It’s a new year, a time of hope and restarting. This year, however, my resolutions are not personal, but political: I’m going to do everything I can to get people to turn out to vote in every election that comes along.
Voting matters. The Republicans have a one-vote majority in the Virginia legislature because one legislative race, in which more than 23,000 people voted, was a tie, requiring the race to be decided by drawing lots. If one more person had voted, the race would not have been tied.
So far, each one of us still can vote, despite the fact that we now are living in an oligarchy: government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.
If you don’t believe that, look at the studies of income distribution, the widening gap between the obscenely rich and everybody else. Read the analyses of what will be the effect of the GOP tax “reform”: to make the rich richer. Read Paul Ryan’s plan to use the additional $1.3 trillion deficit created by the GOP tax “reform” to gut social programs that help the not-rich, including Medicare and Medicaid. Follow the reporting on GOP plans to suppress voting.
It’s easy to get discouraged. But here’s the thing: our getting discouraged benefits no one but the oligarchs. So, here’s a list of things to do:
1.If you aren’t registered to vote, register now. Find out what kind of ID you need to bring with you. If you don’t have that kind of ID, work on getting it now. Don’t wait.
2.Be informed. Pick out races that matter: your state representatives, your Congressman, your Senator. Find out what candidates support your goals, vote for them, and tell others why you’re voting for them. Go the League of Women Voters site before election day, get the voting guides, mark down who you agree with, take that with you to the polls, and vote.
3.Come election day, have a specific plan for voting, i.e., “on election day I will vote before I go to work” or “I will vote after work” or “I will vote by mail” if you’re in an area that allows it. Research shows that people who have a specific plan are more likely to follow through.
4.Encourage like-minded friends to vote. Invite them to go with you or talk with them about what their plan is for voting day and whether they think it’s important to be a voter. Research shows that having a plan and thinking of oneself as a voter leads to greater turnout. And there’s a multiplier effect: encouraging one person to vote often leads to their encouraging another.
5.Even if you (like me) hate, hate, hate cold calls, volunteer to help make calls to get out the vote. If no one gives you a script, engage the voter by getting him/her to formulate a plan (when, how they’ll get there, where they need to go). Know what ID a voter has to show and tell them what ID to bring.
6.If you have time, offer to drive friends and neighbors to vote who might not have transportation. Or find out if anyone’s organizing rides to the polls and volunteer. Or serve as a poll watcher or even a poll worker.
Act as if our democracy is in danger and as if you are the one who can save it. Because that’s true: our democracy in fact is in danger and you just might be that one vote that makes the difference between electing someone who will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and someone who will only preserve, protect, and defend the obscenely rich.