But it wasn’t enough.
My darling grandchildren (and anyone who cares about the state of this union we call the United States of America),
Yesterday was a big day in the politics of our country. Six states, including our own huge state of California, voted to choose the candidates who will run for President of the United States this fall. They voted for a lot of other candidates as well, which are more important than most people realize, but for this article I’ll stick with the biggie.
Here’s a little background for you youngun’s
Each citizen of this country, as long as they’ve never been convicted of a felony, is eligible to vote for the people who make the laws in our land, as well as for the local judges who interpret those laws.
People who are not allowed to vote are powerless.
People in many countries don’t have the privilege of choosing their leaders. They are not permitted a say, through their votes, in who will lead them. Because they can’t choose their leaders, they also don’t have the power to tell their leaders how to behave or what laws should govern the land and its people. People who are not allowed to vote are powerless.
So I was astonished last night, when I followed the election returns for this, perhaps the most important election I’ve ever voted in, that very few people chose to exercise their power and participate in choosing the next leader of our country, a country many believe is the most powerful in the world.
Take California, for one big example
Here in California, for example, barely 2 percent of the people who could vote did. That means that 98 percent of the people in this state let just 2 percent of the people decide who would govern them and who would make policies affecting their lives for years to come. How do I know this? I’ll show you.
According to the California Secretary of State (pdf), who is also elected and is responsible for such things, just 15 days before yesterday’s primary election, we had 24,783,789 eligible voters and 17,915,053 registered voters. To put this in round numbers, California has nearly
- 25 million people who are eligible to vote, and
- 18 million people who have registered to vote
That means, 72 percent of eligible voters registered to vote. By registering, 18 million of us put our names on a line that said, “I plan to participate in the governance of my city, state and country.”
Sadly, this also means that 28 percent of us abdicated our right. That bunch says, “I’ll let the rest of you decide who has power over my life.” Go figure.
But that’s not all. Even though more than two-thirds of us made sure we could vote, only a teeny, tiny fraction of us actually marked our choices on an official ballot.
Two percent of California voters actually voted yesterday
According to The Guardian, which tracked live election results by state and by county yesterday, California voters weighed in as follows. (These are the numbers I can find now. The Secretary of State hasn’t published official totals yet.)
- 3,475,720 of us voted for Democrats
- 1,560,820 of us voted for Republicans
That comes to a grand total of, wait for it, 5,036,540 of us who voted yesterday.
Here’s a screen shot of part of the Guardian page, which I went back and snapped on Saturday June 11, after learning these numbers likely weren’t even close. I’m using it to document what I found the morning after the primary, because presumably The Guardian will update its numbers when the Secretary of State certifies the official tallies, sometime in July.
Why do these numbers matter? They matter because they show that only 28 percent of registered voters in this state exercised their right to choose the candidates who will run in our local, state and national elections, including the presidential and high-stakes senate races, this fall and guide us for the next two to six years.
Even worse, it means that only 2 percent (!TWO PERCENT!) of eligible voters in this enormous state–a state bigger than most countries in the world–took part in choosing the people who will govern them and make decisions over their lives for years to come.
No wonder our system is corrupt and pays no heed to the people it governs. No wonder our elected officials show so little care for our welfare. We show, by our refusal to take part in our governance, that we don’t give a fig. (You kids would hear me use stronger language, if you were in the room with me right now, language having to do with a rat and a donkey’s behind, but I’ll keep it to fig in case anyone else is reading this.)
Two frickin’ percent!
That’s how many people interrupted their lives to educate themselves, even slightly, and take the trouble to mail in a ballot or to go to their neighborhood polling place yesterday and spend ten or fifteen minutes voting.
Yesterday’s choices affect your lives forever
My darlings, when we voted yesterday, we chose candidates who will make an enormous difference in your lives for the rest of your lives and the lives of your own children and grandchildren. I know this is difficult to understand.
Today, two of you and I enjoyed the sunshine, the cooling breezes and the brilliant, fragrant flowers in Golden Gate Park, a joy you may never get to share with your grandchildren.
