If I had known how once in a lifetime the 2008 election cycle would be, I wonder if I would have done anything different. There are things I will never do again, unless maybe for a spouse, perhaps for a child like canvasing door-to-door in New Hampshire in January. It is cold, discouraging and a bit hypocritical on my part. I don’t open my front door for people I don’t know.
But how I wish for as a thrilling feeling for government as I experienced then. Try as I might to feel that hope, that joy, that command of what is now a yesteryear, I cannot compass back to that surging state of mind. It was like the homecoming game at a really big school with a really great athletic program with really cool tees.
Now in the midst of this final week, energy for the presidential election, just four years later, lacks fever, as the body of America seems to be suffering from enough ailments to encourage a blind eye of defeat. We find ourselves voting in a time of weariness. There are the activists, the politicos, and the pundits who live for this moment, and then there are the rest of us who are trying to live through it.
Prior to the debates, I was electioned out, throwing the interest in the conversation to MSNBC and FOX to duke out, like the little girl in tears, ready for every chance to watch HBO or Showtime where there was no chance a campaign ad could disrupt a moment of relaxation. This is not to say I did not believe in the importance of the election; I lacked the want to be reminded of it every day on television. But then came the candidates with “binders full of women,” “get the transcript,” and Big Bird’s unemployment woes.
Oh, and I am through with campaign financing. Did I really get five emails a day for eight months to contribute to the president’s reelection campaign?
Perhaps the fatigue with national politics has more to do with the lacking amplification of civic grassroots movements. Perhaps if Van Jones and his team were a little more Civil Rights Movement version 5.0 with his Rebuild the Dream, we would be busting at the seams to build the America we want to reside in looking to an election that would appoint a manager of our dream, compelling Congress to act across party lines and in accord with the public will. Elections just aren’t the same without a cheer squad.
Instead, we are at election guided by the Republican Party identity crisis and the dismal state of our country.
Republican obstinacy toward President Obama and bipartisanship, motivated by their struggle to hold their party together, has served to offer short-term memory losses on what the current administration has accomplished.
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The decision of this election will center on the question of whether or not we are in this—a deflating economy, insurmountable unemployment, debt feeding healthcare and education structures, disenfranchised and disabled veterans, and new opportunities in tech and energy that few people understand—all of this, together.
It is hard to defend that every vote counts, but I do truly believe that each of us count. I don’t at all understand why we have an electoral college. (Are the rest of us electoral middle school?) I do believe, to evoke a bit of Cooley High, that voting today has a lot to do with pouring some for homies that are not here—the forbears of movements for equality, those locked into mass incarceration, those who know not enough of privilege to know that they lack it, Trayvon Martin and all the other minorities murdered because their civic rights go unserved—more than it has to do with individual need. Perhaps it is a balance of the two, but every vote counts as much to let the government know that the people are watching.
At the beginning of October, I constructed a photo essay with Jon Genius on what black women want for America. We want so many things, things that can only be delivered by participation. And as the call resounds for inclusion in the American Dream while affirmative action goes back into the halls of the Supreme Court without much voice from the young progressive movement, voting has a lot to do with who gets appointed to decide the things that are not called to vote.
And then those of us on the East Coast, especially New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, are facing the expenses and stress and loss from Hurricane Sandy. Government seems to be more relevant when life gets real.
Perhaps, you disagree on my perspective on Governor Romney’s party, perhaps you like President Obama and just don’t know if he is up for the task at hand, perhaps you are hailing for four more years, undeterred. As emphasized in the Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere initiative, voting is a principal right and exercise. This is the election we participate in to let the government know that we are watching the resources they manage for us, and that we expect the rights and the opportunities we allege to espouse and need now more than ever.
Tomorrow presents before us the moral election. It has been an exhaustive journey here. This is not the election to expect feel up for–things are pretty bad and we are not presented with any thrilling breaks from challenging era we are pacing through. This is an election in which we decide how we want to travel in the dark. With all the weights bearing down on our country, what American flag do you want to stand for? All for one, or a bit for whomever the elite determine to be the ones worth accommodating.
It may not be an inspiring election, but it is still one that must be steered by public participation.