Commentary: No excuses just vote

On Nov. 6, you will hear that “millions of people went to the polls today.” You are less likely to hear that “millions of people did not.” Midterm turnouts are always lower than Presidential elections, but the turnout for the midterm election in 2014 was disgraceful. Of 219 million eligible voters, 35 percent were not even registered; of those registered, only 56 percent bothered to vote, meaning just 36 percent of eligible voters exercised the most fundamental right in our democracy.

There are some legitimate reasons for failure to vote, due especially to restrictive legislation passed by many states cynically aimed at voter suppression among young, low income and minority voters.

Fortunately, in California, DMV voter registration will make registration simple. And, any registered voter may vote by mail. Mail ballot requests must be received by Oct. 30. Call 805-788-5228 or email [email protected] Being a permanent by-mail voter is very convenient. And for those who enjoy going to the polls, you can still do that.

There is thus no real excuse for California voters not to vote. But there are lots of lame excuses: “They’re all a bunch of crooks” or “It doesn’t do any good” or “My vote doesn’t count.” So “Why should I bother?” 

I’m glad you asked. Here’s why: We currently have a submissive and cowardly majority in Congress who are terrified of being primaried out of office rather than exercising oversight in checking an erratic, impulsive and divisive President. A President who labels the free press “an enemy of the people” and who calls the FBI a “cancer on the country.” A President who initially ordered the declassification of sensitive documents over the strenuous objections of the Intelligence community. He justified this endangering of national security on the grounds of “full transparency,” thus ascending to new heights of hypocrisy, given that he is the only major presidential candidate not to release his tax returns in the last 10 presidential elections. And a President who insults and treats with disdain the leaders of our closest allies while showering praise on autocrats, some of whom are heads of our international adversaries.

This supine Congress will now be joined by a Supreme Court whose ultra-conservative majority gives every indication that they consider the President to be above the law. With the Senate likely to remain under Republican control, the only check on further Presidential abuse of power is for Democrats to win a majority in the House of Representatives. 

In addition to this serious concern, you ought to care if: You are a student who is struggling to pay back college loans, a woman who thinks it should be between herself and her doctor to make reproductive decisions rather than (mostly male) legislators, or who is fed up doing the same job as her male counterparts, but being paid 80 percent as much, despite recent legislation. Or, if you, or someone you know, declared bankruptcy because of medical bills and couldn’t get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, though others avoided this only because the ACA narrowly missed being repealed. Or, if you think that corporations should not have free rein in fouling our air and water and despoiling our wilderness. Or, if you have even a shred of human decency, and feel revulsion at young children being torn away from their parents and sent off into barren internment camps. If so, then for these and many other reasons, it is imperative to elect a Democratic House of Representatives.

In particular, re-elect Congressman Salud Carbajal, not only for the reasons above, but because he has been an excellent Representative. He leads the fight to preserve our beautiful coast line from ruinous oil spills. He is a leader in finding the best use of the Diablo Canyon property after decommissioning. He supports a public option to rein in the rapid escalation in health insurance costs.

Closer to home, Bill Ostrander, for State Assembly, deserves your support. He has played a leading role combating the corrosive effects of big money in politics. The disgusting and vicious negative ads run by his opponent should alone be reason enough to vote him out of office and show why we need to deal with out of control spending in politics.

I mentioned above the dismal 36 percent turnout in the last midterm election. Recently, the tiny island nation of the Maldives emerged from five years of authoritarian rule by electing a new president — and with a turnout of 90 percent! In August, at an event with two outstanding NPR journalists, the closing remark by one of them, foreign correspondent Kelly McEvers, has stayed with me: “Countries can see their democracy crumble in days, but it may take decades to recover it.”

We need to take our democracy as seriously as the Maldivians did. Vote!


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