“The eyes of the world are upon you.”- Dwight Eisenhower
As the midterm elections draw closer, both parties have begun their get-out-to-vote campaigns. These campaigns center around why you should vote. Republicans are preaching that this election is a referendum on President Biden and that, if you get out to vote for them, the economy will be fixed and gas prices and inflation will be reigned in — not to mention that the border will be secured, whatever that means. Meanwhile, Democrats, including President Biden, are beating the drum that getting out to vote for them means abortion rights, gun control, and climate change will be solidified. But, the fact of the matter is, both sides are lying to you, and none of these issues is what you’re voting for or why you should vote.
Now, while voting won’t ensure the requisite legislative majorities or magical impact on a world economy each party pretends to be within their unique power, it does have the power to secure the republic, which, as I mentioned in my last piece, is the only way any of your desired policies can ever become a reality. Without the republic, voters can cease hoping to have any direct impact on the policies and people who govern their daily lives. Accordingly, the preservation of the republic matters not only to your neighbors and our nation, but to the whole world. I will elaborate on this further in a moment, but first I’d like to back up what I said about Republicans and Democrats lying to you about your vote.
Why do I say that they’re lying? Because the framing of both parties’ incitements to vote are based on false premises. Let’s start with the Republicans. Right off the bat, though Republicans blame the economy on the President, the President doesn’t dictate the inflation or gas prices. It’s simply not within his powers, despite what cable news will tell you. But, even if he were to, it would be difficult to conclude that President Biden has done anything but a pretty good job compared to the rest of the world. As pew research points out, the United States economy, gas prices, and inflation are doing better or are in the middle of the pack in comparison to other developed nations.
Moreover, there’s no reason to believe whatsoever that the Republican plans to remedy high consumer prices of any kind will work. Just look at how Liz Truss’ classical conservative economic plan went in England. The plan was heavily lauded by Fox News and Trump economist Steve Moore, who went so far as to say that “Liz Truss is doing exactly what the GOP should be doing.” This plan that the GOP has praised and wishes to emulate has left economists wondering if the English economy could possibly get even worse than what is already deemed a crisis. And all of this massive damage was done in Truss’ astoundingly short reign of 44 days.
But, again, these false promises are all somewhat beside the point. After all, in the grand scheme of our governmental system, even if Republicans were able to hit the high end of their midterm election projections by FiveThirtyEight, reaching 248 seats, they could not implement their bad economic plan, anyway. They’d still fall short of a veto-proof two-thirds majority.
To recap: Republicans are lying to you about what the problem is and whose fault it is, lying about the efficacy of their plan, and lying to you when they tell you that electing your specific representative will lead to the implementation of this demonstrably bad plan.
Now let’s look at the other side of the aisle. Democrats are promising legislation on codifying abortion rights, passing stronger gun regulations, and enacting green friendly climate policies. Well, guess what, they’re not going to be able to do any of these things either. The numbers simply aren’t there in the house or the senate, even if they do win by slim margins, which is an ambitious goal to start with.
Simply put, the campaign messages of midterm elections always sit on a throne of lies, feeding the electorate’s impatience and short memory, pushing the swing voter to believe this time the other party will deliver on their promises to solve our problems.
To be fair to this years’ crop of candidates and strategists, though, this deceitful strategy is not new and it works. As the Brookings Institute points out, the party of every President with just four exceptions, has lost seats in the house and/or the senate since 1862. This dizzying pendulum swing is largely due to the type of campaign the Republicans are running this time and Democrats have run when Republicans are in the oval office: point out everything that hasn’t gotten better since the sitting President took office less than 2 years ago and promise to fix it — even though both parties know they can’t deliver on their promises.
Another fact worth noting about midterm elections is their significant drop in voter turnout. As the Pew Research Center points out, midterm turnout typically drops 10-15% from presidential election cycles. The information I’ve mentioned above, plus the undiscussed but obvious fact that your one vote almost certainly won’t yield the outcomes that you may desire, might make it seem like I am taking the side of those who don’t vote in midterm elections. I am most certainly not. In fact, the opposite is true. You should vote!
