As Election Day approaches there is an unusual hush over the nation. It is not the hush of productivity though; it is the hush of distraction. We as a community seem to have the attention span of a gnat. Unable to focus on what’s most important because we are bombarded daily with content masquerading as facts or information that is useful for daily living.
COVID-19 and its ominous presence among us has overtaken our psyche, news hour and newsfeed. Opinions run the gambit – from it’s a hoax to we’re all gonna die, and while neither of these extremes is true, it’s a foreboding of what is to come.
The “Rona” has interrupted summer vacations, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and disrupted how we pay our respects to those we have lost. A heinous and ubiquitous pall has been cast over our lives because of it. Yet, life goes on. Spring still turned to summer. Summer will surely turn to fall and so on. The earth reminds us that no matter what – we must continue.
The upcoming elections are probably one of the most critical in our lifetime. We cannot be distracted by Will and Jada or any table of any color. We cannot allow the shenanigans of even our President to keep us from what is now our most solemn duty – voting.
President Obama was a community organizer. This singular skill set, among many other gifts and talents embedded in his leadership skill portfolio, won him the election. He knew and still advocates that if we have an issue with any elected official, we must express our support or displeasure at the polls. This election year is no different in recognizing that fundamental truth.
Many have heard all this before, but it now bears repeating – too many have given their lives for us to have the right to have a say in who leads this country for us to stay home.
So, let’s deal with the folks that are demanding Joe Biden select an African American VP and if he doesn’t, then they won’t vote.
First of all, that’s like arranged child marriages. Who enjoys being told who to love? No one. Yep, I’m mixing metaphors here because while we can make suggestions and even strong recommendations, this is not our call to make. The person selected must be able to work with Joe, agree with his agenda and not mind being a part of his team. There’s more to consider than the photo-op and historicity of the matter. Are there qualified African American names that should make Biden’s VP short list? Yes. Should we advocate that they do? Yes. Should there be anything that keeps us from voting for Biden even if he doesn’t select a Black woman? No. Here’s why: we have for better or worse, a two-party political system that demands we vote for one of two candidates. Period. Staying home this time, only ensures the victory of the incumbent and in no way hurts the candidate running against him.
Don’t be that naïve. Don’t be that extreme either. You hate your boss, but you still take your Black self to work. You deal with people every day you wouldn’t necessarily hang out with after work or on a weekend. Same premise, different scenario. Don’t suddenly be so high and mighty that you cut off more than your nose to spite your face and risk four more years of flagrant disregard for truth and belligerent ignorance masquerading as leadership. Americans have lost so much in the last four years that it will take at least two competent, 24/7/365, terms just to get us back to Obama metrics on any issue: climate change, gender equality, arms agreements, social justice, financial market stability and let’s not even mention our overall standing in the world as a true global power for good and not comedy and memes.
The real world is happening right in front of us. You can pretend that by voting Democrat for every category except President or writing in some overlooked candidates’ name is doing something, but it really is only making you feel better or righteous and sending your vote for president straight to the incumbent.
So here’s what we can expect:
There will be voter suppression. It has been on full display in state primaries already. VOTE ANYWAY.
There will be voter intimidation. Fake poll taxes. Russian interference. Gun toting hoorahs trying to confuse you or simply intimidate you on your way in the door. VOTE ANYWAY.
There will be long lines and misinformation. VOTE ANYWAY.
There will be people in those lines and at your polling sites that don’t like you, don’t agree with you and will express their opinion. VOTE ANYWAY.
Do I have to remind you about how many people lost their lives for you to exercise this simple right? The most recent being the most Honorable John Lewis.
I had the opportunity to lead a bus tour through the deep south for President Clinton in 1992 as a final push to Election Day. Our speakers were the formidable members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Mike Espy, Charlie Rangel, Cardis Collins, Bill Clay, Kwesi Mfume, Donald Payne, Barbara Lee and Sheila Jackson Lee. What an honor to host them. In true Black people style, a game of bid whist broke out and Charlie “Harlem World” Rangel and Cardis “Chi-town” Collins were whooping the pants off of John Lewis and Bill Clay to the point of tears of laughter.
Charlie Rangel was talking about people’s mama with true bid whist bravado. As the game came to an end, John Lewis began to recount stories from his time with Dr. King and the entire bus was silent as he regaled us with stories of the legend of a man who walked among us and gave his life along with many nameless, faceless others for the rights we so lazily take for granted today. By the time he was done, there was water in every eye. Even the bus driver slowed his pace as John Lewis’ southern drawl filled the air and our hearts with pride. Every accomplishment and every sacrifice gave new meaning to the work at hand – electing a Democratic president. It was a privilege to do so. A right sprinkled with the blood of the fallen. When he finished speaking, we had arrived at our next campaign stop and the fire was lit. We met the Vice President there and we lit such a fire under those folks that we took that state from Republican incumbents from the top of the ballot to the bottom. This is the power of your vote and a little inspiration.
Part of the reason people are mourning the loss of Reverend C.T. Vivian and Congressman Lewis is the realization that nobody is coming to save us Black people. We are going to have to save ourselves. Nobody is coming to “lead” us anywhere. We’re going to have to lead ourselves. We are going to have to both lead and serve. We’re going to have to make logical decisions in a world filled with illogical people and an imperfect political system that can work against us far too often. Every once in a while, it works the way it should and that is when we turnout and vote like we should have been voting all along.
So, make sure you and your voting-age family members vote – whether or not Puffy runs Get Out The Vote (GOTV) ads on Revolt and MTV. Make sure your neighbors vote and folks have rides to the polls – whether or not Bob Johnson gets you 40 acres and a mule. VOTE as if your life depends on it, because if you didn’t know before, you now know. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE.
We have the power to change the course of history — for real. Show every force opposing our very existence in this country, that every right given will be exercised no matter what the opposition.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable, undeniable, irrefutable rights, among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — and the end of incompetence in the highest office in the land. If you believe that, then VOTE.
Michele R. Brown is a former political operative who served at the DNC under Chairman Ron Brown and Deputy Chair, Alexis Herman – and both Clinton administrations. Writer. Critical Thinker. Storyteller. Dog Person. Follow her @micheles_pen on Twitter and @MichelezPen on Facebook.