I live in Virginia, one of the nations newest swing states. If you have never lived in a swing state before, that means my mailbox gets hit with two to three political mailings a day and most evenings my phone rings with concerned volunteers making sure I’m up-to-date on when the debates will be aired, where I can vote and they are ready to answer any questions about their candidate that I might have. I’m also way behind on the latest commercial products on the market because most of the TV ads in my area have been purchased by PACs or Super PACs or candidates themselves.
In addition to living in a swing state, I live in one of the Northern Virginia swing counties. This means that in addition to the mailings and the phone calls, the candidates themselves have made several visits to locations near me, providing ample opportunity for me to go see both candidates speak in person.
For many of my Northern Virginia neighbors, election season becomes quite a nuisance. They avoid the phone calls and complain about the added traffic when a candidate is in town. These added disturbances seem to be too much for them. They count the days until the election is over.
Personally, I take a different approach. I’m glad I live in a swing state. I feel like my vote matters. When my vote is counted it could be among the tie-breaking votes that decides which candidate the state’s electoral votes will go to. Many analysts would say that neither candidate can win without Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.
I don’t mind the extra phone calls or the junk mail in my mailbox. I could do without the rude political Facebook posts, but unfortunately I think that spreads further than just to people living in the swing states. I think both candidates bring some good ideas to the table. I think both candidates have some baggage they carry with them as well. Neither party has it all figured out. Both parties have supported policies that have hurt people and both parties have supported policies that have helped people. If you believe differently, my guess is you’ve stopped seeking out unbiased sources and have settled with a news source that holds that same beliefs and values as your own.
There are a lot of issues on the table this elections season. There are issues of defense spending, economic health, human rights, and health care. Every one of those issues is important. I don’t envy the President tasked with improving any one of those issues let alone all of them. Some issues hold more weight than others for different individuals. That explains why the polling numbers are so close. Some people are choosing one candidate because of his position on healthcare while others will choose their candidate based on his position on foreign policy. As voting Americans it is our responsibility to inform ourselves as much as we can about the issues (in an unbiased way, I might add) and make a decision based on the information we have and the values we hold.
As we enter this final stretch of the election season, I hope that we can be respectful of our friends and neighbors as they make the choices that they are free to make. I hope that we can have civilized conversations with those who believe differently than us. I hope that we can model for our children how to respect elected officials, even those we did not vote for. I hope that if your candidate of choice does not win, you will continue to look for ways to support your values and causes.
So hang in there disheartened swing state friends, only seven more days. After that the mailings will stop, the phone will stop ringing and candidates won’t be making stump speeches at your child’s elementary school. But consider this: consider how lucky you are to live in an area where your voice can be heard so strongly. Your vote will be counted. Your vote will matter.