The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote on my old blog just days after the 2004 election. I wrote it from the prospective of someone who had voted for Kerry/Edwards (Edwards, you guys! How was he not better vetted?), but I think much of it is just as fitting, if not more so, today. Just substitute “Republican” with “Democrat,” etc.
Remember we all voted for what we thought was the best for our country, we all voted for someone who wanted to serve his country and thought he was the best one for the job. Remember it is an incredible privilege that we have as United States citizens to even have the opportunity to make the choices we do. And if you are a Democrat, remember how you felt that day in November 2004.
(Also, damn if I did not write a hell of a lot better back then when I wasn’t so self-censored.)
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Generally, the mood in my various circles (friends, work, clinic) is depressed, with the exception of a few Republican friends, who, thankfully, are much too diplomatic to even mention their victory, let alone rub it in our faces. Not all Republicans are bad guys, believe it or not. Of course they attend a very liberal school in a very liberal city with very liberal friends, so they are (sadly in many ways) used to having to keep their views to themselves. But at a time when they have the votes to back up their gloating, they know how much this one hurts. Maybe it’s just that I’m too young (or new to politics) to remember, but this is the first presidential election I can think of where people really are afraid about what is going to happen to our country. In the past, people were of course disappointed when their candidate lost, but it seemed as though they were happy enough to think “We’ll get ’em next time,” and move on. Now, it’s almost as if we’re worried there won’t be a next time. Not so much in the sense that we’re not going to be around in 4 years (although, I’m thinking that’s much more a possibility now than ever before, regardless of who won on Tuesday), but that the country, driven by fear, is just becoming more and more conservative on all counts. The melting pot, the land of the free, the American dream… these phrases start to mean less and less when the parties becomes more divisive and casts out, literally and figuratively, those who don’t look, think, or believe the same as themselves.
But while I am concerned about what path our country will be taken down over the next four years, I’m also optimistic. The sheer number of people who came out to vote on Tuesday is astounding. People were willing to wait on line for hours on end, to stand up for their rights if they were initially turned away, to go out and drive voters to the polls. Voting became a family activity – parents brought young children to the polls to show them just how democracy works. First time voters showed up in droves, and walked out of the polls with huge smiles on their faces. In the swing states, this may have been driven by the knowledge that every vote really could make all the difference. But in the vast majority of states, where at least for the national elections their vote probably would not be the deciding one, people were still doing all they could to make their voices heard. This year, America realized that the right to vote, the right to choose those who govern us – to elect those we think will best represent us and remove from office those we believe are failing us – is the most fundamental right of all. Without the right to choose our representatives in government, we would have no way to protect those other rights to which we believe ourselves entitled.
We need to make sure this enthusiasm, this dedication, is alive next year. And the year after that, and the year after that. Even though next year is not a year of national elections, our votes still matter on the local level… change starts at home. Maybe we have a conservative, Republican president for the next four years, but in two years we can try to shift Congress back. We need to maintain the momentum of this year’s election and run with it. We cannot get bogged down by the fact that we lost this round, but we must start at the ground level, getting more Americans registered to vote, getting young people excited about the process and seeing that it is their future at stake, making sure people remember that change starts with them, and realizing just how far we really have come in the past four years. Without grassroots movements around the country, this year’s election would never have been as close as it was. The number of voters would have been the same as always, if not lower, because people would not have felt that their vote was important and their rights would be protected. The number of disenfranchised voters would have been even greater than in 2000. There would be nowhere near as much accountability as there was this year. We cannot take this election as a failure, but must take it for what it was worth – this year’s election was the most fair, and most representative of America, than any election in recent history. Maybe the result was not what we hoped and worked for, but the process was. Now we need to continue to ensure that the process only becomes more legitimate, and also work towards changing the future.
My call to you is this: Use your disappointment and anger, not to become disenchanted with the system or give up all hope, but to work towards a common goal of changing this country for the better. Keep up all that great energy and momentum that had been swelling through November 2 and foster it even more. We cannot become complacent. We cannot roll over and take it. We must go out in the world and make a difference – find a cause (or two, or several) you can get excited about and get others excited about it. Encourage others to do the same. Don’t just bitch about the current state of affairs; go out and make a difference.