So many political issues face each of us as Americans right now that it’s easy to be overwhelmed and disparaging of the entire electoral process. Life today is complicated and uncertain. Amidst all the news coverage about the upcoming Presidential campaigns, you might find yourself wondering, “Will my vote even matter?”
The current political environment has more women than ever stepping up and aiming for positions of leadership, including six women running for the highest office in the land, the Presidency. When the New York Times interviewed the six female Democratic candidates about top issues, their answers were very different from the men who are running. That’s not surprising since women and men – with different life experiences and social expectations – see the world very differently. These women have learned many tough lessons from how Hillary Clinton ran her campaign for the presidency in 2016 and lost. Those lessons are shaping how they structure their campaigns and their determination to get out the vote.
They most critical takeaway from 2016 was likability. This issue loomed large for Clinton in ways that were different for Trump, likely based on sexism, but Clinton couldn’t get those who disliked both candidates — and who may have been more favorably disposed to her candidacy — to turn out and vote. In fact, non-white and Hispanic Americans were more likely to stay home than white voters. These votes would likely have tipped the scales in Clinton’s favor and led to her victory. So yes, your vote does matter!
Women take for granted our right to vote as well as our rights to ride Harleys, wear pants, and work in a man’s world – unimaginable in 1920, much less 1820 – but the process of achieving our right to vote was a battle hard fought. And in many countries, including Canada, women’s suffrage is a recent accomplishment.
It’s also easy to overlook the fact that diverse women were strong participants in the fight to help women win the right to vote. The suffrage movement wasn’t just a movement of middle-class white women, as most believe. This was made clear by a recent Smithsonian exhibit that exposes the myths surrounding the efforts to get the vote. The exhibit focuses on 19 African American women who were critically important in the movement’s success but unfortunately, their leadership and tenacity were overlooked in most history texts. At this time, it’s more important than ever to encourage and support all of our sisters to be part of the political processes. All of our voices matter when it comes to shaping the politics of our country.
Today’s woman is busy juggling a range of roles and responsibilities. She is working longer and taking on more family responsibilities post-retirement and into grandparenthood. With so many demands on her time, it’s easy to become complacent, especially if the candidate on the ballot doesn’t excite her.
If you choose to stay home, be aware of what’s at stake in terms of the issues women care about. Regardless of how busy you are with personal and professional demands, political engagement before we vote helps us be smarter on election day. There are many different ways to be seen and heard, some involving little time spent at your discretion, and some tasks allowing you to conduct surveys or make calls from the comfort of your own home.
Time for a Check In
Take this little quiz to realize whether you take full advantage of your right to vote, opportunities to lead, and all the political processes that are available to you as a modern woman:
What was your score? And what did the survey reveal? More YES answers mean you’re engaged with politics in meaningful ways that will represent women’s issues. Did the survey motivate you to become involved in the upcoming election cycle? There’s no time to waste because March 3, 2020 is the Presidential Primary and November 3, 2020 is the Presidential election.
Kudos to you if you checked many boxes! After all, for our democracy to be effective, society needs 50% of the population – including women like you- to get involved in political life before any election and vote. Are you ready for the ballot? You can participate in political processes at any and every level. Thanks to the suffragettes, we women have a range of political and leadership opportunities. The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus advised us to “Persist in your efforts. Resist giving into distraction, discouragement, and disorder.” I say “persist and resist” the temptation to take democracy for granted!