When November rolled around in 2012, I was a politically ambivalent sophomore at Andrews University. I grew up in Wisconsin, but was studying in Michigan, and the hassle of registering to vote seemed like too much work to spend an hour or two on election day casting a single vote that wouldn’t make a difference in how my state fell. Studying for classes seemed like a more useful way to spend my time.
Today is Tuesday, November 8, and I just participated in my first Presidential election. Stanford’s Tressider Union polling booths were crammed full, and Mateja and I waited almost 30 minutes to get to the actual booths (and I hope her principal is understanding when she arrives at work). Voting is an almost sublime experience, as it is the only unbiased space in the United States today. Protected by signs prohibiting electioneering within 100 feet of the voting booths, and presented a ballot with neutral-looking 12 point sans-serif font, I was grateful to be free from the storm of social media, and the extreme rhetoric of student newspapers.
Using a ball point pen, I connected an arrow on a sheet of paper next to the name of someone I had never met. This humble connect-the-dots exercise alone will not #MakeAmericaGreatAgain nor will a room full of people casting votes secretly make us feel #StrongerTogether. Drawing lines on paper does not fix global warming, gun control, controversial supreme court decisions, immigration, education, cyber security, tax evasion, or whatever issues cause you to put ink on different places on that ballot. Sure, there are big things happening in Washington that will affect your life for better or worse, but a single vote for either candidate won’t move the needle on struggles you have at home. I’m talking about personal debt, depression and anxiety, family struggles, personal fitness and diet, and getting to where you want to be in life. Voting for Hillary or Trump won’t fix your problems. Voting for yourself will.
Chris Hogan recently released a podcast where he advocates for his #Vote4UAmerica campaign. He is not advocating to write your name in the ballot on Tuesday. What he is urging is to believe in yourself every day and start winning in this 100 years you have on this planet. You can get out of debt, you can be a better husband/daughter/son/parent, you can get control over your body, and you for sure can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.
Last time I checked, our presidential campaign cost $1.2 billion. That’s peanuts compared to our national debt, but it’s a huge chunk of change, considering that the UN estimates we could solve world hunger for $30 billion a year. That’s just world hunger. Our election budget could easily solve food crises in dozens of countries. The thing is that I don’t think much of the $1.2 billion dollars that was contributed to candidates this election is going to end up in putting food on the table, or roofs over heads, or spreading the hope we have in Christ (Hillary is a Methodist and Trump is a Presbyterian). Government’s power largely is derived from the taxes we pay. The ratio of of tax revenue to GDP is about 27% in America. This means that 73% of America’s ability to make change rests with it’s citizens, not in it’s government. If you want to make a difference in the world, don’t rely on the 27% of your income to cause change. Invest in the remaining 73% (not to mention your time!). What will make a difference is when each of us vote for ourselves, and start kicking it into gear to get out of debt, take control of our diet and fitness, be better friends and family members, and realize the potential that God has in store for us.
As election day progresses, I would encourage you to vote, especially if you’re not in a battleground state. Voting shows you care about national politics, and that your demographic category should be considered when crafting national policy. Voting in a battleground state means that your vote won’t turn the balance, so you have the luxury of voting idealistically (as opposed to practiacally) based on your personal convictions. It also means that you can vote blank if you want to! You also, as always, can still exercise your freedom and right to express your well-informed decision as well. But more than voting for president, I urge you to cast a vote for yourself. Become equally passionate about the issues in your personal life as you are about national issues.