Coming of age in a swing state gives my post election guilt a different premise that I challenge everyone to think about regardless of who they voted for. What if I would have talked to 10 more people and convinced them to vote? What if of those 10 people one of them had been inspired enough by what I said to motivate 10 more people to vote? What if that chain had continued? Would we still be looking at the same election results today?
Campaigning is a trend that has yet to truly take off among millennials in most parts of the country and while I have seen the statistics about it before, I was still shocked to encounter it face to face when I left Wisconsin. It is no secret that I skipped school to protest while in high school, and am incredibly active when it comes to vocalizing my thoughts on politics (a stance that I have questioned many times prior to election day since moving to the South mostly out of fear of ridicule). Yet the overwhelming response that I hear from my peers on a daily basis is that while they disagree with Trump on a foundational level they either don’t want to participate in voting in a “rigged” system, they don’t want to choose between the “lesser of two evils”, or “their vote doesn’t matter”.
The System as a Whole is Not Rigged, America is Uninformed
I am a firm believer in upholding the values of the Constitution and in making America everything that our Founding Fathers believed in, but what America chose to do on November 8th is not that. 44.4% of eligible and registered Americans did not vote in the 2016 election. 66.8% of eligible Americans were not registered to vote in the first place. Many Americans are discouraged or prevented from voting because of laws or actions put in place based on fear of voter fraud, but election fraud is found to be credible in only 31 out of every 1,000,000,000 ballots cast. A rigged system indicates that fraud or corruption are present in all aspects of the election, not in the actions of the individual politicians. No world leader is immune to the corruption that is presented to them in the realm of global politics, but it is the responsibility of the individual voter to research the history of a particular candidate and vote following their personal convictions.
The United States was built on a foundation of checks and balances that were intended to prevent mass change from happening in the country all at once. Terms and term limits throughout all public offices are on a rotation so that we are never looking at a ballot with 100% of our politicians up for election. Term lengths were determined with the goal of allowing enough time for change to start in one term and allow voters to gauge if they wished for that particular path of change to continue into the next election cycle. Just as the number of seats in the House and Senate were determined as a compromise between the states so was the Electoral College. Many Americans look at the popular vote and believe that vote is the most important because it effects the most individuals. But the circumstances and needs of a person living in the rural southwest are vastly different than the needs of a person living in Pittsburgh and the Electoral College was created as a compromise between Congress and the voter as a a means to protect all states equally.
People living in large metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles or New York City have different ideals and experiences than those living in rural America and are likely to vote for opposing candidates based on their unique needs in regards to political advocation. The family living in Alaska on the frontier of America is going to have contrasting views on guns and personal protection in comparison to the family living on the south side of Chicago. The owner of a family farm in Iowa is going to have different views on immigration than the the family living in Arizona whose primary bread winner is a border patrol agent. The pastor in rural Tennessee is going to have very atypical views of what you would expect in a mosque in Michigan. All this to say that Americans as whole are a very diverse group of individuals.
You Will Never Agree with A Candidate on 100% of Their Platform
There are many points from both the Clinton and Trump campaign that I disagree with and, although difficult to find in some cases, there are points from both campaigns that I can stand behind. Between writing this article, and educating myself on the large issues of the election in preparation to vote, I’ve come to see why so many American voters feel the way they do. An abundance of simply false information was reported on both sides of the aisle throughout this election and America is at fault for the way it has spread this dishonest news. Even worse than false statements from the media is the general public believing these blatant fallacies without checking any of the facts themselves. Both candidates were flawed at their core, and many Americans agreed that the public displays of character on both sides of the aisle were not things they aspired for within the confines of their household.
In an ideal world the American Citizen would be able to vote for a candidate who embodied all of their personal values. In this world, the President of the United States would have the manners, poise, strength, tact, temperament, and overall character to successfully negotiate with all of the other 195 Nations we share our planet with. The primary focus of public policy would lay in the best interest of the citizens of our country and compromises would be reached that would allow all Americans to feel as though their lifestyles aren’t being threatened by the government. Yet what most Americans forget as they approach the ballot box is that we aren’t voting on manners, we are voting on people.
Despite the number of times we remind ourselves that the people we encounter on a daily basis are humans who often make mistakes, we seem to have an inability in transferring that courtesy to politicians. The job of America’s Policymakers is not one that can be compared to the occupations of the rest of working America. The stress incurred in this line of work often rivals that of our men and women in uniform. Not in the sense of being in a life or death situation, that carries its own burdens, but in being responsible for the millions of Americans who rely on these elected officials to represent and protect their interests. Our first responders defend us in times of physical tragedy; our policymakers defend our rights as United States Citizens.
Unfortunately we live in a world where mass casualty events happen daily. School shootings, terrorist attacks, economic failure, and infringement on basic human rights are occurrences America is not immune to. Regardless of the amount of improvement made while any politician is in office there will continue to be room for improvement until these and many other events are eliminated. While these events can’t be prevented with just the acts of our politicians they will continue to be held accountable for them; and until the elimination of mass tragedy can occur there will always be a plethora of events to recall in order to cast a negative light on a politician from either side of the aisle. Leaving our politicians work in an environment where the failures of our country must rest, at least in part, on their conscience it is imperative we allow them a level of forgiveness in adequate proportion to the risks they make for their constituents on a daily basis.
Anyone who has ever regretted a major life decision can likely relate to the struggle of making poor life decisions when the consequences of their actions unfold. Drinking to excess, recreational drug use, promiscuity, and infidelity are all negative repercussions many Americans can relate to having engaged in at least once after making a poor decision regarding work, school, or family. Now imagine if instead of repercussions at work, loosing your job, failing an exam or a semester at school, or disappointing your spouse or family you made a decision that cost the lives of Americans or negatively impacted the lives of millions; these are the decisions that America’s highest elected officials and advisors make and live with on a daily basis and it is never easy. Corruption, bigotry, bias, and lack of appropriate moral conduct are never excusable in life or politics, but acknowledging their existence will go a long way in extending and accepting apologies for unfavorable behavior.
America is a love story and our politicians are no difference. Part of being human is making mistakes, part of loving someone is accepting them for their flaws and allowing things to change. Unconditional love is trusting the the person, the system, or the country you actively choose to live amongst and making logical decisions for their well being as well as your own. Life is a game of constantly choosing which of two or more imperfect paths will ultimately bring an end goal closest to the one desired and politics is no different. For months America has argued about how neither path was correct for America. But when the actions we made in the primary led to the decision we were forced to make with our ballots on November 8th it wasn’t and invitation to throw a tantrum, it was an indication that we needed to step up and be the adults our voting rights were intended to indicate we were.
Your Vote Matters
Growing up in a swing state I have cast ballots in elections decided by 9-15 votes. When your party loses that election and you didn’t try your hardest to help your campaign you experience a feeling most of America has yet to understand. The new president of America did not win the popular vote. Third party candidates split the vote in key swing states. Florida learned it in 2000, Wisconsin learned it in 2010. I wish I could say with confidence that America learned it on November 9th, but without accurate reflection post election no one ever really remembers. Your vote matters, what did you do with it?