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President Obama at Selma in 2015

Your Vote Matters

Civil rights icon and long time U.S. House member John Lewis recently said: “Your vote matters. If it didn’t, why would some people keep trying to take it away?” Former President Obama in a recent speech reinforced this message: “Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15–20 minutes it takes for me to vote.’ Because that’s part of what happened in the last election. I heard that too much.”

These two great leaders touched on a problem that we Democrats have had for too long — our base is notoriously fickle and doesn’t always turn out to vote. This failure to turn out has had disastrous consequences for our country and is a big reason why we are in the current predicament.

One of the big turning points in American political history that has led us to our current state was the 1994 election. In that cycle, the Republicans made huge gains in the Senate and the House and regained control of these bodies. Republicans didn’t turn out in any greater numbers than usual but millions of Democrats stayed home out of disappointment because Clinton and the Democrats couldn’t pass health care reform.

What we got from the 1994 cycle was a radicalized GOP that has continued on to the present day. The immediate aftermath of that disastrous mid-term cycle for the Democrats were two government shutdowns led by Newt Gingrich and the attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Six years later in 2000, once again millions of Democrats were disappointed and some were simply complacent due to the success of the Clinton presidency. As a result, millions of Democrats believed the Clinton-Gore Administration was too moderate or they didn’t feel inspired by Al Gore and his campaign. Many also didn’t realize that the Republicans could wreck a booming economy.

This sense of disappointment and complacency led to Ralph Nader getting 2.7% of the popular vote and prevented Gore from carrying New Hampshire and Florida. The two progressive presidential candidates in 2000 received 51% of the popular vote but Bush — who got 48%- served two terms as president. Bush turned out to be one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.

The abject failure of the Bush presidency led to the election of Obama and a Democratic Congress. However, that progress was squandered in 2010 when millions of Democrats stayed home again. A voter in an interview said that he felt there was no need to turn out in 2010 since Obama had won in 2008. There was also a sense in some circles that Obama hadn’t done enough.

The 2010 election results were probably the most disastrous results for the Democrats in modern history. The Republicans regained control of numerous legislative chambers and used that power to gerrymander House districts all across the country.

The GOP may have locked in control of the House for a decade with that result. The Democrats will probably need to win the popular vote for the House by 7% this fall in order to pick up the 24 seats necessary to take control of the House.

In the aftermath of the 2010 election cycle, the Republicans shutdown the government and threatened a default on the national debt. The Republicans in Congress also bedeviled Obama and Hillary Clinton with investigations of phony “scandals” like Benghazi. The much hyped Benghazi controversy badly damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

Once again in 2014, millions of Democrats stayed home out of a sense of apathy. Only 36% of eligible voters turned out in 2014 — the lowest overall in 70 years. Consequently, the GOP picked up nine Senate seats and regained control of that body by a 54 to 46 margin. McConnell used that majority to blockade the nomination of Merrick Garland and bottle up numerous other Obama judicial nominations.

The Democrats experienced another big setback in 2016 when millions of Democrats either stayed home or voted for Jill Stein. Democrats who didn’t support Hillary Clinton complained they weren’t inspired or that they wouldn’t vote for what they termed as the “lesser of two evils.” As a result of that attitude, we got a radicalized GOP in control of all three branches of government.

Now we are on the verge of seeing the radical right control the Supreme Court for the next generation. This occurred — in part — due to millions of Democrats being disengaged in multiple election cycles. We need to remember that elections have consequences and your vote is important.

Republicans don’t seem to have any problem turning out to vote for flawed and imperfect candidates. Fox and AM radio give Republicans voters a constant state of urgency. We need to adopt a similar attitude.

The 2018 cycle represents a huge opportunity for the Democrats. We are on the odds on favorite to regain control of the House and we have an outside shot at winning the Senate. We must work hard and do everything we can to turn out the vote. Our back are to the wall. We must fight and fight hard!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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