If you haven’t already—and many of us have—Tuesday you must vote. It is our responsibility as citizens to exercise our franchise. It really shouldn’t be optional, and in some countries it isn’t. In 22 countries, voting is mandatory. Many of those countries are in Central and South America, including our neighbor to the south, Mexico. In Australia, failure to vote can result in a $20 fine.
Despite Americans’ typical apathy about voting—which is incomprehensible to me—it looks like we may have record turnout for this election, and that is good. In some places, such as here in Kentucky, voting is easier than it has ever been, thanks to remarkable bipartisan collaboration between our governor, Andy Beshear (D), and our secretary of state, Michael Adams (R). One of the few positives that we can attribute to a global pandemic will be the expansion of voting options across much of our country. And despite transparent efforts by some to suppress voting in certain communities, U.S. citizens are coming out in droves. As of October 31, two states, Texas and Hawaii, had already surpassed the total votes cast in 2016.
If you feel that none of the candidates has sufficiently wooed or inspired you, get over it. I haven’t heard a single candidate address the unique challenges of an aging sub-five-foot female who navigated the world most of her life as a redhead. I can’t sit home and wait for a candidate to speak to my truly special needs. I am responsible for carefully assessing the candidates and their plans for this nation’s future and voting. That’s not just my privilege as an American citizen; it’s my obligation.
As U.S. citizens, we are awarded munificent benefits. In exchange, we assume certain duties. It is our job to vote, whether there is a candidate who passionately inspires us or not, whether there is a candidate who speaks to our specific needs or concerns or not. We must make a choice among the candidates on the ballot, human though they may be. We must choose the candidate who best aligns with our values and our goals for this country.
That last statement is important. Our vote should not be solely self-referential. We should not look for the candidate we think will increase our personal wealth or grant us superiority over other citizens or anoint us with some special power. We should choose the candidate we believe has the vision for making the country better for everyone. Our fate as a nation rests on the success of us all.
Eddie Glaude Jr., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, recently said, “Liberty has become a synonym for selfishness.” We must change that. We can only be free when we take the steps to ensure everyone’s freedom. Our embrace of liberty should lift up others, not hurt them. Or sicken them. Or impede their ability to succeed.
In his comments, Glaude also said, “The idea of national sacrifice seems not to be in currency right now.” We must change that attitude, too. The first “sacrifice” we all can make is to take the time to vote. After we have taken that step, perhaps that will lead to making other small sacrifices necessary to tamp down the pandemic that is raging across this country. And then, who knows? Perhaps we’ll discover that these small sacrifices—doing something that may be inconvenient but that may help our fellow citizens—make us feel better about ourselves and our prospects as a nation. I can only hope so.
So if you have already voted, take a moment and see if you can identify one person in your circle who may be reluctant to vote. Call that person. Ask whether he or she has voted. If necessary, ask what you can do to eliminate obstacles for that friend or family member. Urge them to fulfill their civic duty. Urge them to make a choice that will lift us all up and move our nation toward a more perfect union.