You see, we are in a place right now where every single day, and every single action we take affects the quality of life you and your bairn will enjoy or suffer for the next two hundred, perhaps thousand years. Soon enough the words “global warming” and “climate change” will have a meaning for you that even we who have known about it and feared it for decades cannot possibly understand.
The candidates we chose yesterday are the ones who will set the policies that decide if we are going all out to protect you and your future or if we are going to go on as we have done, wasting resources, burning fossil fuels, destroying our forests and oceans, and generally doing everything we can to jeopardize the biosphere that permits us to breathe, to eat, to drink fresh water and to live in relative comfort, as we have done all our lives.
Not only will these candidates bear this responsibility–whether they accept it is another thing–but they will also choose whether we continue as a nation at war, torturing people we deem a threat to our country, killing hundreds of innocent people remotely with robotic drones guided by “pilots” in underground bunkers somewhere here in our country, and profiting hugely from the wars we inflame all around the world in the name of “democracy” and “freedom.”
This democracy and freedom we punish some nations for, or rather the perceived lack thereof, and not others depending on their usefulness to us, or the usefulness of their resources, is ever more at threat in our own land. Alas, all of that is discussion for another day.
Getting involved no longer a choice
What I need you to know is that, as odious, corrupt, difficult and unseemly as it feels, getting involved in your local politics is perhaps the only way you can have a voice in your future. What we do here in our communities today affects what happens in the world years from now, for it is in local politics that the future leaders are selected, groomed and trained to maneuver within a decidely corrupt system.
Just as, many years ago, foresightful individuals and politicians set aside the long rectangle of land, mostly sand dunes, that is Golden Gate Park today, and brought in dirt and plants and people to construct the environment and grow beautiful gardens for millions of people to enjoy, so must we do our part, in some way, to envision, build and grow a beautiful political garden that allows human beings all over the world to flourish.
I tell you all this because, after yesterday’s election, I realize that I have shirked my duty to you. By letting my shyness and my lack of stomach for political involvement keep me from participating on the local level, I’ve allowed the corruption and horror that is our national political scene today to keep me from raising my voice in support of fairness and, for want of a better term, right politics.
There’s only one road to right politics
You’ve heard of right living, right livelihood and conscious living, right? That’s what I’m thinking when I say right politics. I’m thinking politics that is just, fair and ethical–words we rarely associate with “politics.” The only way to get there is to become involved and to keep in mind at all times that the goal is to change the way we do politics in this country. We must demand these very things of our politicians and our political process, that they indeed be
- For the people–all the people, not just the very wealthy and their bankrolled servants
Darlings, I don’t know if I can overcome my shyness and my abhorrence of politicking to get back into the fray. I managed it for a number of years when your mamas were young. I was younger then and had more fortitude.
For your sakes I pledge that this month I will get in touch with my local precinct captain and see if there is a way I can become involved. I don’t know how. Don’t have a clue what role I might play at this stage of life. I certainly will NOT run for office, ever. And I know from past experience that those four things I bulleted above are nearly impossible, but if I don’t take a step now, and if millions of others don’t take a step now, it is almost certain that you and your family and your children’s families will struggle, not just in your lifetimes, but for generations for the basic necessities of life: Food, shelter, clean water, fresh air that doesn’t burn your lungs and make you sick with horrible diseases. Never mind health care and jobs.
Today, I have no choice. I must take this step, undesirable as it seems to me personally. For it is only when we ordinary people lend our voices and our hearts to the politics of this land that we will be able to foment the change we so desperately need, change that decides whether your future is utterly bleak or affords some comfort and sustenance.
I apologize to you for letting my disgust with the system and my ineptitude in forging political relationships keep me from participating all these years. I hope to rectify that in these last thirty years or so of my life, should I be fortunate to live so long. I pray that others will join me, enough others to make a difference, perhaps to forestall the bleak future ahead of you, ahead of us all.
May whatever god or goddess you carry in your heart help us all.
♥ ♥ ♥
Last updated 06/11/16