When I was in high school, I made a point to tell people that I would never vote for public office. I was smug, almost arrogant about it as I told anyone who would listen that I was above the Election Day madness, that nobody could represent me fairly and I would refuse to settle for the lesser of two evils. For this reason, I declined to vote for governor in 2002, even though I was eligible.
I said a lot of stupid things in high school.
Less than two years later, I feel like a different person, laughing at the idiot who thought he knew it all at the age of 18. There wasn’t really one defining moment that I can point to and say, “That is when I came to my senses.” Rather, it was a gradual awakening on my part, a two-year stretch that made me see the world in a different light.
Whether I like it or not, someone is going to be president and someone is going to further existing policies or discontinue them. Since 2000, this country has rapidly altered its approach to foreign policy, erasing decades of diplomacy with a new attitude and sense of responsibility. On top of that, this nation’s economy and health care system are the center of as much controversy as ever. Unlike my high-school self, who would have said these things don’t really matter, I realize now that I have an obligation to my country, to each and every person I talk to every day and, most importantly, to myself, to make my voice heard.
I have felt disenfranchised. I wasn’t old enough to vote in 2000, but the handling of that election still made me question just how much one person mattered. Now, with the commercialization of the election — Monday morning, ESPN’s SportsCenter, of all programs, took 10 minutes to devote a segment to the importance of voting — the result seems even less important as so much emphasis and money is poured into the cinema of the campaign. It seems like no celebrity, television show, radio show host or nighttime custodian can jump quickly enough at the chance to tell me why it is important that I vote Election Day — and they, of course, know far more than I do about civic duty.
I still feel I have to fight the frustration and bitter feelings these things bring, however, and convince myself that I do matter. In 2000, 63 percent of voters went to the polls to vote for president; however, even with three-fifths of the country involved, only 537 voters were the difference as Florida ultimately declared George W. Bush our president. This year, experts are predicting upwards of 75 percent of eligible voters to do the same, but does anyone really expect the difference to be any different? Why should I let three-quarters of the electorate decide my fate for me?
I was correct when I said nobody truly represents me. I agree with the some of the presidential candidates’ policies, but no candidate agrees with me across the board. However, I was wrong in my choice of the word “settle.” This really is not a lesser of two evils scenario. In reality, I am privileged to have any say at all, as are millions more Americans. Today, I head to the polls to show my colors in the best way I know how — not by making some phony political statement, like I would have in high school, but by getting involved. It’s quick, painless and, apparently, almost everyone is doing it.
A small part of my early refusal to participate was a feeling that I had to maintain my independence. Everyone else votes, so I can’t. Today, though, I am proud to say I’m part of the crowd. I’m like everyone else. I’m voting.
Adam Becker is a sophomore majoring in mass communications and is the Editor in Chief at The Oracle. email@example.com