Blog Archive

Blog Archive – October, 2014

Two Weeks from ElectionDay: Do I have to Vote?

October 21, 2014

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I arrived near the end of the candidate’s talk and the Q&A that followed. So although I had no opportunity to put a question to Sean Eldridge myself, I could see he wanted the job. He knew issues that concern voters. He was clear minded. He was open.

I reaffirmed my commitment to vote for this first-time candidate for the US Congress. The star of today’s luncheon, Eldridge is running on the Democratic Party ticket, opposing Gibson, Republican incumbent and congressman for our district. At least we have a race here, I thought. We finally have a credible opposing candidate. 

It’s a lot of work learning about local candidates. Because this locality is known as strongly Republican, the Democratic Party passes us over. There’s often no party nominee; so no debate, and no media attention. Citizens feel marginalized, and-- what’s the word? —disenfranchised. It happens. And it’s a mistake. Uncontested elections are bad all around.

When I lived in Manhattan, we had a similar problem, only reversed. There, Democrats prevail and Republican contenders are hardly seen. When a district is so heavily in one political camp, the opposing party won’t even field a candidate. Today a large part of the country is polarized like this; thus most election outcomes are easily predicable. So they’re ignored; thus fewer residents in those areas even bother to vote.

The media and Party resources focus on places identified as ‘crucial’; this means the outcome is not as clear as it is in either Manhattan -- reliably Democrat, or upstate New York-- predictably Republican. A ‘crucial contest’ means there’s controversy: a viable challenger has appeared and the opposing Party is backing him or her; there are lively debates and verbal attacks. The incumbent faces criticism; parties pour more money into the race; there’s more advertizing and then more news coverage.

In my district, Sean Eldridge seems to be a serious contender for Gibson’s seat. How much the party agrees, I’m unsure. But this year my local election may not be as boring as in the past. I feel invigorated and commit myself to reversing the imbalance in Congress that has so hobbled the president.  

But my vote isn’t enough. There are many like me out there, and our party’s local branch needs us. Still, we have to hammer on their door. Which is what I did.

I didn’t go to that meeting to shake hands with the young hopeful. I was trying to connect with my local Democratic Party.

A week had passed since, seeing a glossy mailer about Sean Eldridge, I checked his webpage; from there I emailed his campaign office. No reply. Two more emails, then a donation, then finally a phone number. I spoke to a real person and thus learned about the candidate’s luncheon. Now I’m signed up for a workshop to train for their phone campaign. Then I’ll donate a day to getting out the vote by phone.

Today I spoke to a neighbor. Yes, she saw a TV promotion for Eldridge. As a Democrat, she’ll vote for him. But she would have liked to meet him. “How many more are there like me?” she wonders. “I didn’t receive any flyer. How did you know about the luncheon?” She asks. “Tell me what is his position on job creation, on medical insurance, on threatened cuts?”

Voting wisely and being more than a bystander takes a lot of work these days. We have to forfeit the glamour that national political stars bring, and do some basic democratic grunge work for our home counties. 

[ Two Weeks from ElectionDay: Do I have to Vote? ]


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