you can recover your bearings.
But first, there’s a small job to left to do.
And small as it is, a lot of us won’t do it.
Every couple of years, a lot of time and money gets spent on “Get Out the Vote” campaigns. And every couple of years, the effect is … variable, if you want to say it kindly. In a good year, 60 percent of us may show up to the polls. In a bad year, even 40 percent may look like an impossible dream.
And in a midterm election, when there’s no presidential candidate at the top of the ticket, the bad years can be very bad indeed.
Everyone with a cause or a candidate wants to change that, of course – at least, for the folks who support THEM or who haven’t decided yet. And so, a lot of tactics get tried:
Eat Your Spinach – “Voting is good for you! It’s your duty! And you’re not leaving this dinner table until you’re done!”
Ooh, Shiny! – “Who wouldn’t want this cool sticker of the American flag? It’s the perfect accent to every outfit!”
What About Those Guys? – “If you don’t, (fill in least favorite person) will – and you know what he’s like!”
Buy Now! – “It couldn’t be easier! We’ll bring the ballot right to you! You drop it in the mail! Or even bring it to the curb! Heck, we’ll even throw in this lovely set of steak knives ABSOLUTELY FREE!” (Disclaimer: there are no steak knives.)
Be Emotional – “People died to give you this vote. And you want to throw it away? I bet you shot Bambi’s mom, too.”
Be Practical – “These are the elections that count. No electoral college hoo-hah getting in the way, just your voice and mine. You wanna complain? Here’s your ticket.”
Be Really Practical – “You know those phone calls and doorbell ringers you’re sick of? You vote, and they magically go away. It’s like something out of Harry Potter.”
As I said, the results are mixed. Some tactics may help (especially clearing away the logistical barriers), but none is a magic bullet cure-all. And the reason is simple.
At its heart, voting is an act of caring.
It’s a small act of caring, true. Voting is to civic engagement what a wedding is to a good marriage – a first step on the road that’s often mistaken for the end of the race. It’s a commitment that says what kind of society you want to live in. What issues and people are important to you. Who gets helped and who gets hurt.
It’s not just an abstract number shuffle. It’s a decision that changes more lives than the lottery and for a longer period. Sometimes the results can seem prosaic – jobs created or lost, standards created or repealed, projects begun or abandoned. But at the root are faces –a decision of who will be seen as a neighbor and who as a stranger, who will be greeted with open arms and who with doubled fists.
A single step. A first step. Even an easy one.
And if the caring isn’t there, even the easy step is too hard. It gets forgotten. Or cynically bypassed. Or maybe worst of all, done without any thought at all, just a tick of the box to get it over with. Boosting the turnout numbers, yes, but adding nothing to the decision.
Would you want an employee or a co-worker who approaches their job that way?
It can be good that everyone votes. But it’s vital that everyone who votes, cares.
Take the time. Spend the thought. Invest the heart.
Once again, there’s a small job left to do.
Do it right. Do it well.