By Ernest Barteldes
It was brought to my attention today a YouTube video campaign by Latinos for Reform, a conservative activist organization that urges Latinos to sit out the upcoming midterm election as retaliation for the fact that the Democratic majority has failed to advance any kind of immigration reform – one of the key issues promised during the 2008 Presidential campaign.
Regardless of what political opinion one might partake – liberal, conservative, independent, libertarian or rent-kvetcher, I believe that there is consensus that we all need to get out and vote. If the majority of eligible voters choose to skip this election, the future of this nation might end up being decided by a minority that is not properly represented by their constituents – which, incidentally, was the spark of the American Revolution when protesters argued against ‘taxation without representation.’ Unlike what today’s comic Tea Party advocates, their predecessors were not exactly against taxes. They wanted to have a voice.
In The United States, citizens are not required to vote, even if many consider it a ‘civic duty.’ Because elections always happen on a workday (unlike, say, in Brazil, when people vote on a Sunday or a national holiday), many feel less compelled to face long lines before heading to work or at the end of a day. With such little interest, we end up having elected officials who gain their posts with less than 50 % of eligible voters. For instance, when the Democratic Party took over control of the House of Representatives in 2006, the turnout was about 37 %. President Obama was elected with a 56 % turnout – one of the few times that statistics cracked the 50 percentile since 1960, when the numbers were at 63%
I believe that Latinos for Reform’s stance is irresponsible. As left-leaning Voto Latino stated today, “only one thing happens when you don’t vote. You vote against your interest. Instead, you elect your opponent’s interest.” Now, you don’t really want this to happen, do you?
I plan to vote in both my countries in the coming weeks (I also have Brazilian status from my mother) I will be standing on line at the Brazilian Consulate for the Presidential election there on Halloween, and two days later I will be heading to my voting booth in my district. And whatever your political beliefs or ethnicity might be, I suggest you do the same. If you stay home that day, don’t complain if whoever gets elected screws up.