It’s here. Finally. Election Day, 2016.
This morning I rocked my favorite pantsuit and carried my damn-straight-it’s-hot-pink handbag to turn in my ballot. All badass and empowered, I handed it over, and burst into tears.
This is not another blog post about whether Hillary Rodham Clinton is qualified. She is. Or whether she deserves our vote. She does.
This little rant is about my hopes for what comes next after we shatter one more glass ceiling tonight.
A sobering 81% of Americans either don’t, or barely, trust the government to do what is right. Nine out of ten lack confidence in our political system. Here are four ways we might begin to turn that around.
We need to make it easier to register, to vote, and to cast informed votes. Automatic registration. Strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Prosecute felonious voter intimidation. Restore voting rights in a timely manner, and inform people when suspended rights are restored. Widen the window and vote by mail, as we have done here in Washington. We have three leisurely weeks to deliberate and complete our ballots, and we have secure drop boxes in our neighborhoods to deliver them sans postage. That means we have time to research, to discuss, to make our choices thoughtfully. And we have means to turn in our ballots without being harassed. No one has to miss work. No one has to rush through their ballot. No one has to survive the gauntlet of sign-waving zealots at the polls.
Unfortunately, voter turnout remains barely above 60%. Tick this one off as #necessarybutnotsufficient.
We actually need to teach people about civics. None of us should be waiting until we get our ballots to learn our state’s laws about referenda and initiatives, to find out what our state and federal constitutions actually say, to find out what a bond or a levy is and how they differ from a tax. If you’re Googling “What is the electoral college?” today, you are part of the problem. But it’s not your fault. Our public schools should bear the responsibility of educating future voters about our unique form of democracy, its strengths and weaknesses, its promises and unintended consequences.
Perhaps a more informed electorate might be inspired to improve upon those flaws in our system. And perhaps that might lead to more choice. Real choice.
Our two party system has resulted in deep polarization and an environment in which nuance and new ideas can’t possibly survive. But here’s the hard truth: Sitting on the sidelines for four years then casting a third party vote in a presidential election is no way to transition to a multi-party system. Want choice? We have to build it. From the ground up. Articulate a platform. Make room for new perspectives. Organize with others. Find and cultivate candidates. Put them in office at every level of government. Support them and hold them accountable. Form a network that is bigger than a single politician. Think long term.
And even within a vibrant multi-party system, if we want full participation, we have tremendous work to do to address racial disparity and injustice in our country.
There, I said it. The world did not collapse because I dared speak these words. If you have not already done so, I implore you to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations.
Those of us who loves this country must come to terms with its violent birth. With the genocide of people who already lived here when our ancestors “discovered” it. With the atrocity of slavery and fallacy we white people built this great nation. We stand today on the shoulders of millions of people who did not offer their shoulders to us: we whipped and beat them and brought them to their knees, then climbed up on those bloodied shoulders and pretended to stand on our own.
We will not be great until we hold ourselves accountable for this history and to the extent that we can, attempt to make it right. Yes, it is possible to do that. There is nothing absurd or fantastical about honoring our promises to indigenous and African Americans. In fact, it is imperative to our integrity and credibility as a nation. One out of three Americans is not white, and they need and expect us to come clean about who we really are as a country, and then to do better.
Will these four things fix the economy, jobs, the environment, climate, reproductive freedom, health care, education, national security? No, no, of course not. But they just might inspire more confidence, which might inspire more contribution of new ideas and innovative thinking. And that would be a very good thing.