Newspapers beg their readers to vote during every election cycle. The “Get Out and Vote” editorial is almost inevitable, and it never gets any easier to read. But cajoling citizens to participate in the political process is part of the burden newspapers shoulder as promoters of dialogue and information and, for the most part, we bear it well.
But as I sat down to write that “Get Out and Vote” editorial, I thought about the people I actually want to reach — those people who wouldn’t normally take time out of their day for the express purpose of standing in line just to throw their constitutionally guaranteed support behind a man or woman who they don’t really believe in.
I feel their pain.
I’ve voted in every election that I’ve been able to vote in, but the experience is unpleasant, and my near-constant dissatisfaction with the candidate field isn’t always the reason.
I’ve had candidates pitched to me in the waiting line by the kinds of people you cross the street to avoid when you see them coming. I’ve said “No, thank you, I don’t want any campaign literature,” to starry-eyed partisans more times than I care to remember. I do my research, and I know who I’m going to vote for from the top of the card to the bottom before I walk through the doors of my polling station. It takes a lot more than a college activist or a retiree with too much time on their hands that is desperately clutching a pamphlet of bullet points to change my mind.
I’m part of the generation that was born with a cellphone in its hand, but there have been times when I feel like I’m looking at the control panel for a fighter jet when I’m in the voting booth.
But the reality is that the old adage that you forfeit your right to complain if you don’t vote will always hold true. And as a professional journalist, I know people absolutely cherish their right to complain, as well they should. Government, like anything else, is constantly in flux. The more that people speak up, the more ideas that are expressed, the better for all of us.
You have to participate in that process for your opinions to have any shred of validity. And for the average person who doesn’t have $10 million to donate to a campaign or Super PAC, that participation begins with a vote. So go out and vote. There, I said it.
Michael Gebelein is Managing Editor of the Lincoln Times-News.