With only hours to go in what will certainly be among the most significant mid-term elections in many years, Americans need to recall that voting, not victory is what’s most sacred to a democracy. By sacred, I do not mean ordained by God or any particular scripture. I mean that which is most centrally important to a community and how it functions.
So yes, this is a plea to get out and vote. It’s not a plea for any particular candidate or party. It’s a call to resist the temptation to which many of us seem to be falling prey – if it appears that the side we support is not destined to win, we lose our desire to participate in the election. That’s not only disappointing, it’s a threat to our democracy.
In a democracy, the central tenet is that voters win, not that winners vote. Recent polling by the Gallup Organization suggests otherwise. There is a major enthusiasm gap when it comes to tomorrow’s election.
According to Gallup, only 37% of Democrats/Democratic leaning voters are enthusiastic about casting a ballot in next week’s election, vs. Republicans/Republican leaning voters, 63% of whom are excited about heading to the polls. Statistics raise the question: Do winners vote or do voters win? We are raised to believe that it’s the latter, but in this election at least, it appears to be the former.
Even if less enthusiastic voters actually do get out and vote, does this poll indicate that we are more enthusiastic about victory than about democracy? That would certainly explain the increasingly ugly tactics used by candidates by both parties, and also the fact that voters actually respond positively to anyone who can demonstrate why the person against whom they are running is a jerk, even if voters do not know much about the actual potions taken by the candidate they support.
It would be interesting to find out which of the following most Americans would prefer: a less than democratic process, which brought victory to the candidate they support, or a genuinely democratic process which elected someone they did not. Frankly, I think we know the answer and it’s not the right one.
Our commitment to victory is turning contemporary politics into a Vince Lombardi inspired football game in which winning is not everything, but the only thing. And politics ala Coach Lombardi is not something for which any of us should stand. In fact, in the long run, it is the kind of politics which makes democracies fall.
Voting tomorrow is a sacred obligation, perhaps even more sacred if the candidate one supports is likely to lose. How else will the other side even know that there is still another side? So get enthusiastic, and get out and vote. In my tradition we call it a Mitzvah!