USA Today, November 7, 2006
Why your vote does, in fact, count
By Bruce Kluger
After a brutal year on the stump, today the candidates for
national and state office hand over to voters a complicated job.
As impossible as it may seem, Americans are asked to put aside
the pyrotechnics of the 2006 campaign—the flash polls and
attack ads, the rancor and recriminations—and somehow
visualize the larger and more vivid picture.
This isn't an easy assignment. For many, the campaign has been a highly personal
affair, as strategists of all stripes continue to transform the electorate into a
marketing map, targeting us as consumers, not citizens. This inevitably fosters
anger and divisiveness among voters, qualities that can't help but cloud our
judgment at the polls.
And yet, the conversations that have arisen along the campaign trail have been
uniquely fundamental to our democracy—reaching beyond the usual aridness of
politics and policies to issues that many Americans carry in their hearts every day.
This is why our participation in the 2006 vote is so crucial.
To that end, it is important to remember that the hand that casts the ballot is the
same hand that supports the arm of an ailing father, as he is gently eased from his
wheelchair into a bed. None of us ever imagined that we would one day be looking
after a parent this way, but for millions of Americans, this is now a sobering part of
our lives. Is our nation helping to provide sufficient health care for families in need?
The hand that casts the ballot is the same hand that rests softly beneath the head
of an infant as we rock her to sleep. It is in these exquisite moments of solitude that
our minds instinctively drift forward to our child's future—to her fulfillment, her
security, her happiness. Has our nation committed to providing our kids with a full
and decent education?
The hand that casts the ballot is the same hand that opens the window each
morning to let in the first ribbons of daylight. We share this ritual, whether we look
out onto a backyard or a city street or a small stretch of beach. Is our nation doing
everything it can to protect, and preserve, our environment?
The hand that casts the ballot is the same hand that sends the fax, operates the
forklift, harvests the crop, as our national workforce continues the building of this
country. Is our nation paying an adequate wage for this hard and dedicated work?
The hand that casts the ballot is the same hand that thumbs through the morning
newspaper and its endless stories of violence—heartbreaking tales of random
crimes and desperate acts that threaten to cripple a civilization that promises so
much. Is our nation successfully keeping weapons out of the hands of those who
would do us and our loved ones harm?
The hand that casts the ballot is the same hand that creates a home, from brewing
the morning coffee, to shopping for holiday gifts, to turning off the porch light at
night. Are all Americans free to create a family, one that is able to enjoy the
blessings of liberty and equality guaranteed by the nation's Founders?
The hand that casts the ballot is the same hand that clasps the hand of another. It
is this simple symbol—a handshake—that has throughout history signaled the end
of conflict and the dawn of hope. Is America extending its hand to all nations of the
world, along with its singular vision of freedom and humanity?
Today when you vote, do so with a clear head and a full heart. Be grateful to be
part of the most flourishing republic on earth, and mindful of your responsibility as
one of its proud citizens.
The choice, as it has always been, is in your hands.