There has been a lot of hype regarding these upcoming midterm elections. Usually the turnout is poor and a blow for the party in power; but, as our country has become more polarized, this election has taken on a more important feel.
We take elections for granted. We shouldn’t. Many places on earth are denied meaningful
elections where there are clear results that affect the nation or town. Even though we regularly have elections that affect the lives of millions, we have a terribly low number of citizens who actually cast a vote. It’s easy to talk politics, but if you don’t vote you cannot make a difference.
My Dad, who was a naturalized citizen, felt it was everyone’s responsibility to vote. He even went so far to suggest that if you did not vote you should have your citizenship revoked and be deported! My Dad really felt angry that people did not take their responsibility to vote seriously.
Underneath this belief is something that the American Revolution proclaimed and that the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution enshrined: Government comes from the people and exists for the people. This was a truly revolutionary thought. Up to that time, it was considered common wisdom that God ordained all government: God put a King or Queen in His place to rule. This dogma is called the Divine Right of Kings. Since God has put this “special” person in place, the people will just have to get use to him or her! Insurrection or mutiny of any sort against the sovereign was a deliberate sin against God. Therefore, in the late 1700s, whatever King George III decreed was God’s will, and any refusal to submit to the King’s edicts was not only criminal, but also blasphemous!
Margaret Thatcher once remarked to President Reagan that Europe was a product of history and America a product of philosophy. Because of the philosophy that we call the Enlightenment, our founding ancestors had a radical belief that the government does not come from above (i.e. from God), but from the people. And the people had a right to change it if they deem it to be destructive. This was a revolutionary belief that luckily was handled beautifully through the Constitutional Convention and a new constitution, a marvel of balance and prudence. The French and the Russian Revolutions, by contrast, were human rights disasters leading to violence on an unprecedented scale.
But implicit in this philosophy of national identity is an acceptance of the religious principle that God requires us to live moral lives. Without this sense of ethical responsibility, no human construct can survive. George Washington was eloquent about this in his farewell address.
Thus, our nation is a product of the yearning for order and prosperity under a God that demands moral accountability. If the people lose faith in either God or the need to construct and sustain this governmental order, we are in for a period of destruction and agony.
Living morally within the construct of a personally validated, yet imperfect, national consensus is absolutely essential for the survival of the United States. To opt out of this responsible citizenship by not voting is close to treason.
In failed countries, there is a cynicism in the air that is pervasive: What good does it do to vote? Aren’t they all the same? My Dad had no false hopes about the politics of Italy: one stinks and the other smells he used to say! But this same man believed that it was different in America. Every vote counted and he was proud to go to the voting booth to exercise that freedom. That is because he believed in America.
It is distressing to hear Americans speak about our country the way my Dad wrote off the Italian political system. But it is not the same. If we truly believe in America, then we have to keep voting our conscience and try to elect people of character and courage, which our country has had in the past and needs for its future.