This fall, several of my students have (separately) voiced that they have stayed away from politics because they “didn’t feel informed enough” to get involved.
And, I mean, I guess I sort of get that, after my initial recoil.
Social workers have an ethical obligation to competence, after all, and it is hard to keep up with all of the different races, and the different candidates’ positions, and what the fact-checkers uncovered this week.
And, for all of the talk about one vote not really mattering, no one wants to wake up the next morning and realized you cast a ballot for THAT candidate, without really understanding the ramifications.
You know plenty.
What I tell my students, and what we need to remember, is that our ethical obligation to engage in advocacy in pursuit of social justice means that we have no excuse for non-participation. It is essentially not an option.
So if we feel paralyzed by lack of information, we have to find some way over, around, under, or through that particular obstacle.
- Recognize that failing to vote is, in essence, the same net effect as voting for the candidate you didn’t want to win. So you’re not exactly ‘off-the-hook’, in terms of not voting in ignorance, even if you don’t vote. You’re there, you’re eligible, and so you figure into the equation one way or another.
- Remember that there’s no absolute standard for intellect or even political engagement for voting. If we hold ourselves to a higher standard, as a ‘cost of entry’ than the general polity, we’re self-selecting out of the political process. We’re not raising the bar universally.
- Educate yourself. Forget trying to understand every issue or analyze every speech. Find some issues that matter to you, a lot, and use them as a guide. I don’t necessarily object to the ‘single-issue voter’, as long as you understand that that narrow a lens will, necessarily, lead you to support some candidates whose positions on a wide range of other issues run directly contrary to your interests. But, still, if what you really care about, more than anything, is public education, then just spend energy figuring out where the candidates stand on that.
Election day is next Tuesday. If you don’t already have your absentee ballot, make plans now to fit voting into your daily schedule.
Hopefully you’ll have to wait a while, because turnout will be high and lines long.
You can stand next to all of the other people, who don’t know every nuance of every race, either, but who are there to make their preferences felt.
Just like yours will be.