We have an opportunity, a legal right, and a duty to contribute to the successful operation of our government. Choosing good policies and rejecting bad polices, choosing good public servants and rejecting unsatisfactory office holders is our responsibility.
Our government, local, state, and national, is often flawed, but we can change it and make government serve us as it should. There are too many places in the world where attempting to change the rulers or the government can result in being sent to prison, tortured, or executed. We are privileged to have inherited a democracy. We have a duty to sustain it. We have an obligation to pass a functional democracy to our children. Voting is the minimum price we pay to ensure that our government works as it should. Many Americans have sacrificed their lives in behalf of America and its ideals. Many more live with their wounds and injuries for a lifetime. Voting to sustain democracy is a small price and a great bargain.
We don’t defend our democracy in war and peace so that we can all agree. We defend it so that we can disagree but work to resolve issues in a peaceful manner. Government must deal with all issues that confront a society. Because of the enormous range of issues and the complexity of those concerns, government isn’t a smooth-running machine; it is messy. Pollsters tell us that young people are increasingly disenchanted with democracy. Experience will cure that notion. As Winston Churchill put it in a 1947 speech, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”
Typically, 40 percent of us don’t vote. Those of us who do not vote forfeit a precious right. During some election cycles, we may be dismayed by the platforms or the candidates for office, but preserving the right to vote in future elections is important. American democracy is a team effort. We can’t sit on the bench. We have to play.
The right to vote did not arrive candy coated. In the early days, usually only male property owners could vote. Later only men could vote. Native American Indians and black people could not vote. Voting was restricted by literacy tests and by a poll tax which many could not afford. Women gained the right to vote 300 years after the Pilgrims landed. People could be drafted to serve in U.S. military forces three years before they were old enough to vote. People who have been convicted of a felony but have completed all judicially imposed penalties still cannot vote in some states.
It has required four constitutional amendments and several laws to produce something close to a universal right to vote.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018, is our next opportunity to put our hand on the rudder.
Jack Stevenson is retired, served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Currently, he reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.