I’m not the first and will not be the last to state the increasingly obvious fact that this year’s election cycle is more of a mess than anyone could have predicted. It has been more like a Saturday Night Live skit than the elections we’ve witnessed in years past. The closer to November 8 we get, the more eerie the situation becomes, especially to those of us who believed Donald Trump was going to end his campaign with a “just kidding, this has been a social experiment” statement instead of the unclear path we see ahead of us.
This is not an election of choosing the best fit. Rather, it seems to be unfolding into one of settling. While many rest firmly to one side or the other, a lot of people find themselves making their decisions based on who they like the least. Many more are choosing to abstain from voting because they do not wish to pick the lesser of two evils. While our nation is free and therefore its citizens can make their own decisions, I will be voting in November and I believe it is the duty for all Americans to do the same.
Recently, amongst all the memes about dogs, naps, and going out that have effectively taken over Facebook, I noticed one with boxes marked “not Hillary Clinton” and “no Donald Trump.” It took the whispers and shouts I have been hearing around and described them succinctly (perhaps the true art of the meme). Too many times I have heard “I don’t like Hillary but I can’t let Trump be president.” At first, this notion frightened me. Are we really going to vote against candidates and not for them?
But the more I thought about, the more it made sense.
The reason Americans were given the right to vote is so their voices could be heard, so they could have a say in the way the country they live in is run. And though it’s not ideal, voting against someone who we don’t believe should have power is letting our voice resonate. This method is more effective than not voting in so many ways.
By voting against, say, Trump we are adding votes to Clinton’s pile. It’s a way of actively working against a candidate we find exceptionally tasteless, whomever they may be. Without a vote, there is no change, which ultimately can be detrimental.
The right to vote is our way of making a statement, expressing our opinion, and sending our thoughts to the government in the form of a ballot. In this sense, I acknowledge that not voting is making a statement in one’s own way. Many Americans are using this argument to justify their choice to not participate in the presidential election on this year’s ballot. Admittedly, sometimes saying nothing is more powerful than saying something.
Other reasons for not voting range from accusations that the system is skewed to favor the wealthy, general complaints about the process as a whole, and disinterest in the election. The former two reasons strike me as particularly frustrating considering that sitting idly by while decisions are made and presidents are elected is doing nothing to change the system. The only way to have an impact is to vote for someone—whether they are running for Congress or President of the United States—who can enact the change you long for.
The right to vote is a foundation of our nation. The Revolutionary War was fought in order to achieve freedom from an oppressor, to give ourselves a voice in the government that runs the country we live in. We won our war, but so many people around the world don’t have the rights we earned in the late 1700’s. Citizens in many countries must live in a society where the decisions made for them are completely out of their hands. While many Americans may feel as if their opinion is not heard, consider that we, the people, choose our leaders. And if we don’t vote, we effectively have no say. We may not be able to pick out one voice in the crowd, but there wouldn’t be a voice to hear if someone didn’t speak up in the first place.
I encourage all to find their voice. Find a political or social issue that draws a passion from within and find out who supports this cause in the best way. It could be Donald, Hillary, or even Gary Johnson. If any opinion at all, either positive or negative, lays within us, it is fruitless to hold it back and not vote.
For most of us, this is the first election we will cast a vote in. It’s not the fairytale election I imagined where one candidate would whisk me away with economic, social, and foreign policies that make me swoon. It’s messy and immature, distracted and personal, and because of that, it is the most important election in decades. We have the power as the youth of America to make an impact on the country we will live and thrive in. It’s up to us to determine who will lead us into the future.
Why shouldn’t we take advantage of such an opportunity?