I, for one, am sick of the presidential election. I feel as if Romney and Obama have been squabbling in the back of my car for years now, blaming and yelling, poking each other and kicking my seat. But on November 6th it will finally stop. With a sigh of relief, I will trek to the polls and vote.
And that's when my mood will change. However beleaguered I feel now, I know that as I walk into the fluorscent light of the school gym that serves as my polling place, I will be hit with a surge of hope and gratitude. Voting is a privilege, a duty, a push forward into our collective future. It always feels good.
For me, pulling that lever (it's still done that way in my Brooklyn neighborhood) releases the knot of cynicism I've developed as an adult, in part because my mother took me with her to vote when I was a kid. My mom is a writer with a flair for dramatic storytelling. As we waited in line she would speak passionately about people in our country and around the world who had fought and died for the right to vote. She let me put my hands over hers as she pulled the lever, and sometimes she got teary as we yanked together. If this sounds corny or over-the-top, all I can tell you is that it imprinted on me in the best possible way. She made a faithful and optimistic voter of me, and I'm keeping up the tradition with my own daughters.
Today I edit Redbook, a magazine read by millions of American women, most of whom are moms. As we brainstormed for our November issue, we came up with the idea of a "Take Your Kid to Vote" campaign. First Lady Michelle Obama joined the cause, lending her voice to help spread the message. She agreed to put politics aside and spoke about the importance of including your kids in the voting process, no matter which candidate you support (go to redbookmag.com/kidsvote to see her essay and video and learn how you can get involved). This isn't about preaching a political philosophy, it's about passing down the habits of democracy. Vote for Romney or Obama -- or heck, for Rosanne Barr -- just make sure your children see you do it. Or, if circumstances prevent you from taking them to the polls, talk to them about the experience of casting your ballot.
The turnout four years ago was unusually high -- but only 61% of eligible Americans voted. We have the chance to change that stat in a few weeks. And if we all treat voting as a teachable moment for our kids, we can shore up the democratic process fordecades to come.