I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than celebrating the gift of democracy at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
I know it probably sounds dorky, but there are few things I love more than the act of voting; there is something almost spiritual about it. Because I’m a sucker for experience, I nixed the absentee ballot and hauled myself out of bed last Sunday morning to vote early in the primary, and of course, to get away from the stodgy suburbs and spend a little time in the city.
As it should be, every walk of life was represented on Euclid Avenue that rainy morning. Late churchgoers from the Zionist Church next door trailed in with corsages pinned to their overcoats, chatting softly with hushed excitement. A father cast his vote as his young daughter clung to his leg, wearing, in true patriotic spirit, a tiny Wonder Woman costume. Election workers greeted each voter with respect and enthusiasm. Old and young, rich and poor, woman and man stood together in an oddly peaceful way that seemed so contrary from the election we find ourselves in. At the risk of sounding sappy, it was a sincerely moving experience.
Every time my heart would melt, though, I felt my awe tempered by fear. “This is only because it’s Sunday,” I would think. “Everyone from the surrounding neighborhoods will be barred with some technicality, the poor, the elderly, the marginalized, their vote won’t be cast,” my internal dialogue screeched at me, making my stomach twist in knots.
There’s just something about this election that is far more terrifying than exciting. For the first time, I find myself sincerely not believing that our democratic system works for everyone, otherwise, how else would so much of our public be comfortable with supporting a wamongering dictator in disguise?
Let me back things up for a minute. My first election that I remember participating in was President Obama versus Senator John McCain in 2008. For you freshman reading this: yes, it is very possible to have a positive presidential election that focuses on policy and not pettiness. Obama and McCain had their disagreements, to be sure, but the root of their arguments revolved around concrete matters of ideology. In fact, when a McCain supporter used derogatory comments against President Obama at a rally during the election, the Senator didn’t flinch in his disapproval of her.
Taking the microphone away from his misguided guest, McCain shook his head and said, “No, no, m’am. He is a decent family man and a good citizen who I just so happen to have disagreements on fundamental issues and this is what this campaign is all about. I want to be President of the United States, but I have to tell you, Obama is a decent person that you do not want to be scared of as President of the United States. I admire and respect Mr. Obama and I want everyone to be respectful, and let’s make sure we are.”
Sounds like a different world, right? So it makes sense that after an election that upheld matters of respect, and similarly, a re-election of President Obama that more often than not followed these protocols, my heart breaks in our disastrous state of electoral affairs. When I voted for the first time to reelect our current President, I thought with every ounce of me that my voice mattered. And frankly, I didn’t think that our nation would implode if Mitt Romney won the highest office in the nation. But in this primary election, I almost felt powerless in the face of the hate train that is Donald Trump.
If you’re seriously considering voting for Mr. Trump, I can’t be contrarian about your absolute ignoramus behavior anymore. If his deep seated racism, sexism and threats of violence comfort you, I think you may need to do some serious soul searching, assuming you have one. However, for the rest of us rational people out there, Republicans and Democrats alike, it is absolutely imperative that we band together in any way possible to stop him. Whether that means Democrats voting for alternate Republican options in the primary (if that’s possible in your state), if you’re conservative, speaking with fellow Republicans about values that are actually represent your party, and first and foremost, be critical of all candidates who rely on emotion over policy.
In the general election, I want to be able to say that the two candidates vying to run our country respect one another as colleagues, even if they can never see themselves as friends. We must all demand the level of respect that was once expected of leaders.