Elections and hernias

The ballot from my first electionBy now, you’ve heard plenty of people (including myself) tell you how crucial these midterm elections are and how important it is for you to come out and vote. If you are still unconvinced, let me tell you about my hernia.

A few months ago, I noticed that my belly button looked a little strange. I didn’t feel any pain, but I asked my doctor to check it out. He said I have an umbilical hernia. He referred me to a specialist who told me that I should have minor outpatient surgery to get it fixed even if it didn’t cause me any pain. If I didn’t take care of it now, the tear could widen, cause internal organs to get tangled, and require major emergency surgery. It was better to have some small repairs done now than to do major and riskier repairs later on.

What does all that navel gazing have to do with politics?

America has a political hernia right now. We have a tear in our social fabric and government institutions. The checks and balances that are supposed to protect us from abuse of power are failing. Our core values are under attack. Our leaders ignore human rights abuses, mock victims of sexual assault, openly support racists, call for the shredding of programs taxpayers have contributed to for their entire working lives, and tacitly encourage physical attacks on journalists.

Maybe you don’t feel any pain from this. You have a good job, your stock portfolio is doing great, and you feel safe in your neighborhood. Sure, the president has said some crazy things in his rallies, prices are going up while your salary isn’t, policies like separating migrant children disturb you, and that Kavanaugh guy seems a bit of a douche. Still, nothing bad has happened to you. But like an untreated hernia, the problems will only worsen until we have a stock market crash, another war, a major climate change-based disaster, or our civil liberties have been taken away. By then, it’s too late.

The problem has to be fixed now. We can do it by voting.

We need a Congress that will perform its constitutional duty to check executive power. But the races that have the greatest day-to-day impact on our lives are the ones no one pays attention to. These are the judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, city councils, and water boards. And if you don’t think boards of education are important, look at Broward County, Florida. Every race in every election matters.

Voting does require work. We must go to the polls informed. We can’t just follow party lines or get distracted by polls or social media bots. We must choose candidates who serve our interests and set our communities and country in the right direction. We must hold to account those who are beholden to lobbyists, derelict in their responsibilities, or put party and personal ambitions over country. We need to study ballot propositions carefully and pay attention to who backs each side and why.

We then need to go to the polls and vote. This isn’t easy for people in communities with voter suppression efforts and possible hacking. We need to show up anyway. When we don’t, we wind up with the situation we have now. And when unchecked power, rampant corruption, and brutal repression take root in a society, it is difficult and painful to get rid of it.

Think of this midterm election as the minor corrective surgery this country needs to heal and protect its institutions and values. Voting may be uncomfortable and inconvenient. The alternative is far more painful and dangerous.

And the way to avoid this pain in the future is to stay informed, get involved in your communities, and vote in every election from now on.