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We have just come through two years of campaigning, debates, arguments and hard feelings – to elect a president.
We have come through two years of advertising, campaign robocalls, misleading statements and stump speeches; two years of an incumbent who apparently was so busy proving why he should be re-elected, he neglected to do what he was sent to Washington to do in the first place – work for us. It doesn’t matter what side you’re on – that fact isn’t really hard to miss. By the way, most in Congress and the Senate forgot to do their jobs, as well.
We have come through two years that have left the candidates worn out from the battle and all of us worn out from the rhetoric. It has left us all wondering which of the dire predictions are actually true, and how soon we are headed over the “fiscal cliff.” It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN. Both sides have already drawn their lines in the sand, and those lines are FAR apart. And guess who’s in the middle?
There are issues left unresolved - Benghazi’s security issues and the bombshell from the very weekof the election - the resignation of CIA Director David Petreus. The same week of the election? The timing is a little bit odd there.
Regardless, some people went to bed very happy last Tuesday night, while others were less than thrilled at the results.
Personally, I was less than thrilled. My candidate didn’t win this year, nor did he win four years ago. I did not get on the ‘hope and change’ band wagon then, and I certainly wasn’t hoping for the change that came our way these past four years - an executive and legislative branch that cannot get anything accomplished, continued high unemployment, astronomical gas prices and increases in food prices.
No, this time, I was looking for change. But it didn’t happen the way I hoped.
But here’s the thing.
Regardless of which person you voted for – republican, democrat, libertarian, green party – if you voted, you took part in something that is really quite miraculous.
I’ve been a politics junky since I watched the 1972 conventions. I stayed up that November 7 to watch the biggest presidential election landslide ever – as George McGovern lost to Richard Nixon. Not only did Nixon win the popular vote – he won 520 electoral votes to McGovern’s 17. I was 11.
I have always been fascinated by politics, and spent some time working for county government and county politics in New Jersey.
So it would only be natural that my kids are going to have some exposure. Over the years, I have made debates a family affair, although the kids have never shown a lot of interest. Until this year. Both boys had questions this year and were interested in what was going on.
Neither of them has the level of interest I had when I was younger, and that’s fine. But they both know that they can’t just say “I like candidate X,” without being able to say something about why.
I was impressed when during the first debate, Brannon turned to me and said about one of the candidates, “He just isn’t answering the question that was asked.” And later, “I think that man just has better answers.”
Talking to the boys and answering their questions, made me realize just how privileged we are in this country, and what an amazing mechanism our system of voting is.
We just need to put aside all the things that bug us about election season; things like how long it is, how annoying it is, how much money is wasted and how misleading so many of the statements are – and focus on what it is we’re able to do.
We go into a booth, and cast our vote for the candidate we choose. We can keep our vote a secret or we can shout it from the rooftops. We can openly place signs on our properties and on our cars. We don’t have to be afraid to have an opinion.
And when the votes are counted, all that matters is that we are Americans – and this is our president. He may or may not be our choice – but he’s still OUR president.
I took Brannon with me to the polls this year. I’ve done it before, but this is the first time he really gets what it was all about. He’s the same age I was when I got “hooked.”
As we drove to my polling place, Brannon asked why the election is in November, but the inauguration isn’t until January. We talked about the transition of power. How two candidates might have different views during the campaign, but the very next day – if the people vote for a change – then those two candidates begin the process of a peaceful and civil transition.
We have a responsibility to exercise our right to vote. It’s not just something nice to do – it’s something we need to do. Millions of people around the world look to us – wishing for the opportunities we have. Our right to vote is an opportunity to shape this country.
Campaigns are exhausting, and by the end, many of us are disillusioned by the process.
But speaking for myself – when I step into that booth, select my candidates and press that green VOTE button – I always take a deep breath before I open that curtain. I always take a moment to reflect on what I have done.
This year was no different.
As I talked with the boys, my excitement for the process was rekindled. And on inauguration day – I will stand proud as I listen to the president take the oath of office. I might wish it was a different person standing there – but I’m sure I’ll shed a tear nonetheless that our democracy endures – and I am part of it.