Published October 31, 2010
Why should I vote you ask me? Our leadership isn’t listening, there are no jobs, the deficit explodes, health care is a sink hole, stimulus is an excuse for big government to spend, and the borders are collapsing.
Why should I vote when our federal government and courts tell our states that they have no right to enforce federal laws on citizenship or voting in places like Arizona?
Why should I vote when our own president preaches to one audience that they should “punish” their enemies on Election Day? When he tells a radio audience that if his party loses it “means that we are going to have just hand to hand combat up here on Capitol Hill.”
When the president conjures an American era that we would like to forget about and says that after he gets America, symbolized by a car, out of the ditch that he’s happy to allow the Republicans to “sit in back.”
And so you ask, like other Americans who believe the president’s policies are too centrist -- does my vote count? What can I say as a working person, as a home owner, as a veteran, as single mother, as a new citizen -- the problems are so big and my voice is so small.
Well, you can walk into your polling place and say what Dr. Martin Luther King said at the Lincoln Memorial in 1957. -- He appropriately asked “Give us the ballot” and helped begin to clean the stain of racial disenfranchisement.
The vote is what Americans have always asked for:
- The signers of the United States Constitution in 1787.
- The slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation and given the vote by the 15th amendment one hundred forty years ago.
- The suffragettes who marched and won the right for women to vote ninety years ago.
- Teenagers who won the right to vote at age18 almost 40 years ago.
You see, we vote to ensure that we are free and that we are self-determining. We vote to convince our presidents and our Congress to adopt and adapt to the will and ways of the people who elect them.
And time and time again whether fighting slavery and protecting civil rights, attacking fascism and the genocide of the mid-twentieth century and the new rise of genocidal extremism today, our young men and women have fought and died to protect, preserve and perpetuate the principles of self-determination and self-respect which are practiced on the first Tuesday in November. For that principle Staff Sergeant Robert Miller sacrificed his life in Afghanistan saving the lives of 22 soldiers on a snowy trail and in death winning the Medal of Honor.
We believe in spirited debate in this country. The Tea Party and the civil rights movement each prove we believe in protest.
But most importantly we believe that from the many voices speaking in the confidential and solitary sanctuary called the polling place we lift our voices up and sing this song called America. And we do it small voice by small voice with each voice no louder than the next.
We do it because in spite of the partisan talk, of a political season, all of us truly understand that a car divided will not run, that we vote not to punish our enemies but to convince new friends.
We vote to prove that Americans crave not hand to hand combat on Capitol Hill but hand in hand success in a system where right makes might.
On Tuesday in spite of your discouragement and disillusionment with either or both parties you’ll join me in thinking about Sergeant Miller and his family.
And like Dr. King we’ll politely and proudly announce as we walk into our polling places, Democrats and Republicans alike: Give us the ballot and then listen closely as the people lift their voices and sing in the greatest tabernacle of democracy ever, an auditorium we call America.
Peter Johnson Jr. is an attorney and Fox News Legal Analyst.