Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Vote. Today.

YES, IT’S TODAY. The time for talk really is over now. It’s Election Day. The cliché machine is warming up in the punditburo’s bullpen. Watch for the phrase “stakes couldn’t be higher.” It’s a reliable phrase, one that’s been used before with varying degrees of accuracy.

Today, though, what hangs in the balance for the next two years justifies the word “stakes.” The tidal gravity of Congress is set to shift again; it all depends on turnout. It all depends on who shows up.

In a recent speech, President Obama called out to Democrats to show up today, conjuring a hypothetical “Cousin Pookie,” the archetypal stay-at-home voter tuned to the rhythms of an African-American audience. It was time, he said, to get Cousin Pookie off the couch and into the voting booth.

It’s axiomatic in American politics that, for midterm elections, the electorate reliably becomes a nation of Cousin Pookies of both genders and every ethnic slice. Turnout is consistently down compared to elections in presidential-vote years. And this year, more than previously, there’s a lot that’s up in the air.

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This vote could decide the arc of environmental regulations, the role and projection of America’s armed military might around the world, and the makeup of the Supreme Court for the next generation. It matters. Maybe the stakes really couldn’t be higher this time.

So, if you haven’t voted yet, go. If you mail your vote in, dig out the stamps under the bills on your desk. With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, and about 150 ballot initiatives up for decision across the United States, this election will set the stage, thematically and emotionally, for what’s coming in 2016. If you really want to understand how the big show works, you need to be at the dress rehearsal. This is it.

Go ahead. Get Cousin Pookie. Or Cousin Ethan. Or Cousin Indira. Or Cousin Fouad. Or Cousin Shaniqua. Or Cousin Ernesto. Do this thing. In a country that gets more enamored of numbers and data all the time, in a political age that’s smug in its certainties about civic apathy, there aren’t many opportunities to stick your hand up and say “I’m here! I’m in the house! I matter!”

This is one of those times. Don’t let it get away.

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