THE BLOG
07/15/2016 03:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Make This Election Day A National Holiday

2016-07-15-1468603594-3792665-ballotbox.jpgOn Tuesday, November 8th, we have our annual opportunity, our annual responsibility, to head to the polls to exercise our right to participate in the electoral process.

But we the people don't hold Election Day in high regard and once again democracy will be the biggest loser. We treat the first Tuesday in November just like every other day except that many public school children lose the use of their gym for the day.

It's time to turn Election Day into a national holiday. Not a malls-open-at-5 a.m., auto-sales-marathon holiday, but a fitting national holiday in which only essential services -- fire, police, hospitals -- are allowed to be called into work.

Participation is the single most powerful weapon of our democracy. Voting, with its myriad of imperfections, remains the cornerstone of who we are as a people, as a nation.

Voting is the spark that sets democracy in action, yet a majority of U.S. citizens voluntarily surrender their vote and are a part of democracy inaction.

More than any recent election, we are in need a national voting day where the polls become festive places where neighbors who disagree on candidates and issues congregate as a community. Pass out the donuts and cider and stand in line with your fellow citizens.

Because on November 9th, we still have to live together.

Imagine 90 percent of eligible voters showing up at the polls and casting their vote. Imagine politicians realizing that all the people are paying attention to what they do. Imagine the beauty of a participatory democracy in which all citizens participate.

It's not hard to make it happen. We can combine Veterans Day with Election Day and truly honor our veterans. Or we could vote on July 4th and truly honor our revolution.

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In 1776, while serving in the Continental Army, Thomas Paine wrote the words, "These are the times that try men's souls." General Washington had Paine read his essay, "The Crisis Number 1", to the troops. At the time, Washington was retreating and he wanted Paine's words to inspire the soldiers to persevere in their fight to create a government that received its authority from its people. "Tyranny," Paine wrote, "like hell, is not easily conquered."

Yes, there is much merit to many of the reasons that voters stay away from the polls. Complaints that candidates lack vision, that special interest groups are too powerful, that neither party is held accountable, are all legitimate arguments for apathy. Mix in the oversaturated drone of recycled campaign "news" coverage by a shrinking and increasingly partisan media and you have a shameless accomplice. And how does one ignore the relentless cut-and-paste partisan dribble, rants and rage on social media. It's all exhausting.

Still, I'm no longer willing to accept the notion that there's no one or nothing to vote for, that voting doesn't make a difference. It's by not voting that we create the mediocrity we complain about. The fact is, elections present options and choose we must. Then get to work for your new candidate. Or enter the race yourself.

It's not like we're a people who don't like to vote. We love lists, we love polls. We love reality TV shows that let us vote. Of course they make it easy to cast one's vote. And maybe therein lies the problem and the solution.

The genius of our democracy is that it promises that each of us may disagree without fear of reprisal. Elections are not simply about winning and losing, they are about participation. But engagement does not mean that everyone gets their way.

Thomas Edison said that genius is 2 percent inspiration and 98 percent perspiration. If our constitution is the inspiration then voting is how we begin to perspire.

These too are trying times and while voting is not the whole solution, it is clearly part of the equation. It's the first step, the catalyst. Voting is a peaceful weapon, a challenge to tyranny. It's where democracy starts and it's where we must begin. 2016-07-15-1468603944-5365051-check1.jpg