Don’t Vote Angry; Why Doesn’t Compassion Get Us to the Polls?

Early voter turnout has been seriously impressive during these first few days. It’s not possible, yet, to know where the votes are landing, but there is a solid chance that we’ll break records this year.

The problem is that this massive turnout seems to be largely driven by anger. I’m sorry, anger is too soft a word. Voters on every side are being driven by rage and/or terror. Many of us are literally (in the classical sense of the word) voting for our lives.

What would happen if liberal voters matched the participation of conservative voters every year (based on the proportion of eligible voters that belong to one coalition or the other and NOT on showing up in equal numbers), and why don’t we? Why do we not expect, and even demand, to be represented equally?

I’ve got ideas, and the conclusion I’ve come to is disheartening. We’re only showing up to vote because we feel passionate at this moment. Next time*, if things are going just a little better, most of us will stay home and the conservative voice will be the one heard above all others.

Republicans are fear-driven. They vote from a defensive posture and always feel like they’re fighting to protect their personal pot of gold. It’s like a wide-spread, mainstreamed anxiety disorder. What we see, externally, from them is anger and hate, but both of those emotions are masks for fear. They don’t want to be seen as weak and cowardly, so they project rage, but the truth is that they feel threatened by other people having a fair share of anything.

Liberals, whether we approve of the Democratic political machine or not, tend to be driven by hope, compassion, a sense of collaborative effort to improve life. These are lovely motivations, but the feelings they engender are soft and calm and peaceful. Wonderful emotions to experience, but they do not spur action.

Our problem is that we expect the universe to reflect what we value. Reasonable people stay home because they expect the majority of the world to be reasonable. Compassionate people stand by and wait because they’re sure that most people are fundamentally compassionate. Logical people don’t make laws against absurdly unethical behaviors because they don’t see that those laws could ever be necessary.

And here we are.

I do very much believe that there are far more reasonable, compassionate, ethical people in our country than there are greedy, hateful people. We will never know that with any certainty until voting becomes an expectation rather than a statement.

What steps will move us from here to there?


*Next time is next year, btw. Voting happens every year. I was in my late thirties before that fact really hit home with me.

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