By SEAN GOODBODY
In November 2017, I wrote a column here arguing that 2017 was another 1968: a turbulent, contentious, depressing, violent year. That perspective seems almost comical now.
2020 has been a bleak experience. I really feel the connective tissue of the nation stretching to its breaking point.
Coming along to make things more stressful: We are skidding headfirst toward the most rancorous and consequential election of my lifetime. That rancor is not confined to the national elections; all the way down the ballot, steep ideological differences (real or perceived) make many contests feel like brutal prizefights.
I don’t want to jump from flashpoint to flashpoint this election season. Instead, with whatever authority I have (again, real or perceived), I’ll offer these tips for voting in the upcoming elections, regardless of your political views:
■ Ally yourself with ideas or principles, not politicians. We’ve turned politicians into celebrities. Their tweets, rallies, and TV appearances are presented as their “product.” We are told these are the ways politicians exercise power. This is incorrect. A politician’s job is to draft legislation or rules, create consensus in their branch of government, and then vote on them. Everything else — CNN appearances, “clapbacks,” tweets — is filler. So please, don’t worship politicians. They’re not movie stars; they’re public servants who ought to do what you ask them to do. Choose specific ideas that resonate with you, and make sure your candidate works toward those ideas.
■ Root your political choices in the people’s best interest. Good politics aren’t merely riling up a crowd or winning a debate. Good politics is what provides the most good for the most people. So much of politics nowadays is slanted toward those with paid access to politicians — in both major parties, mind you. The government is regulated by the rich, and no matter your political persuasion, that’s not a good thing. Choose politicians with ideas to help actual people, not the entities that fund their election campaigns.
■ Remember that “the people” doesn’t just mean “you.” We live in a society for a reason: to combine our skills, strength, and compassion so that we are more protected than we’d be out on our own. It’s tempting to vote only in your own self-interest. But vote for your neighbors’ interests, too — when the people around you do better, you and your family do better.
■ A nation is only as strong as its most vulnerable citizens. The U.S. has only the 43rd highest life expectancy, 16% of our children live in poverty, at least 50,000 die from lack of health-care coverage annually, 48.8 million Americans (16.2 million children) have food insecurity, veterans face challenges accessing medical and mental health services, and more than 550,000 Americans struggle with homelessness. Being the most powerful country doesn’t mean much if we can’t take care of our own. Vote with this in mind.
■ Know that whoever wins should care about people that didn’t vote for them. Elected officials have an obligation to help all constituents, not just those carrying the same party card.
■ Be for something, not just against something. At the moment, a significant portion of our political ideology is based on loudly not wanting things. Let’s rally around shared values, not enemies.
■ If you want to live in a “family values” country, put your money where your mouth is. This one specifically concerns Colorado’s Proposition 118, which would establish a paid family and medical leave program. Five countries worldwide do not mandate paid maternity leave: Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the United States. We are more free if we have more ability to work and seek enjoyment outside the home. We are more free if we have the ability to nurture our young children without economic stress. To make this country a “family values” place, we have to build “family values” institutions.
■ Be wary of anyone calling for elections to close before all the votes are counted. There are deeply un-democratic forces at work in our country today. Some have already sought to undermine confidence in vote by mail or absentee voting, have closed down polling centers to discourage voters, and passed laws to make it harder (harder!) for registered voters to vote. The president himself has been actively recruiting so-called “poll watchers” (known as the “Army for Trump”) to prevent supposed widespread ballot fraud — a theory that has been thoroughly debunked. We need to be sure all registered voters are allowed to vote, and that all ballots are counted before announcing results.
Vote early, vote the whole ballot, and vote with these principles in mind.
Sean Goodbody is a Grand Junction attorney representing injured workers all over western Colorado. Email email@example.com.