“This is the most important election of our lifetime.”
How many times have you heard that line in the last 18 months? And you’re still sitting there?
Hopefully by now you’ve registered to vote and have requested an absentee ballot if you’re voting out of state. Maybe in addition to reading the YDN opinion pages and The New York Times online you also read a few blogs and polling sites. Maybe you watch The Daily Show or CNN or Fox News. Maybe you listen to conservative talk radio or NPR and maybe you’ve even been to the candidates’ Web sites and read up on their policies. It’s possible that you’ve reached into your student-sized budget and donated to a campaign. And by sundown on Nov. 4, you’ll probably be watching the returns come in, an “I voted” sticker on your collar.
All of these — especially voting — are important. But you can do more.
Whatever issues are important to you — the economic crisis, affordable health care, excellent public education, the global climate change, the war in Iraq — you can find a reason to care about the outcome of this election. Even those who consider themselves apathetic still have reason to be concerned. We all want good jobs, safe streets, college education for our kids, comfortable retirement for our parents and clean water to drink. If the last eight years have shown us anything, it’s that we can’t count on these things to happen without the right leaders.
Regardless of who you support in this election, there’s no doubt about it: more people are finding meaning in this election than ever before. Barack Obama’s message — that people need to be invested in their government again, that we can still pull ourselves out of George Bush’s mess if we work together — is bringing an unprecedented number and diversity of people to voter registration drives, door knocks and phone banks. It’s time to join them.
Your vote is important, but it is only one vote. If you care about this election, convincing others to care is the next step. In our Yale bubble, it may seem as if everyone is educated about the election and even that everyone’s voting for the right candidate. To many of us, voting is a no-brainer. But that isn’t true for many Americans. Who they vote for on Election Day, indeed, whether or not they show up to the polls at all, will affect you, just as your vote will affect them. Talking directly and personally to voters — going door-to-door and phone banking — has repeatedly been proven to be the most effective way of convincing them to support a particular candidate and of getting them to the polls. If you have an opinion (and if you’re a Yalie, admit it, you do), don’t just share it with your suitemates. Share it with an undecided voter. Convince them to go to the polls on Election Day and vote for candidates who will best serve them and represent their ideals about America.
Spend an hour or two talking to undecided voters in Florida on the phone. Walk door-to-door in the beautiful fall foliage of New Hampshire. Make change right here in Connecticut, convincing people to vote in the race for the last Republican-held congressional district in New England. Drive Yalies to the polls on Nov. 4. Organize your friends to take a trip to a swing state over Election Day weekend. Ask your politically active friends how to get involved. Talking to voters is easy, effective and incredibly fulfilling. When your grandkids ask you what you were doing in the historic elections of 2008, you’ll have a something to say.
Decisions are made by those who show up — and by those who were convinced to show up by others. There are just under three weeks left to get involved, and this really is the most important election of our lifetime.
Sarah Turbow and John Riley are juniors in Calhoun College. Jacob Koch is a junior in Timothy Dwight College. They are three of the co-heads of Yale for Change.