I have a confession: In all my years since I turned 18, I’ve never once voted. Not once. Until today.
Call it cynicism, call it apathy, call it simply the selfishness of being a part of the demographic that our system is currently built to ensure succeeds above all others, but I never really saw the need. For the presidential primaries, every state I’ve lived in has been firmly blue for decades, and the electoral college essentially negated the need to cast my ballot among an overwhelming majority in a two-party system. It would have been effectively the opening shovel of dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony while a dump truck backed up behind me.
As for local senate, house, judicial, county, and city candidates and measures, none ever came up on my local ballots that were of any great importance to me. There was no great change to be made, no leap forward for the country waiting on the choice of its citizens; those battles were being fought elsewhere. I was a single white upper middle class male with no children renting his home, the only changes that hit my radar were big systemic ones, landmarks for the rights of a generation.
Then 2016 happened, and the already tenuous bottom the US political climate would stoop to fell out. I consider myself extremely politically moderate, able to appreciate the arguments of both sides even when I fall firmly on one of them. However watching the Republican party set itself on fire, collapse, then somehow re-emerge as some sort of hellish mutation of itself was baffling. But then its own victims rallied to support it, like some sort of large-scale Stockholm Syndrome. Dirt was flung from all sides, the Democratic party had more than its own share of scandal material unearthed and painted across the sky, but nothing could touch the political Godzilla that was the Republican presidential primary, seemingly growing stronger from each radioactive media meltdown it left in its path, our hubris coming to haunt us as a destructive monstrosity of our own creation.
I couldn’t not register this year. The true cynic in me could’ve sat back, Australian passport in hand, and waited, like watching your drunk neighbor try to prove his gun was in fact unloaded by pointing it at his face and pulling the trigger. But this wasn’t just about what could be tangibly lost, and there was plenty of potential for that. I’d be damned if I could let myself stand by and leave my dignity in the hands of others.
And so I voted.