Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why Vote?

Link to Spanish Version in HuffPost Voces Latino:
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” Cesar Chavez

As Election Day draws near, I hear many people saying that they may not vote, that there isn’t much difference between the candidates, etc.  Regardless of how you may feel about the candidates, voting is a right and a duty.  Everyone who is eligible should vote, because it will make a difference. 

I know that my vote will count as a woman, as an African-American, and as someone who feels passionately about issues like immigration.  I have compared the positions of the candidates on a variety of issues and know whose positions are closer to my own.  However, I also know that if I don’t vote, then there will be one less voice for women, and all the other categories that I fit into. 

When the election is over, the parties will look at the results and try to determine what they mean, not only in terms of who is elected president or to Congress, but in terms of the direction that the vote is moving for the future, which will have an impact on policies legislators pursue going forward. Have certain groups of voters been energized or turned off by the issues that were raised, or not raised? Those who voted will have a more legitimate voice after the election in the halls of power, when they are pushing for a particular issue. 

Although I would argue that Latinos don’t make a homogenous voting bloc, they have been treated as one in this election, and President Obama recently argued that he may win the election because the GOP has alienated Latino voters (article). Time will tell if this is true or not. Polls have clearly been undercounting Latinos, as shown in a study by Matt Barreto. You can be sure that analysts will be examining exit polls to determine the impact of the Latino vote, and this will have an impact on policy decisions by those elected. The demographics of this country are changing and we will soon be a majority minority country.  However, that majority has to vote and run for office in order to exercise any kind of power over policy.

The future of immigration policy is in the hands of the voters.  The presidential candidates and congressional candidates have laid out their positions. Of course, this is not the only issue that voters will focus on, it’s clear that the economy is the top issue. However, I would argue that the two issues are intertwined.  A coherent, practical immigration policy will lead to more economic growth in this country as I argued in my previous column. 

I always return to history when discussing these issues and there are many historical examples of groups, particularly immigrants, having an impact on the direction of policy.  German, Irish, Polish, Italians, all of these groups have had an important impact on politics and politicians from these groups have been important to policy change.  It may take time, but every election is another step in a particular direction.  If you care about issues and the future for your family and children, you must raise your voice, vote and help this country determine the direction it will go in the future.

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