Today is President’s Day, otherwise known as a day pretty close to the birthdays’ of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of America’s most beloved presidents. Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday dedicated to past presidents and their contributions to the U.S.
The president sets a legislative agenda, chooses which laws to enforce at a national level and has a role in how other nations see the U.S. on the world stage. Most importantly, the president only has the privilege to speak and act in the name of the American people because the voters give that privilege to him or her.
There are about 232 million eligible voters in the U.S., but 100 million of those eligible voters decided not to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Forty-three percent of eligible voters chose not to exercise their right to vote and gave up the right to have a say in the political agenda, how the country presents itself to the international community and how various groups in this country will be affected.
There were a lot of people who felt they should not have had to choose from “the lesser of two evils” in the 2016 election. Voting for a candidate one doesn’t support over a candidate one supports even less seems ridiculous. If neither candidate has earned one’s vote with integrity and a plan for policy changes that would work for Americans, then why give the candidate a vote at all? That would be like giving a team a trophy before they’ve shown they can actually win the game.
But a vote isn’t a reward — it is a formal preference for one of the options for the future a candidate has presented to the public. By selecting an elected official who will influence policy affecting the people, voters steer the country in a certain direction.
The candidates don’t just disappear when someone intentionally chooses not to vote. Not voting only means fewer people share their views on what the future of America should look like. A candidate is going to come out on top with or without their vote and have a profound effect on people all over the world for generations.
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A choice of president matters for women who want control over their own bodies, Dreamers whose parents came to America for a better life and opportunities for work, taxpayers who see inefficiencies in government aid and business owners who wish the economy was free to expand and contract without government interference. The presidency isn’t at all removed from the lives of ordinary Americans. The presidency is a position that sets the tone for American society.
U.S. presidents led the way to the moon, to the enforcement of policies concerning civil rights and to a successful democracy in which every voice has the potential to be heard. There are still obstacles like voter IDs and gerrymandering. Even so, a central theme of American history is the ability of the government to adapt as the people change and, with time, correct injustices.
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This President’s Day should invite Americans to think about the choices they made regarding the 2016 election, and how they will approach every election from now on. Someone voted for Donald Trump and wishes to see his campaign promises carried out in a second term. Someone else voted for Hillary Clinton and wants to see a Democrat back in the White House. These people should continue to get the vote out and make themselves heard.
Anyone who didn’t vote in 2016 should commit to voting in 2020 so history mirrors what the American people truly saw for the future of this country. Apart from remembering what former presidents have done for the U.S., President’s Day should be a time to reflect on the importance of having a say in how history books are written.
With that, know there is a primary election Feb. 20 for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It’s possible to register to vote at the polls, and the Wiscard office at Union South offers extended hours for students to obtain a voter identification card.
Although this may not seem as important as a presidential election, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has a significant influence on the economic and social climate of Wisconsin through the decisions they make, so voting is imperative.
Juliet Dupont ([email protected]) is a freshman intending to major in political science and journalism.