We Have Met the Enemy…and It is Us
The day after Election Day was a tough one for me. Many of the candidates I voted for did not win, and the candidate I campaigned for lost by a few hundred votes. It felt similar to the various stages of grief, except denial is short-lived after the results are announced, and I quickly transitioned from denial to anger.
First, I was angry about how money seemed to play such a large role in determining the outcome. Piles of mail and endless signage seemed to influence the results more than the qualifications of the candidates. It seems unfair that even though anybody can run for office, unless you have access to thousands of dollars, you really do not stand a chance of remaining competitive against the field.
I was also mad about the endorsement process. It felt like “kingmaking” was in play when an opponent received every single endorsement—from the media, the unions, and the political establishment. Although endorsements are supposed to let voters know that candidates have been vetted thoroughly by specific interest groups, the endorsed candidate in our race received campaign contributions from unions and other politicians long before the official endorsement process began. The Washington Post only spent 10 minutes interviewing each candidate over the telephone, so in this case, it came down to “may the best talker win.”
I was outraged by the games that were played with the “official” ballots. These ballots are merely recommendations from the senator in your district about who they support on the ballot. They are not designed as the “official” Democratic party endorsement of candidates. Yet, at the polls, I clearly heard voters being intimidated by poll workers about avoiding “fake” ballots, voting for the person that Congressman Hoyer supports, or following the check marks on the “official” Democratic ticket. That did not seem very Democratic to me.
If we allow the unions, media, money, endorsements, and ballots to tell us how to vote, then we are obviously letting them take our vote for granted. I witnessed much of that during the campaign. After I have had time to further reflect on the whole experience, however, I moved past blaming these factors for our loss at the polls. I finally realized that we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us. As the Washington Post reported, only 20 percent of registered Democrats even voted. Of the 400,000 registered Democrats, only 41,000 voted for Rushern Baker. If only ten percent of the county voted for him, that’s really not a resounding victory.
If we as Prince Georgians do not vote, it means you better really like how your neighbor voted on September 14. If you did not vote, then the neighbor four houses down from you just decided the future of our community. That neighbor’s vote will affect your taxes, your children’s school, public safety staffing, land use decisions, and more. If the electorate does not make their voice heard at the polls, then it will be even more challenging down the road to get the work done. In order to transform our county, it will require every person to be engaged in the process. If only 20 percent are even voting, we have a long way to go in accomplishing that mission.