Years ago when I went to college, I had an American Government class. The first day of class, back in 1999, my teacher came in. I was very excited about this class, being interested in learning more than they never really did teach us in high school about the way the government actually works. They spent so much time on the colonization of the United States, its formation, the wars, that when it came to current day events we always seemed just never get to that part. The internet wasn’t much more diverse than a set of good encyclopedias at this point, and your major headlines still came much faster in the newspaper. Anyway, back to American Government…
My first day of class I was in for a shock when my teacher approached the front of the lecture hall filled with over 700 eager young college students and simply said “Your Vote Does Not Matter.” I didn’t get it. In high school we were taught we vote for President, you count up the votes and then whoever has the most wins… But no. He explained you don’t ever get to really “Vote” for a president. You get to vote for a person that you HOPE is going to vote for the presidential candidate you want, members of the Electoral College. Which gets really confusing because you’d think the Electoral College members would be the ones with the bigger campaigns since they are the ones you actually vote for. Its not a direct vote. Why? Because the American Government doesn’t blindly trust it’s people. They don’t trust the people not to vote for, well… a celebrity?
Anyway, his lecture continued as he further explained the workings of the law, and how NJ is a “Democratic” state and has been for the past 6 elections so no matter who you’re voting for, in vain, you may as well not show up if you’re not voting Democratic, and if you are voting that way, why bother going to the polls at all because we’re already going to vote that way as a state, with or without you. Needless to say, he had a pretty bad attitude about it all and it was highly discouraging. He then went on to talk about state laws, and how difficult the process was to change it. The teacher went on for hours about how your vote matters so little that if you want to make a change in the world, if you want to change a law, you are going to spend your entire life and your entire life’s savings for a slim chance to get this law passed, in the hopes that not your children, not your grand children, but your great grandkids will feel the effects of it. Also very discouraging. But he wasn’t entirely off base. This was really how difficult it was to get things done in 1999, and it was really that difficult to reach the people and get your voices heard. Needless to say, I spent many years in a bitter hole, boycotting elections and choosing not to vote because its like he said, “My vote doesn’t really matter anyway.” Its simply not loud enough to be heard or to make an impact.
But now its 2016, and with the dawning of the age of social media, and the social uproar of the upcoming elections and constant candidate propaganda all over the internet, I’d be amazed if that same teacher was singing the same tune. With the rapid and ever expanding advancements in social media and technology, with biased TV stations and newspapers not being the only people able to publish their version of the “truth” or the “news” that suits their economical/political needs your voice can indeed be heard loud and clear. Social Media reaches people instantaneously. The ability to reach the eyes and ears of everyone across the United States is now at your disposal for a lot less than the cost of emptying your life’s savings. Daresay you could make a large dent in a politicians campaign or your own mission to rally for change by simply maxing out a small credit card, and blogging/publishing and promoting nights and weekends. And that is exactly what is happening right now. For the first time ever people are finally making the most out of social media to get their political voices heard and to help promote change and the decisions that are going to be made for their future regarding the Presidency. They are rallying to support candidates, they are creating news and discussions, they are sharing articles that promote their cause… And this is wonderful! You can finally make a difference in this world if you choose. You can finally be heard. And your vote is finally mattering more than ever.
However, now that your voices are so loud and so able to reach the masses and influence those around you there are times where our political ranting is doing more harm than good. Where as in recent years the elections went under the radar and you really needed to go well out of your way to know what your peers thought and what was going on with each candidate – now this information is so readily available you can rally and support your favorite candidate without even leaving your own house. More people are getting involved in the election than ever and still, all wonderful things – except not every one is a publicist, and they don’t know that the more they personally attack or bash opposing candidates in their own party, the more quarrels they create over which candidate is the best and why, the more they are creating a division within the party.
Knowledge is power and this power and the expression of this power, the stronger the candidates get and the more people who begin to voice their opinion – but with two strongly supported Democratic candidates with completely at each other’s throats (not unlike any other election, however) with every bad word, image, post, tweet, instagram or video we create a further division between the two parties and a further chance of the entire Democratic party reuniting after a Presidential candidate is chosen. And its not just the supporters, there is word of the candidates investing money into social media sabotage against the other, low blows which may in turn win one of them the battle, but without being united, could ultimately cost them the war. To put it in simpler terms, the victory of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton is just a playoff game, before the Super Bowl. Before the main event. If we have half the country Republican, and half Democratic, but that Democratic party is split 50/50- the Democrats need to support, respect and unite after the candidate has been nominated to run, or they are facing a 25% vote against the Republicans with a 25% vote spitefully against the Democratic Candidate who won. I hear more than ever, I’m Democrat but I won’t vote for this candidate, (from both parties) but the truth of the matter is you have to really come down to the overall goals of your party and what you believe – where does your priority lie? If your candidate loses, will your dislike for the other candidate cause you to vote for an independent in which case, taking your vote away from the Democrats, inadvertently giving leverage to the Republican party? With all this negative propaganda being spread all over the internet and candidates attacking each other on a social media platform, is this freedom of speech and expression causing pent up animosity toward candidates, causing a strong separation that wouldn’t have had such a peer influence otherwise without access to all of the news, supporters, groups and any other anti/pro candidate media?
Now I’m proud of what many Americans are doing with social media. Unlike the discouragement of my teacher, I encourage every single American to not only have a vote but to have a voice. The stronger you believe, the bigger and louder you should make your voice heard. But in a positive way. In a way that shows the best sides of each candidate and the positive changes they are going to make in our country. Instead of attacking each half of the Democratic party, I would like them to take a step back and promote their supported candidates for all the right reasons, because in the end of the day, you will both need the support of each other, and the solid support of those Electoral votes, no matter who moves forward as the nominated Presidential candidate.
At times its hard not to be negative and fear the unknown, but we do need to rally faith in each other and not use this social vehicle to turn on each other’s supporters. Educate each other instead. Enlighten each other in a positive way. Use forums and groups for candidate discussions on their policies and plans. Your voice goes much further and his heard much more effectively, and its for that very reason during this election that it makes much more of an impact both positively and negatively, not only toward the candidates but to their supporters personally. It also can create a negative mob mentality. Don’t let them turn into heated rants and slander. Stay composed and help educate people by giving them the facts. I’m definitely not saying “Don’t discredit the opposing candidate” – I’m saying keep it civil and keep it political. Show the facts, make your points, and stay polite. Use your voice not to put down opposing supporters but to influence and encourage those around you who may not be involved to get educated and choose a side they believe in.
We also need to stop putting down each other personally for our personal political beliefs. It only separates the party farther when you rant about the lack of IQ or competency of Hillary Vs Bernie Supporters. Your peers are taking this personally and it is even discouraging some people from having a voice or getting involved at all. They don’t want to be chastised or put down for their beliefs on politics or anything else for that matter. Regardless of who wins we all have a voice and are all in this together. Be kind, respectful and courteous of another person’s political affiliation as you would anything else – race, religion, gender, social economic status… Stay united. Agree to disagree, keep it positive and don’t let the negative energy get ahold of you. In the end you will need the support of your peers to make a strong decision to unite. Happy Campaigning!