Nearly four years ago I visited Las Vegas for a winter bike riding vacation. We went by car, and as we traveled through Nevada, the colorful, and rugged terrain impressed me. When we arrived in Vegas I was struck by the shiny city. Later I wrote a column describing my visit, where I juxtaposed the stunning natural environment of Nevada with the extravagance of Sin City’s man-made architecture. The Trump Tower had caught my eye and I wrote that it “gleamed like Fool’s Gold.” Back then I never imagined that I’d see a third and final presidential debate, held in Las Vegas between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that I was for Hillary in 2008 before I supported Obama. This year I was for Bernie Sanders, before I returned to Hillary. In both instances my first choice was for the candidate who, in my estimation, was more willing to stand against destructive policies pushed by the other party. We need politicians that recognize the impact of such policies, and are willing to make it clear that we must reject them in order to have a robust democracy.
I long for the days when certain assumptions about what was right for America were taken for granted by the majority of people. The list is long, but I’ll mention a few. Public education, the right of all children, rich or poor to be given the tools to succeed, is an essential building block of democracy. Unions are the reason we have child labor laws and other employee rights, so they are essential for fairness, and humane work settings. Laws that protect the environment are needed to keep our planet livable. Tax laws that have everyone paying their fair share are essential for the operation of a democratic country. Reasonable laws about gun ownership are needed to keep Americans safe. Healthcare access for every citizen at affordable cost should be a given, and we should guarantee a sturdy social safety net for everyone.
With the above policies in place, our democracy can thrive. Without them, we risk chaos. Lack of educational opportunity, income inequality and inhumane working conditions breed social discontent, as do unfair tax policies. A shredded safety net marginalizes millions. Environmental degradation risks our earth as home for future generations.
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In spite of all that’s at stake, I’ll be glad when this year’s election is over. Admittedly, I’ve been pulled into the constant controversy, the circus-like atmosphere that has pervaded the presidential contest. I’m weary of the whole thing, as I’m sure most people are. That, however, has not made me less likely to vote. In fact, I’m more committed than ever to marking and mailing in my ballot for president and all of the down-ballot candidates and state initiatives.
Which brings me back to that sense of longing. I do miss going to the polls, like in the olden days, a tradition I’ve followed since I reached voting age. It was a time to physically demonstrate my commitment to democracy, to see neighbors doing the same. Mail-in ballots are more efficient, but not as unifying.
Voting day should be a national holiday when people get time off from work to vote, learn about our democracy and celebrate our hard-fought rights. This could be an opportunity to increase voter turnout, too. Our children would see us all model what it means to be a good citizen. It would be a time to spread the love and demonstrate the pride we should have in our great country.
Reach Mary Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org.