February 5, 2008, has been dubbed Super Tuesday, Giga Tuesday and Tsunami Tuesday. And based upon the sheer number of states holding primaries on Tuesday, these are not overstatements. 24 states and one territory, American Samoa will be hosting caucuses (meetings of political parties for planning campaign strategies) or primaries to determine who their candidate will be.
Based upon the debacle of the Michigan primary, I’d advise all registered voters in the Super Tuesday states to be ready tomorrow. We didn’t know until we arrived at the polls who would actually be listed on the ballots. Our candidate, Dennis Kuccinich, and other lesser known democratic contenders lost support when voters didn’t show up to the polls, thinking that their candidate would not be listed on the ballot. It’s another case of don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you read.
I’m not going to pump for any candidate in this article; I’m writing generally from my 25 years as a political activist. What I insist upon is that it is our job as citizens to vote. As Americans we have not only the right to vote but also the responsibility and privilege to vote and be politically active. Historically, the right to vote was hard won for many of us. Here are some ways we can exercise our rights and fulfill our political responsibilities.
Educate yourself. Read. Search the Internet for information. Explore candidate websites and sources like NPR’s Political Junkie. I even checked out Barack Obama’s Myspace, figuring that it might be more informal and more informative.
Join lobbyist groups. My husband and I have taken our children to our state capitol several times for pro-life rallies. It was cold and wet at the January Roe v. Wade protests. It would have been easier to stay home, but I’m glad we did it. Our children are now much more politically conscious than most children.
Make ‘get out to vote’ calls: I have worked phone banks for several different issues I’ve campaigned for; we don’t tell people how to vote, only remind them when and where to vote. We give information if required. We also set up transportation if needed. Most people appreciated these calls and asked questions. the homebound were especially appreciative. Many organizations make get out to vote calls: unions, schools, etc. Our son and several friends went with my husband to the democratic office to make these calls when he was in 9th grade. It was a very positive experience.
Volunteer to drive voters to the polls. This is a wonderful way to help and it means so much to the homebound or those without transportation. Don’t express your political views, unless asked. We drove our dearly beloved 93 year old neighbor to the polls. She was as Republican as we are Democrat.
Picket and support picketers. I’ve said before that picketing and marching is one of the most visual and powerful ways to peacefully protest. There are boundaries to follow, such as not trespassing or impeding traffic, but those only underscore the meaningful unspoken message of picketing. As a union representative, my husband, myself and our family have walked picket lines. When local industries went on strike, we supported them by marching and bringing food. When my husband plant locked workers out, we walked many long cold hours round the clock. I made huge pans of baked beans. Many people honked their support or brought food.
Teach Political Process. As an educator or anyone who has contact with students, use this role to promote political awareness. This is not the arena to push your own political views, but rather to encourage, explore and explain the concepts of democracy with students. Host debates, assign research projects on political events, candidates and issues. One of the most important and relevant classes offered in high school or middle school is Civics or Current Affairs. Sadly this course is often dropped from curriculum as it was recently in our district.
In the long run, it isn’t always about how we vote as it is that we vote. Political activism is the rational society’s voice.