*The earliest settler of the United States were people who had ideas about how they wanted the society they lived in to operate.
The United States therefore is a country founded on political activism. And voting is the most basic and essential element of political activism.
Voting has always been the gateway to a community becoming fully invested in American society. The European immigrant groups of the 19th century were cajoled into voting by local politicians as soon as possible as their first steps in becoming American.
Conversely the denial of voting privileges has always been the ultimate way of holding a subset of the population down. This is why the Constitution has six amendments that deal with voting to try to help the country live up to its democratic potential.
When black people were freed from slavery the 15th Amendment was designed specifically to help them become full-fledged Americans. When teenagers were serving in the American military in Vietnam, the 26th Amendment ensured that they were dying as full citizens.
Voting gives people a voice. Anyone up for election has a series of concepts or programs they endorse. Therefore voting for a specific person also becomes a vote for what they stand for. In this way voting reflects what people feel is important.
Even when voting for a specific person fails, voting for concepts does not. The Populist & Progressive parties of the 1800s were never very successful in gaining national offices. Nevertheless the support for these parties and their reforms communicated to the Democrats and Republicans what issues everyday people needed addressed. Within a generation Theodore Roosevelt had transformed American policies.
Of course in a representative democracy voting means putting your trust in someone else. But voting for someone in one election always means that you can vote against that person in the next. Homosexual Americans supported Barack Obama in large numbers in 2008. The Presidential election in 2012 gives that segment of the American population another chance to communicate what is important to them and whether Obama has lived up to his proclamations and their expectations.
The privilege of voting is why this country was born. It is the key to involvement in American form of government. In one week opportunity to participate in our society will present itself. Do not let the chance pass.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. You can reach him at [email protected]