It’s that time, again. In America we hold national elections every two years. The two years after the big Presidential elections are called the mid-terms. Before the last ten or twelve years, most Americans skipped the mid-terms. Which is weird since the US House of Representatives has to run every two years. So there was always a lot at stake. But, most people – and when I say most people it is more like 50% of eligible voters who vote – only take the time to mark their ballots in the big show that is presidential elections. Voting is not a national holiday, held on a Sunday, or mandatory in the US like it is in most other countries. And its getting harder all the time to vote in the US. Historically, Republicans tend to turn out in the mid-terms more than Democrats. But the world has changed since 2010.
We live in Spain, but are eligible to vote in our state, district, city of residence in the US. It is called Overseas voting. They send me an email. I follow the instructions to log in to get my ballot. I fill it out, print it (don’t forget to shrink to fit the paper in the printer), sign it, then email it to the election board email for overseas and military voters. Then I wait while they verify my signature and send me confirmation that my vote is counted.
I always vote. If there is a dog catcher, sheriff, public utility supervisor, or judge up for election I vote. I read everything in the voter pamphlet and do my own research. Especially into ballot measures. Like those studies that tell you that peanuts are a superfood, and come to find out the study was paid for by the Peanuts-R-Us lobby, I dig into which lobbying groups are backing which ballot measures. Where’s the angle? Who benefits?
I am an unaffiliated voter. I am not a fan of the two party system in America. I prefer the multi-party systems in European governmental politics. Where compromises have to be made for governments to function properly. A little less brinksmanship. Although, it’s not perfect, either. Far-right governments are popping up in Italy and Sweden. A worrying sign for a continent that has dabbled with right-wing extremism before, and tens upon tens of millions paid with their lives.
I admit, I am not excited about voting this time. I don’t know why. Perhaps its the news and the very real fear that democracy is lost in the US. Or on its last gasp, anyway. There is no 911 (or 112 – in Spain) to call for help. The patient isn’t looking good. We read everything and watch news clips and it truly feels like the sun is setting on the place I used to know. The extremes are pulling the country apart.
I had a Pilgrim today from Tennessee. A former school teacher, I figured I would ask him how he sees things back across the pond. Is it really as bad as we read?
‘There is going to be a civil war.’ He said matter-of-factly. He saw the shocked look on my face. ‘We talk about it all the time where I live. There are too many people with guns. The country is so polarized and Covid made it worse. The polarization it not just Democrats and Republicans. Its the haves and the have-nots. Economic disparity is so great and accelerating. I don’t think what is coming can be stopped. It’s picking up speed.’
His answer was honest. Terrifyingly so. We feel it here from so far away.
I filled in my ballot. And I signed it. Last election I sent it back immediately. This time it has sat on the table for two weeks. I keep asking myself what I am waiting for. Me. A person who always votes. Who bugs Jeff ‘Did you vote yet?’ Even living in Spain, as Americans I feel its our civic duty. When I become a Spanish citizen I will exercise my right to vote here. But, this time, this election I am filled with both a sense of futility and dread. I don’t know why.
They say that how the US goes, so goes the rest of the world. I hope the rest of the world is watching us closely and doesn’t follow us over the cliff we are approaching. Because, if I am honest, it feels like its coming up fast and the checks and balances brakes built in by the Founding Fathers are out. Those more interested in being right, than in doing the right thing.
Jeff and I feel lucky to live where we do, after reading the news back home. But we are not naive. The EU flirting with governments led by far-right parties born from the fascism of WW2 provides little comfort. Especially as they are on our doorstep.
Don’t worry. My ballot will be returned shortly. My voice will be heard. If for no other reason than to try to protect the Constitutional rights for my children and their children. Before its too late.