Updated: Aug 16
For the last several election cycles, it feels like the message has been the same – vote as if your life depends on it. Despite its hyperbolic tone, despite its repetitive nature, the sad truth is that this message has been true, repeatedly, ever since the Republican party decided 40 years ago to forgo governance in an insane quest for power.
Take the Presidential election of 2000. Just a few hanging chads determined that several thousand American lives were lost, first by a huge intelligence lapse that led to the attacks of September 11, 2001, then by a completely unjustified and avoidable war in Iraq that took the lives of American troops and Iraqi civilians and created a mess in Middle East whose effects we still feel today. In 2000 Democrats needed to vote as if their lives depended on it. But we didn’t.
Deregulation and reducing oversight on the private sector over the next eight years led to a financial crisis during the next economic recession, furthering the growing inequality in the country and causing a profound destabilization in middle class America. In response, American did vote as if their lives depended it and we got a respite from 2008-2016, when President Obama improved governance, passed a healthcare law that rescued millions of Americans from medical bankruptcy and prevented several deaths by making preventive medicine free, passed a stimulus that rescued people from financial ruin.
In 2016, once again, we should have voted as if our lives depended on it. We were warned by Senator Clinton (whose pronunciations from then make her a modern Cassandra) that not voting for her, not voting in droves, would lead to catastrophe. But we didn’t, and our lives did depend on that decision – first the hundreds of thousands of preventable Covid deaths due to mismanagement, then the lives of women who have lost an important right because of a generational partisan shift in the Supreme Court.
In 2020, we again recognized the imminent crisis of keeping a Republican in office and voted Trump out. But a lot of the damage was done. Rogue election officials and partisan legislatures almost succeeded in delegitimizing American elections, and on January 6th 2021, white supremacists almost toppled American democracy.
Democracy in this country has been dealt a body blow and has been limping along ever since. In the upcoming midterms is its biggest test and its hardest struggle. All it needs is apathy from a small segment of Democratic voters to hammer in the last nail in the coffin of the American democratic experiment. As unfair as it sounds, we need Democrats to come out in record numbers to overcome the headwinds of partisan electoral offices in swing states, blatant voter suppression, and outright shamelessness in adhering to the norms of civil society. Our lives, our democracy, our future depends on these votes. We need to vote Democrats into every office in the state and country, not just for the President. We have seen how the lack of Democratic votes in the Senate have stymied every progressive initiative – from gun reform to women’s rights.
In future posts, I will be taking up each aspect of democratic, civilized life as we know it and try to explain how not voting can impact it going forward. I hope you will share these posts among friends, family, and your social groups to create that sense of urgency and alarm that will motivate them to step out of their apathy and vote.
Because, truly, our lives do depend on Democratic votes this election.