Why, you ask? It is here that I’d like to return to my original proposition: what you’re voting for and why you ought to do it. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, in his masterful speech in Indianapolis said “In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.”
That, right there, is what you’re voting for. Our nation is at a crossroads. For the first time in its history, the legitimacy of the American republic is in serious peril. Even in the times leading up to the Civil War, there was no legitimate concern that America would cease to be a republic. Rather, the concern was that America would become two separate republics. So, in this unprecedented time, we are, indeed, all well to ask what we want America to be and what direction we want it to go. And though the particular issues that Republicans and Democrats tell you you’re voting for and why you ought to vote aren’t actually at stake, the character and form of the type of nation you want to live in, and its only chance to actually have the potential to represent your specific policy desires, are.
So, in this way, there are really only two types of candidates on the ballot this year: small “r” republicans and fascist authoritarians. And, while the numbers don’t back up Democrats’ or Republicans’ claims that giving them the House and Senate will lead to promised policy overhauls, they absolutely back up my claim. The Republican party, in a nominally ironic way, has adopted an anti-republican platform by fully embracing election deniers and questioners, such that more than half of Republicans on the ballot openly deny the results of the 2020 election. Accordingly, given the constitutional authority given to Congress, a Republican majority would almost certainly lead to the destruction of legitimate elections in America. If this happens, your vote truly won’t matter in the future.
Now, there are many ways they could undermine the American republic, but three main ones. First, ending all investigations seeking to hold Trump accountable for the January 6th insurrection. Second, preventing the passing of much needed legitimate voting reform. And, third, using their role in the electoral college to reject election results they don’t like in the next Presidential election. If that were to happen — and all of their behavior dictates that that is the plan — whatever semblance of a functioning republic we have left will cease to exist. So that’s one huge thing you can and should vote for: continuing to live in a republic.
Moreover, voting is a reflection of the type of person you are and who you want to be. Voting provides the incredibly rare opportunity for you to put out into the real world what it is you believe in and what you believe your country should stand for. This may sound purely symbolic, and, I concede, it largely is. But it is not meaningless. In fact, the act of voting is overflowing with meaning as an act of human dignity and freedom. For, when examined in the scope of the totality of human history characterized by more oppression and strife than not, what can be more meaningful than putting on paper what you believe your government should be like and then handing your opinion to that government without fear of consequence? What can be more meaningful than stating what kind of person you are, what kind of nation you want to live in and what direction you want it to move in? Because that is what voting does. And that is a solemn privilege.
Indeed, it is a solemn privilege that you owe not only to your neighbors but to the entire world to fulfill. Because make no mistake, the world is watching us. As Americans, we take far too lightly our standing in the world. John Winthrop, the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, wrote that we are to be “a city on a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” And so we have come to be the most powerful nation the world has ever known. And in doing so, with all of our many flaws, have taken our seat as the leader of the free world. But with that immense power and influence comes immense obligation and responsibility. And with the Republican party’s active destruction of our republic, wavering support of Ukraine, discussions of withdrawing from NATO, and embracing authoritarian regimes, we are on the verge of abdicating our position as the world power and handing that distinction to Russia or, more likely, China.
Indeed, it was on the evening of the tipping point of the genesis of America’s role as the world power, D-Day, that Dwight Eisenhower told American soldiers, “the eyes of the world are upon you.” Years earlier, after the evacuation at Dunkirk, Churchill told Britain and the world to hold on until “The New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.” And that we did. After defeating the NAZIs, America became what the Romans called themselves, caput mundi, “the head of the world.” From then until now, what we do affects the entire world.
That is why, as Americans, despite whatever frustrations or resentments we have with the Democratic party or politics as a whole, we are morally obliged to vote. Because who are you, who are any of us, to refuse the opportunity given to us by chance to definitively state what kind of nation we want to be and what direction we want the world to move in?
The eyes of the world are upon us.