By Terri Lee Freeman, Museum President
Like Everyone in America, I have spent time reflecting on the election. Not just Tuesday, November 8, but the 18 months leading up to Election Day. Three elements of this election have stood out and provide us with an agenda for the future.
We have the privilege and responsibility to exercise our right to vote.
Why a privilege and not a right? We believe our nation’s very existence is based on the idea of one man one vote, well, not really.
Women in our country did not get the right to vote until 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment. And although African American men were granted the right to vote in 1870 with the ratification of the 15th Amendment, it wasn’t until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that we achieved full voting rights, a mere 51 years ago. It wasn’t until 1961 that residents of the District of Columbia were given the right to vote in presidential elections. (Residents of D.C. still do not have voting representation on the floor of Congress!) Millions of American citizens living in territories like Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam still cannot vote for president. And, approximately 6 million American citizens are denied the privilege to vote because of felony convictions, including those that have served their time and paid their debt to society.
That being the case, those of us that do have the privilege to vote should be responsible citizens and fulfill that civic duty. This election, we fell short, with nearly 47% of eligible voters not exercising their franchise. Inexcusable! The remaining 53% divided their vote almost equally between the two major party candidates – 25.6% Clinton; 25.5% Trump and little more than 1.7% voting for third party candidates. Which leads to my second ah-ha (not really) of this election.
We are a divided nation, more now than ever!
Imagine being an elected representative in this country at this moment in time. Your job, to represent ALL the people couldn’t be more difficult. But it is imperative that they do just that, not just the 50%, or in the case of this presidential election the 25%, that elected them. We are in a very bad place in this nation. There is no question that we don’t agree on much. We may all believe in motherhood and apple pie, but we certainly don’t agree on how we should parent, or whether apple pies have two crusts or a crumble topping.
So, what do we do? First, we must employ respect. I’m horrified by the incidents of children bullying other children based on this election. Bullies are not born they are groomed. If you see a child that is a bully it’s likely they live with one. Second, continue to exercise your civic duty. The election is not the end but the beginning. Stay in the fight. And if you are so moved, don’t just stay in the fight, get in the race and run for elective office. Third, we need to chill and stop talking at each other, but begin to listen to each other. After 18-months of campaigning vitriol this will be tough, but it’s necessary. United we stand, divided we fall.
The media needs to examine itself.
One of the hallmarks of our country is a fair and objective media. The media demonstrated little objectivity over the course of this election. Depending on what side of the fence you stood on, you could find a media outlet to tell you what you wanted to hear. We live in a world of a 24-hour news cycle with media rehashing the most sensational stories over and over with different slants. No one benefits from this type of journalism. We need a media that provides us with useful, factual information, asks the tough questions, and focuses on issues of policy.
On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of these United States. Our job, as citizens will be to engage in the process and monitor our public servants.
Either we’re at the table or being skewered on it.