Early Voting, Cleveland, OH, 2020
Voters line up to show their support for their candidate. Photo credit: Joe Biden / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

My daughter, 28, recently wrote in an email to me, “I’m so disappointed in how the world is right now, I don’t vote because of it.”

Here is my response to her.

Dear L_____,

A lecture is coming that you’ll probably feel you could live without. Nevertheless, I persist.

I don’t blame you for being disappointed, or worse. But when you’re disappointed and frustrated and angry with how the world is, that’s just the time to vote! 

Now that may sound strange coming from someone who you know has challenged the honesty of our electoral process for 20 years. 

If you wanted to organize a mass boycott of elections (or a mass consumer boycott or general strike, for that matter), perhaps I could support that. But that takes a lot of work. Simply not voting yourself takes no work — in fact, it saves time and energy. Great!

Just recognize, though, that what you’re doing, others like you are also doing — others who are, like you, “disappointed in how the world is.” (By the way, the world has always found ways to be disappointing.) So then who is left to change it?

And yes, one vote (or two or three) seems very tiny, not at all powerful or consequential. If you don’t vote, it won’t be missed — after all, how many elections are ever won by a single vote? Virtually none. And add to that your doubts about the count to boot! You can certainly make a logical case that it’s not worth your time.

But then, do you see, it’s not worth anybody’s time! And that’s the end of democracy.

We’re pretty close to that right now and a big reason is that (sane) people like you are being outvoted by a minority (the MAGAs, the cult of Trump), who wouldn’t miss an election if they were dying and on a freaking ventilator. They’re on fire about this new world they’re building — the one that so disappoints you that you’ve lost the will to participate as a voter (let alone an organizer or activist). 

But consider that Donald Trump lost Michigan in 2020 by less than 3 percent; next time it could be even closer, or go the other way.

We’re living a Yeatsian moment, when “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity” (and yes, they think they’re the best and we’re the worst, I know that). They are loud and increasingly violent — but their most powerful weapons are still their votes and their schemes to control the voting process. And your despair.

See how it works? They’ve got you so bummed that you’re going to sit home and get out of their way!

Your vote is your first — and easiest — weapon against that awful world they’re building. And L____, you live in Michigan, a swing state, a critical state, a state where results can change what’s happening to the nation and the world! 

My vote in California has a lot less power — but, knowing that, I nevertheless vote in every election. One reason I vote, even when I know it’s not going to change anything, is to honor those who have fought for lifetimes, and those who have given their lives, for this tiny little right — the one that separates citizens from subjects, free people from slaves (there are many forms of slavery, and not having or using a voice is one of them).

I don’t know how much you’re following events, but the Republicans under Trump have gone on a legislative and administrative jihad to make it harder, if not impossible, for the groups they target — mostly people of color but also any groups likely to vote Democratic — to register and vote (and have that vote counted). 

Why are they doing this? Because they are afraid of you all — afraid of your power and potential to stop them from running (and ruining) things and lives. They’re afraid that, if it’s easy enough, we’ll all vote — and when everyone votes, they don’t have a prayer.

So when you decide not to vote you are abandoning all those whom the GOP has targeted, all those who are standing on lines blocks and sometimes miles long (forbidden to be given food or water!) because the GOP has removed most of the voting equipment from their precincts and counties (they know where the Black folks live; they know where the students live; they know what precincts and zip codes and counties oppose them). 

You’re abandoning all those who are told they don’t have the right photo ID or that their signatures don’t match, or that their registrations got “lost,” or that they’re in the wrong precinct. 

You’re abandoning all those who are waiting in line all day for their country and for you.

You’re white and not in a “liberal city” — for you, voting should be easy. It won’t take long. You won’t be turned away. But consider that Donald Trump lost Michigan in 2020 by less than 3 percent; next time it could be even closer, or go the other way. And consider that MAGA extremists had a plot to kidnap and execute your governor

And that she is all that stands in the way of a Republican Legislature that wants to make it harder to vote — because they know that produces Republican wins. 

We’re staring down the barrel of political total-war: There is a fierce will to seize and hold power by any means and, not unlike Ukraine’s, our democracy is now under relentless attack. And it can be corrupted and destroyed without guns and bombs — if we allow it to be.

Check out this month’s special election in Michigan House District 74, where a Democrat finally broke through and beat a Republican (who was caught on tape telling his daughters to “just enjoy it” if they were being raped — which he claimed was just an analogy for the “stolen” 2020 election… whatever) in a very red district. It made national news. And Google Democratic Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow — watch her (viral) speech!

We’re staring down the barrel of political total-war: There is a fierce will to seize and hold power by any means and, not unlike Ukraine’s, our democracy is now under relentless attack. And it can be corrupted and destroyed without guns and bombs — if we allow it to be.

There’s a huge battle this year for Michigan and states like it — and again in 2024 — and the winners this year will set many of the rules for that election. The ones who are making our country “how it is right now” have made it clear that they will exploit every possible opportunity to build an advantage for themselves and lock themselves into power. From a voter standpoint, you’re really lucky to live there in Michigan — in a state where your vote, and those of like-minded friends and neighbors, can be so powerful.

I hope this is persuasive. It’s true we as individual voters don’t have a lot of power or influence — but that does not justify our wasting what we do have. Please, register and vote — in the primary, if there’s still time. Better yet, encourage everyone you know and respect to think this through and find a way and the time to cast their votes (and talk to their friends and neighbors). We need every one of us to stop the insanity — and if we had every one of us, we could do it. Easily.

Thanks for listening. Counting on you! — Your Dad