Capitol Thoughts
Capitol Thoughts Archive

Two Step Backwards by Janaye Ingram

Aug 23, 2012

“I’m not voting.”

As much as it saddens me to say, it is something that I’ve heard this election season.  Considering that during the last Presidential election cycle there were so many people who had never voted before and were declaring that they would participate, it’s so disheartening to hear.  In my mind it’s like the old adage, “take one step forward and two steps back.”  The harsh reality is that more often than not, it is black people who are willing to stay home and not participate.  I sometimes wonder if it is because of the state of our community or a contributor to the state of our community…and I realize it’s likely a little bit of both.

I was having a conversation recently with a friend who works on Capitol Hill.  He was saying that many of his Republican friends aren’t happy with Mitt Romney as the presumptive nominee.  They think he’s too moderate and inconsistent.  If you pay any attention to politics you will understand that it is part of the reason he picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate – to appease the more conservative block of the party.  A recent poll showed that Romney-Ryan would get 0% of the black vote.  Zero.  But what I realize is that some of the people who said that they wouldn’t vote for Romney aren’t voting for anyone.  They won’t select a President, a Governor, a Senator, a State Representative, Judge, or even weigh in on any measures that might be on the ballot.  They will take a back seat to action and become a spectator in the politics and policies that affect their lives.

While Republicans are trying to steal our right to vote with lies about “voter fraud”, there are far too many of us who are willing to give it up freely.  And despite what people want us to believe about who is readily giving up the right to weigh in on how they are governed, there are all types of people who fit within that category.  They are the young and old, the educated and the uneducated and believe it or not, the rich and the poor.  They live in every corner of this country and each and every one of them will be affected by politics with or without their vote.

As we’ve been touring the country trying to educate and empower voters about the new laws that were designed to be obstacles to the polls, I’ve tried to impress upon everyone that elections are not just about who gets to live in the White House.  It’s about your house, the state house, and the jail house.  When Governors make cuts to educational funding, that directly affects the students in your house or within your neighborhood.  When state legislators decide to create bills that require people to produce “their papers” and encourages racial profiling that affects us all.  When judges take the bench with personal bias against black people, it will likely surface in the way she rules against blacks who are dealing with the criminal justice system.

When people don’t vote, they relinquish their ability to influence the aspects of their lives that interact with government.  When you think about it, that means everything – housing, health care, education, retirement, taxes, subsidies, government assistance programs, banking, workers’ rights, the criminal justice system, the list could go on and on.  No matter what the reason is that people don’t want to vote, there isn’t a reason that is justifiable.  Voting plays a part in every facet of your life and not voting is saying that you don’t care how you are governed.  By not participating, you are saying you don’t care if people try to take your rights away, you don’t care if people don’t educate your son properly, you don’t care if people take away your mama’s money, you don’t care if you get kicked out of your home and really, you just don’t care about anything.  We have to care and I know we do.  We cannot allow ourselves to become jaded by what we don’t like about politics or politicians.  We have to remember that our vote is the most powerful thing that we have when it comes to government.  It’s the reason that politicians come to us and try to tell us why they’re the right person for the job.  Voting is our power and if we don’t use it, we will have taken two steps backwards from where we were four years ago.  We have to seek progress.  It is the key to empowering our community.