Thomas Jefferson once said “We do not have a government by the majority. We have a government by the majority who participate.”
As I reflect on this quote, it becomes apparent to me the sheer importance of getting out and voting during this tumultuous election season.
This year has been rife with anger, frustration, and polarization — often resulting in less than favorable outcomes across the United States. This makes it our duty to let our officials know exactly what we believe and what direction we want to take; we do this through the ballot box.
After watching the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Biden, I realized that many people may not want to participate at all. As an educator in the area of social studies and government, I thought it might be good to talk about the importance of voting in this, and every, election.
1. We may think that because of the old institutions in our country, like the Electoral College, that our votes do not ultimately matter. I’m here to say that this is a sentiment taken by defeatists.
If you are to believe that individual votes do not matter, look no further than the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The case boiled down to a recount in the State of Florida — the difference between a Bush presidency and a Gore presidency was less than 1,000 votes.
2. Voting in Local Elections: County commissioners, mayors, state and federal representatives and senators, and Ohio Supreme Court justices most likely have a larger impact on you than a presidential election. These are the people who we can go and see in person right here in Ohio. If you have never visited the “Stone Halls of Democracy” at the Ohio Statehouse, I highly recommend you make the trip to Columbus (after the pandemic, of course).
3. Finally, we can talk about the public mandate. Presidents should operate under the idea that their election means that they have the mandate of the public — the right to govern on their behalf. If we get out and vote for those up for election and let our voices be heard, we are signaling to all politicians on both sides of the aisle that we are engaged, that we are watching, and we have an expectation for their performance.
Regardless of whether or not “your” candidate wins during this or any other election, we must always let the government know that they serve We The People.
I encourage each and every one of you to register to vote, come up with a voting plan, and to rally others to do the same. Regardless of your party affiliation or who you believe the right candidate is, it is our sacred duty to participate in our government.
The only ones who make decisions are the ones who show up.
Dillon Oney is a social studies teacher at Wilmington High School.