Stories. We all relate through stories. We use them from the time we’re small to help us learn language and other skills we need to function as members of society. We use them in our families to ensure that we don’t forget those who came before us. We use them in school as students and teachers to illustrate new concepts and explore the vast world around us. We use them at work to convey information. We use them for entertainment to draw out emotions. We use them throughout society to help understand where we are, and how we got here. We use them in politics to persuade and move people to take action.
Since before I reached voting age, I’ve held strong opinions on several issues that have never gone away. When I was in junior high school, I remember having a spirited debate with one of my favorite teachers over the just-recorded Roe v. Wade decision. We were on opposite side of that debate, and we were both invested in our perspective, but we also had great admiration for one another. We didn’t resort to any mean-spirited attacks. We did use personal stories to back up factual data that we presented. We told those personal stories to emphasize our positions, not to degrade or berate each other.
In the fall of my first year at university, I was excited to vote in my first gubernatorial election. On that ballot, in addition to the gubernatorial race, an infamous proposition – California’s famed Prop 13, the Jarvis-Gann initiative – was in the balance. I came home on several weekends that fall, and I swung by my old high school to talk with a few of my former teachers. I opposed Prop 13 because of the implications for what it would do to the schools in the state. Sadly, all of my former teachers voted for it along with legions of other CA voters. Three years later the state surplus ran out, and CA schools faced the beginning of a continuing funding shortfall that is still in play today.
In the 1980 presidential election, I was again poised to use my voice at the ballot box, but this time, as a young, idealistic university student, I really wanted to change the world. I didn’t want Reagan. I disagreed with the majority of his platform, and I thought he would hurt the country and specifically my family. At the time I also didn’t want Jimmy Carter, so like many other idealistic university students, I voted for John Anderson in that election. I learned a very important lesson that year. While it’s nice to think that a third party candidate can shake things up, the reality is that until we remove the money from politics, the only candidates that truly stand a chance are from the two major parties, and anything else is at best a protest vote, and at worst, a spoiler causing real damage. This has been born out in several subsequent elections where the popular vote went one way, and Electoral College another.
In the years since then, I have continued to vote in every election carefully researching the candidates and the issues, and casually discussing them with family and friends. I remember a heated discussion during the lead-up to the 1984 general election amongst fellow students and staff at work.
Until the last 20 years or so, I’ve voted strictly on the issues crossing party lines on occasion depending on the individual candidate’s platform and record. Since about the year 2000 I haven’t done that. The partisan divide has gotten so extreme that I can’t.
In 2016, I started writing some articles on social media and on at least one political website leading up to that election. That one felt different. I wanted to do something more, but I wasn’t sure how to get involved, so I wrote. I also had conversations with a very knowledgeable friend that percolated. We all know how 2016 turned out. That year, I had some very serious conversations with some good friends on various sides of the political divide. Since then, I’ve watched, I’ve listened, and I’ve written or spoken out. It wasn’t enough. Over the last four years, I’ve been more scared than I can ever remember being, and I’ve seen sides of some friends that I didn’t know they had. I still care about the issues, but it goes deeper than that now. In 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic that the United States is utterly failing to contain, our lives truly do depend on the outcome of this election. Beyond the pandemic, we’ve got a climate crisis that has been building for decades and must be addressed or nothing else will matter. You can’t tell stories if your species is extinct.
Being tired of feeling helpless and just voting, I decided to do more. Lots more. I’ve been spending some time each day volunteering for the DNC on their text team to help Joe Biden win this election. I started out texting voters. The DNC trains volunteers to use their tools. They are so supportive with volunteer moderators, staff members, and the vast community of volunteers all working together to help reach voters. We listen to voter concerns, give them verifiable, factual data, and we provide critical information on how they can register and make their voices heard.
Before long, I joined the text moderator team, and now I’m helping other volunteers reach voters on a daily basis. Even though I retired a few years ago, I’m finding a lot of the skills I developed throughout my career are coming in handy, and the sense of community and purpose is invigorating.
It’s getting busier, and soon it will be over, but instead of just sitting at home wondering and waiting, I’m doing something tangible. I’ve already voted. Now I need to continue to help get everyone out there who can vote to do so.
Why do I support Joe Biden? Again, this goes back a few years, and I will freely admit that through the primaries earlier this year, he wasn’t the one I wanted to win, though I have admired his public service for many decades. Although I voted for Elizabeth Warren in the primary, I’d be very happy with Joe Biden as our president.
Back in October 1992, during the general campaign between Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, I had the privilege of taking a trip to Washington, D.C. Had I known I’d soon be sent there for work many, many times, I might have gone someplace else for that vacation, but nonetheless, I was there for a week with a very dear friend. We saw all the sites playing tourist for that week, but one thing sticks out in my mind more than any other from that trip. We got to sit in the gallery on the last day of the 102nd Congress Senate Session. It was a big day in the Senate. Three senators retired that day – Garne, Rudman, and our long time CA senator, Alan Cranston.
Those retirements and the tributes that accompanied them were touching, but even that wasn’t the thing that struck me. This was the day after George H. W. Bush appeared on the Larry King show during that campaign. One senator decided to make quite a spectacle on the Senate floor that day. He took the floor and wouldn’t yield, lambasting the Democratic nominee with innuendo and false accusations. Three senators tried to get him to stop and failed. Finally, Joe Biden got him to yield, though I don’t recall exactly how he was able to do that. What I do remember is that Joe debunked every accusation with verifiable, factual data, and then turned the body to address a critical humanitarian effort that needed immediate attention. That’s the Joe Biden I voted for. That’s the Joe Biden we need in the White House.
Please vote like your life depends on it, because it does.