Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Day 2012

Voting is really important to me. My family immigrated here from Cuba after Fidel Castro took over and instituted a dictatorship. Since the world was in the throes of the Cold War, the American government expedited the naturalization of Cuban immigrants fleeing communism. Even though their experience was significantly better than that of the average immigrant today, now that I'm older I sometimes think about the hardship of leaving the only country you've ever known and moving to a country where you can't even speak the language. My grandparents were around my age now when they moved here. Growing up, I heard over and over again about the importance of voting to secure democracy and personal freedom. If you don't vote you probably don't matter to any of the political parties. I've always thought it is a privilege to be counted. It is a precious right.

So obviously, I hope you voted! While I think the ideas and ideals that this election hinged on are of crucial importance, I don't take your vote personally. I know that all my friends, Republican or Democrat, love our country, and fiercely want our country to improve so that we leave an even better country to our children. We just disagree on how to do it, or even sometimes we agree on how to do it, but disagree on which candidate will actually do it.

I have two experiences that guide my way of thinking about partisan politics. First, I was raised Republican and became a liberal in between the 1988 election when I supported President George H.W. Bush, and the 1992 election when I supported President Bill Clinton. Sadly, I was too young to vote for either. Luckily, my Republican family didn't disown me! They listened to me and some of them even moved towards the middle, though my grandfather stayed staunchly Republican. A person is not the sum total of their politics. It's crazy that I even need to say that, but the popular reaction to the election makes me think that it is worth emphasizing.

My other guiding experience is that I got a Masters in Legislative Affairs in 2004. Even back then, we were reading books about polarizing partisanship. I read an essay by Fleisher and Bond arguing that historically, the United States has been characterized by weak partisanship, but Congress and the presidency became more partisan in the 1980s, as measured by "the percentage of roll call votes on which a majority of Democrats voted against a majority of Republicans." It has grown worse and worse over the years, and the political parties regularly fan the flames of fear and anger to win votes. But it's not real! The two parties are not so different in ideology and even less so in their actions. And the people who are members of the two parties have even more in common. Of course there are real issues worth campaigning and voting on, but these issues are rarely a reason to give up on your friends or family that don't agree.

On Tuesday, I took James with me to vote. I hope that he grows to be a good citizen who votes with conviction. I will teach him my values, but ultimately, whom he votes for is his business. I will love him just the same if he votes differently than I do. I feel the same way about all my friends.

Election Day 2012
The polls! James is currently not interested
in politics at all, but juice is another issue.

"What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared -- that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great."
- President Barack Obama, November 6, 2012

1 comment:

Ash said...

Awesome points, E! I often am hesitant to discuss my political opinions with friends because even though I'm somewhere in the middle, I hate feeling attacked by others' strong convictions. It's good to know that you see the whole picture and recognize all viewpoints as valid!

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