Hey everyone! I realize it is now *after* the American elections have been held, but there are some takeaways I’m seeing and it never hurts to talk about them.
The Mayoral Race in a “Big” City
I live in a moderately large Midwestern city. It’s a diverse city of just over 250,000 people (that’s pretty darn big for my state, as we’re either the 2nd or 3rd largest in the state).
And we just had a very contentious mayoral election.
My state is generally depicted as a “red state,” meaning we tend to be Republican leaning (with a healthy dose of far right-wing demagogues in our midst). My city’s mayor for the last 12 years has been a Democrat. (That’s kind of a long time, but not nearly as long as my hometown, where our 7th mayor in 150 years just got elected. People tend to keep the job for as long as they want it.)
Enter the Republican challenger. Now, I know the challenger personally, which is by far the weirdest feeling ever. I went to school with his kids. He was my softball coach for years as a kid. He was a pastor for a time in my hometown (though I didn’t attend his nondenominational church). My family, upon hearing he was running for mayor, not-so-quietly began sharing our experiences with him with our friends. (Let me just say he’s a My-Way-Or-The-Highway type. When his son didn’t make an all-star baseball team, there was a forced “recount” of the vote and my brothers got knocked of while his suddenly made it. Weird coincidence.)
Anyway, he ran a brutal campaign.
His campaign said that our city was a violent, dangerous city. He claimed our current mayor was destroying the city. He used scare-tactics and made wild promises that, as my mother so eloquently put it, “He won’t be getting any sleep ever if he’s going to keep all those promises.”
The problem was this campaign was sorely out of touch with reality. A brand new park was opened this year that was the toast of the town. Numerous projects are under development to make the city more exciting and friendly to any event that wants to come. Things, for the most part, are going well. So the use of those scare tactics was a serious miscalculation.
And not only that, but this Republican challenger made himself something of an easy target. For one thing, he only moved within city limits 5 years ago, though he claimed himself a “lifelong resident.” (He’s from my hometown, which borders this city, but they are distinctly different entities.) He also said on TV that his favorite part of campaigning was going door to door and meeting all different levels of people, with the implication being that he was meeting poor people. (He himself is quite affluent and well-off.) Everything he ran on made him look naive in his ridiculous promises or a fearmongerer.
Last night, the result of the election was the incumbent winning 61% to the challenger’s 39%. It was the most decisive win for our four-time mayor in all of his elections. It was a brutal blow for the county’s Republican party, especially as they also lost seats in the city council.
I keep hearing about this “blue wave” that’s supposedly hitting America, where historically “red” states and cities are starting to flip Democratic. It seems that was the case in a lot of elections Tuesday, including some in cities that have fought hard for voter rights.
Because that’s really what this all boils down to: there are too many disenfranchised voters out there who, for one reason or another, have been removed from voter rolls, don’t have a valid ID because of money or hours that they can access them, or any other obscene laws states have put in place to make it harder for everyone to vote.
When I first turned 18, I didn’t take voting very seriously. I thought it was cool that I was now able to, but that was about it. I didn’t bother with primaries or elections until I was out of college. (The first time I voted was to vote absentee in the 2012 presidential election, at 21.) It didn’t seem like my vote really mattered when it was combined with so many thousands of others.
But Every. Vote. Matters.
In my county, they were ecstatic about the unusually high voter turnout across the county. You know how many eligible voters came out?
Just over 30%. In the county. And this was great news.
I’m utterly appalled. I realize it wasn’t a “big” election for anyone in my county. A few mayor, some city council members, but no senators, representatives, or presidents. But 30%? More people couldn’t be bothered to come out and cast a vote?
And let me even share this. I have social anxiety when it comes to going new places. Having just moved in April, my polling place was new to me. I was pretty nervous about going there. Would I know where to go inside? Would I get lost, even though I literally pass the church on my way to school every day? (I don’t know how it works where you live, but in the Bible Belt, our polling places are nearly always churches.) But I overcame it because I needed to show my support for the mayor. One of my friends votes absentee every year because her life is crazy and she’s never sure what time she’s going to have to go vote. There are options.
Next year, we have a big vote ahead of us. Lots of Reps and Senators are up for reelection. Obviously it’s another presidential election last year. (The upside is it’s also the year for the Summer Olympics, so…)
Your voice matters. Your vote matters. Your candidate might lose, but you made your voice heard. You didn’t make it easy for the challenger.
Voting is about you sharing your opinion anonymously. Do it. It really truly matters.