The first election I was able to vote in would have been the spring 1994 primary. The first election I actually voted in was autumn's general election of 2004. Ten years went by where my right to vote went unused. People had fought and died -- in wars and in the streets -- for my right to vote, and I'd case it aside with the usual excuses of, 'They're all crooked, anyway, so it doesn't matter,' or 'My right to vote is balanced with my right not to vote.' Meanwhile, elections came and went, policy was decided, and I'd had nary an input.
Things changed in 2004, and the world (for better or worse) has George W. Bush to thank for me getting me off my keister and becoming politically involved. With the Bush administration, the two main sticking points (though there were others) were our handling of the Iraq War, and lack of seeing the LGBTQ community as equal citizens. Karl Rove's orchestration of the culture wars was in full swing, and I felt under attack. I wanted to join the political arena, and started with the local Democratic Party be default (it certainly wasn't going to be the Republicans, with Bush at the helm). Involvement led to running for office and, well, here we are.
I was thinking about this as the election results came in across the country on the night of Tuesday, November 7th, and Democrats and minority candidates swept many of the races. Maine voters said they wanted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. States all across the country, from New Hampshire to Washington, and municipalities from Boston to Boise, saw a plethora of minority candidates elected to office. Out and proud people from the LGBTQ community, as well as women, African-American, Asian, Indian, Sikh and more, will now represent constituents across the nation. As the results came in during the evening, I thankfully tweeted that it was a good night for America.
We are a country with a wonderful myriad of people, from different backgrounds, ethnicity, religions, orientations, etc. It is our commonality. It is, in my opinion, what makes us strong. It would seem logical for this great cross-section of people to be represented by those who are like them. Last week, we got a little closer to that. I hope that some day it is no longer newsworthy when we elect a Sikh mayor, a transgender city council member, or a gay representative. I hope we reach a point where it becomes so commonplace when we elect these people that, instead of generating headlines, our reaction will be to say, 'Of course we did.' It means our society will be in a much better place.
It is unfortunate that it sometimes takes a negative in order to create a positive, but then that's human nature, isn't it? We need motivation, even if it's antagonistic. I remained listless about politics until George W. Bush pissed me off. For many others, it was Donald Trump. Whatever it takes for us to become engaged. We all have our moment when it's time to become involved, whatever our beliefs or political affiliations are. And there will be hills and valleys, highs and lows. We just need to remain engaged in the process.