Today you're going to hear a lot of exhortations to please go vote, and some will hit home for you while others won't. The idea that Every Vote Counts simply won't ring true for those of us who live in states where the outcome seems certain, since the attention and spending of the campaigns tells us otherwise. For many of us, other priorities my trump our sense of civic duty, especially if we think that nothing is on the line in our states.
But, whether you live in the bluest of the blue states, or the reddest of the red, your vote in this election is crucial, and here are three seldom-heard reasons why:
1. There are lots of measures on the ballots that need your serious attention
I'm a reasonably well-read guy, and try to stay informed, yet I was shocked (and a little embarrassed at my ignorance) to open my California ballot and find a proposition for repeal of the state's death penalty! The fact is, the ballot measures that get all of the TV time, both in the news and on the commercials, are those funded or opposed by deep-pocketed donors. In California, you're apt to hear a lot more, pro and con, about the "insurance discounts" proposition than about such important matters as death penalty repeal (Prop 34) or tougher penalties for human trafficking (Prop 35). Those more obscure amendments, because they're obscure, attract fewer voters, offering the greatest opportunity for your vote to truly make a difference.
In blue Maryland, Maine, Washington, and (fingers crossed) Minnesota, there are marriage equality measures on the ballots. Complacency (or hopelessness) about an Obama victory mustn't keep us from casting votes on these important measures.
Voting gives us the opportunity to read that ballot carefully and find and support those measures that matter most to us, TV commercials or no.
2. Obama needs to win the popular vote, not just the Electoral College
Remember 2000, when Gore won the popular vote, but Bush won the Electoral College? Remember the sense of uncertainty, the sense of injustice (magnified, of course, by events in Florida). Remember Gore's gracious concession speech urging his supporters to respect the rule of law?
"I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country." -- Al Gore
Now imagine the same scenario, but reversed.
Famed election predictor Nate Silver places the odds of Romney winning the popular vote at an unlikely-but-awfully-feasible 19.8 percent. The chances of Romney winning the popular vote while losing the Electoral College are just under 8 percent. This is too close for comfort, given the people involved. If we see a reversal of 2000, can we really expect a gracious concession from the Tea Party right, or from the presidential candidate who hasn't once stepped in to curb their excesses?
Can we expect Mitt Romney to evoke "love of country" as a salve for a divided America? No we cannot. We know, because Romney has already evoked that phrase.
"Did you see what Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge. I ask the American people to vote for love of country." -- Mitt Romney
Obama's statement last week that "voting is the best revenge" prompted Romney, in a fit of puffed-up indignation, to evoke "love of country" not as a call for peace, but as means to once again question the patriotism of Obama and his supporters.
In so doing, he speaks as if "revenge" and "love of country" are mutually exclusive and they certainly are not. The national desire to find and kill Osama bin Laden, for example, incorporated a fair amount of both. But then I wouldn't expect Mitt Romney to understand much about love of country.
After all, what "love of country" prompts a man to have offshore bank accounts and sketchy tax shelters, to engage in medicare fraud, to sass cops, to privately rant against 47 percent of its population? What "love of country" motivates a man to lie in unprecedented scope and quantity for a presidential campaign, shocking political observers on the left and the right with the brazen dishonesty of his attacks? What "love of country" makes a man change positions on every major issue of our time, lurching to the left or right depending on his audience, hiding his tax plan as well as his taxes, themselves, working as hard as possible to keep us from knowing what he'd really do in office?
Is "love of country" the phrase for the way Romney has conducted his life? His campaign? Because it looks to me like "contempt for the electorate." And, behind all that craven wheedling is a man arrogant enough to think that it will work, that America is uninterested in facts, in truth, in reality, and will reward his empty promises and vague insinuations with the presidency.
Maya Angelou famously said, "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them."
Romney has insulted our intelligence, dragged half this country -- elders, soldiers, working families -- through the mud, and buried us in a mountain of lies. He's pandered, flip-flopped, and obfuscated so shamelessly that he's practically dared the American people to call him on it. He's shown us who he is, and it's such an over-the-top spectacle of craven, self-satisfied opportunism that it's hard to even describe him, much less believe him.
Well, believe him. Not only should a campaign like Romney's be defeated, it should be defeated resoundingly. It shouldn't even be close.
Love of country? Yes. Revenge? You bet. Vote.
Wayne Self is a playwright and composer GLAAD media spokesperson who founded Owldolatrous Press, an online journal of analysis and inspiration for LGBTQ people and their friends. His current theatre project is a musical tribute to the 32 LGBT and allied victims of the 1973 arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, LA. Considered by many to be the largest hate crime against LGBT people in U.S. history, the fire is sometimes seen as a lesson in the perils of silence. "Upstairs" will give voice to the victims of the fire -- many of whom self-identified as Christian -- and is scheduled to premier next year, in time for the 40th anniversary of the tragedy. For more information about the Upstairs fire and upcoming production, please visit http://www.owldolatrous.com/?page_id=130.
Follow Wayne Self on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ewayneself