It is alarming how few Americans will exercise their right to vote. On November 6th, if the historical trend persists, less than 40% of the Voting age public will make the decisions for all of us. Abraham Lincoln said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
In the larger picture, the distinguishing characteristic of the United States is not that we have democratic elections or distinct branches of government — most nations do. Historically, many have not exercised such elements of government as well the United States and we, of course, are not without error. But the biggest difference is that our rights were not granted. They were not given to us by a monarch, a council, a church, a politburo, a dictator, a majority or even our own government.
The true genius of the founders was their recognition that our rights are inalienable. Our government did not grant them and cannot take them away. That is what inalienable means. Our rights exist and the purpose of our constitution is to protect them. This includes the right to vote. The protection of voting was clarified and expanded in the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments.
Notice that the constitution does not contain an affirmative statement that says we have a right to freedom of speech. Rather, speech is an inalienable right and the constitution specifies that it shall not be violated. There is a powerful subtlety in the phrase, “shall not be infringed”. This keeps congress out of the business of granting rights and charged instead with the important work of protecting them.
Yelling at your television may influence your family but it will not influence government. The first and best way to counteract the influence of voters with whom you disagree is for you to vote as well. Every uncast vote increases the value of the votes that are. Even if your candidates and causes do not prevail on election day, the winners must take any credible showing for the opposing views into account. If we do not use our rights we run the risk of losing them.
I strongly suspect people who will not participate on November 6th are unlikely to read this post or any material encouraging them to vote. If you are still reading this then, you are probably one of the 40%. Exercise your freedom of speech. Find one of the 60%. Persuade him or her to learn about the candidates and and make a choice on election day.