The midterm elections are finally here with thousands of Americans already voting early casting their votes for the candidates that they feel best represents not only their values but will advocate for their best interests in government.
Voting is one of the most important duties we have as American citizens. It is the sole reason why so many fought in the courts, marched, bled, and died for all of us to have the right to vote For Fannie Lou Hamer, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many other nameless champions, we should at least entertain listening and learning about the candidates and their positions and then decide if we will vote early or on election day.
That is one reason why it should be of great concern that places like Washington, DC, and Vermont and New York or pushing to allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in our elections.
There is a great push for early voting, but I am old school and like to stand in line on election day, no matter how long the wait or the weather along with my neighbors and vote at my local precinct. I feel more patriotic when I vote in person and get that sticker. Now, I have, like millions of others, have voted early via absentee ballot where I had to sign it and send mail it in, hoping it got there and was counted via the mail while I was away at school or traveling on election day.
If you go back to the presidential election in 2020, millions had cast ballots before either nominee ever took to the debate stage to stand at the podium, without staff, polls, or consultants or a tele prompter telling them what to say, or them knowing what exactly was going to be asked to defend their records, explain their positions, plans and ideas directly to the voters.
Voting only off a mail piece, TV commercials or digital ad campaign might be enough for some but as voters, and especially Black Americans, we deserve more from those who want our vote.
One can only look at the conditions of millions of Black communities across the country led by Democrat officials for decades to see that we have overall, have had our votes taken for granted by the Democrats. If you give one party over 90% of the vote we should expect if not demand to have had at this point, better schools, safe communities, and more economic development. But in many instances, we are at the top of all the wrong lists.
That leads us to today, and the opportunity before every voter in 2022 in this midterm election. The question should not be “are you going to vote?” I hope that is a given. The real question is “when are you going to vote?” I would not cast a ballot until I heard from both sides, each candidate directly at a town hall, a forum, a debate or knocking on your door.
Candidates and their campaigns must go back to retail politics and connect with voters. Early states like New Hampshire and Iowa take voting so seriously, and it is also why candidates bombard those states with attention. They want the vote because they know they will turn out to vote. It is valued but there is an expectation that they have to earn it.
Candidates we will brave negative degree temperatures to knock on doors, eat an ungodly amount of county and state fair food, visit every church and community organization, and personally meet with the voters many times for one vote. That is the standard by which we should demand of candidates, earn the vote.
You can and should vote early if you feel you know exactly where the candidates stand, and you feel they have put in the work to get your vote. However, there is a growing number of people who want more from candidates and are going to wait until election day to see if the candidates will debate or come to their church, if their teams will knock on their doors and be willing to have a conversation on the issues with them.
Inflation, failing schools and declining test scores, high gas prices, communities feeling unsafe because of an increase in crime and violence, fentanyl killing so many people because of the drug pouring over an open southern border, and the lack of feeling okay, secure, safe, and prosperous. All these issues demand attention from elected leaders and candidates.
Democrats have been in control in the U.S. Senate, the Congress, and the White House for two years. For many local communities, Democrats have been in power for decades. Those politicians should have answers as to why they have failed, and Republicans should provide ideas, examples, and policies about what they will do if given the chance to serve or continue to serve.
This election, and every other election we must demand more from political parties and campaigns. Not debating is a non stater, not showing in our communities should be a non-starter. Earning our vote has to be a priority year-round. We must hold them accountable as our elected leaders or potential elected leaders on their policy positions. We the people do not work for them, they work for us and should have to work for our vote and that includes Democrats who have taken the Black vote for granted and have implemented progressive policies that we all know, see and feel are not working.
Paris Dennard is a prominent communications and political strategist and consultant who has worked at all levels of government and Republican politics.