I often find myself thinking, “What the hell is wrong with Texas (or South Carolina, or Kansas . . .). But after I think that, I feel ashamed. Yes shame. Strong word. But it’s apropos, because one of the hallmarks of small mindedness is clumping people together with generalizations.
Besides, I know and love people from all of those places. So I happen to know that for every dim-witted, racist, anti-poor, anti-Muslim, fundamentalist Christian thing that Texas or Kansas do at their State Capitals, there are thousands of right-thinking people in each of those states who are deeply pained by the action. In fact, I suspect (based on polling data) there are more people in each of those states who disagree with the way their legislators are behaving than who agree.
So why is this happening?
Because the Republican Party is very good at doing two things: 1) pandering to the social phobias and ignorance of their conservative base, and 2) getting those people out to vote every two years.
That’s right. The difference between functional federal and state governments and the disappointment we have now may be as simple as two years. Every two years, social conservatives take their compliant wives by the hand and head to the polls. And every mid-term election (the elections in-between the Presidential elections) they drive a bunch of cynical, corporate-pandering, women-marginalizing, science-denying, Christian militants into office. Overall, not very many people show up to mid-term elections. But since the small turn-out is heavily skewed to a handful of well-educated Birkenstock-wearing Baby Boomers and the base of the Republican Party, conservatives have a disproportionate effect on the outcomes of those elections.
People keep asking when things will change. When will we have meaningful gun control? When will we stop infringing on women’s freedoms? When will we stop inhibiting minority access to the voting booth? When will we stop fighting gay marriage? When will we stop demonizing immigrants, the poor, and anyone else who doesn’t fit a certain Eurocentric middle-class mold? Those questions are often asked with an air of helplessness-infused rage, like it’s all someone else’s job to fix this stuff.
What we need to do is go to the polls. Every two years, not every four. Even when the weather is bad. Even when we have to take a few hours off work. Even when the line wraps around the block and down the road. Even if we have to get a babysitter. Even if it means teaming up, watching kids, car-pooling, or running a personal shuttle bus. Bring a folding chair, an umbrella, and a good book, and vote every two years. We could see major change in a very short time.
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