If you wake up each morning, read the news, and find yourself upset or stunned or disgusted or disturbed on a regular basis, now is your chance to do something about it.
You might think politicians' bad decisions — the ones that have led to all of those awful news cycles about domestic and international embarrassments, about barbarically retrogressive, unabashedly ignorant policy shifts and 3 a.m. Twitter outbursts — happen at a level far above your head. But they don’t. Decisions are made by those who show up. And right now, it’s time to show up at your local polling place and make sure your opinions count.
If you can’t stand to listen to more National Rifle Association-funded drivel about thoughts and prayers while toddlers and teenagers go to school just hoping to make it out alive, get out and vote.
If you can’t handle another cop caught on camera kicking the shit out of a black kid for no apparent reason and facing no discernible consequences, get out and vote.
If you don’t want to see more videos of the water in Stuart and Indian River turning fluorescent green while the beaches of Naples and Sarasota are littered with dead turtles and choking manatees, get out and vote.
Primaries aren’t sexy. And though voting for candidates you’d like a chance to vote for again in a few months might not have the same cachet as electing a president, it does matter. This is where you get to begin asserting control over the process, where you get to read up on the candidates and learn what’s important to them and whether their values align with yours. This is where you have the power in our republic.
Disappointingly, that right to choose often goes wasted in Florida. During the 2016 presidential election, a little more than 50 percent of the state’s registered voters cast ballots. That percentage, unsurprisingly, was brought down by voters under the age of 30, only 56 percent of whom voted, compared to 82 percent of voters over the age of 65.
And if you think that’s a hollow statistic, consider the fact that Susan MacManus, a political analyst and former political science professor at the University of South Florida, recently told the Sun Sentinel that if young voters had turned out in greater numbers, Florida’s 29 electoral votes would have gone to Hillary Clinton.
Elections — even primaries — are about much more than whether a circuit court judge or a state representative or a county commissioner has any obvious, immediate effects on your daily life (though each absolutely does). If you care about kids getting a proper education in Florida’s public schools, you might want to care about who’s sitting on the school board, for instance.
Do you want Florida's beaches to remain open to the public? Do you want access to medical marijuana for those who need it, for those who voted for it? Do you want there to be any semblance of a chance of gun reform coming to this state anytime soon? Do you want to see Florida get ahead of the curve and above the waterline when it comes to climate change and sea-level rise? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you might want to pay attention to the race for governor.
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Are you outraged that people who simply want to love whomever they choose and live their own truth have to be afraid of exposure, of losing their livelihoods or even their lives? Are you outraged by mothers being torn away from their babies at the border as they come here in search of the America dream and instead are met with a waking nightmare?
Then go vote. It's perhaps your greatest means to express your outrage over the injustices we are all witnesses to in today’s America. Your social media righteousness won't bring about the change that the voiceless and disenfranchised need. But voting can. The people who would like to keep the voiceless silent and the disenfranchised powerless already have the power of the ballot box figured out. Where we are today is a testament to that fact. The demons that have haunted the American conscience since this nation was a set of colonies don’t stay home on Election Day. Neither can the better angels of our nature.
The right to vote is one of the bedrock ideals upon which this nation was built. It's one of the rights for which soldiers and civil rights activists have fought and died. Your vote is the way you stand up and make yourself heard. And there is entirely too much for you to be too pissed off about for you to let that vote go uncounted. Get out and vote, Florida.
Election Day in Miami-Dade County is August 28. Early voting is offered now through August 26. Visit miamidade.gov/departments/elections to find out where you can vote.