The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 1, 2012

Democracy isn’t a spectator sport

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Editor’s note: This column was first published Nov. 5, 2000.

Tuesday, of course, is election day.

That’s the day we choose our leaders, our representatives, or proxies.

That’s also the day we achieve our freedom from political advertising, polls and the unending speculating and prognosticating by television pundits with which we have been bombarded daily for the past several months.

Election day is the day we become active participants in the democratic process and touch the soul of what it means to be a free people.

Or not.

If the past is, indeed, prelude, roughly half of this nation’s eligible voters will find something better to do with their time Tuesday than to cast their ballots. In the last presidential elections, just 49 percent of those who could vote, did.

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ...” reads one line of the Declaration of Independence. But what if the governed simply don’t care.

It is, of course, your right not to care, and not to vote.

That’s the beauty of a democracy, nobody forces you to do anything, except pay taxes and obey the laws of the land (and, of course, take out the garbage and leave the toilet seat down, in the case of us married guys). But taxes, and the law of the land are, of course, determined by those we choose to vote for, or not.

Those laws of the land, however, used to make it illegal for some of us to vote whether we wanted to or not. Women couldn’t vote until 1920. People of color were not assured of their right to vote until the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965.

But what if the governed just don’t care?

We live in hectic times. Tuesday is a school day, a work day. You have to run the kids to school and the baby to day care, get to work, take that client to lunch, pick up the cleaning, pick up the baby, take the dog for his shots, help the kids with their homework, fix dinner, finish that report that’s due Friday, pack for that business trip, go to that meeting at church, kiss the kids and your spouse good night and collapse into bed just before Tuesday fades into Wednesday.

Oh, gee, honey, I forgot to vote. Did you remember? No? Well, maybe next time. Maybe it’s not that the governed don’t care, but they simply don’t have the time.

We should never forget that many brave men and women have fought and died for our right to sit out the democratic process if we so choose.

They died in hails of musket balls and the clash of swords in places like Bunker Hill, Charleston, White Plains, Cowpens and Saratoga.

They died at the business end of a cannon or the point of a bayonet in places like Antietam, Gettysburg, Fort Donelson, Stones River and Manassas.

Bullets and mustard gas ended their days in the fields of France in the early 20th century. Not many years later, France again became the final resting place of many of them as flesh met artillery shells, bullets and hand grenades.

On the soil of nations from one pole to the other, the blood of American service men and women has been spilled. In wars we agreed with, and in wars we didn’t, they gave their lives to protect the ideals on which this nation was founded.

Among those was the concept of the “consent of the governed.”

But it doesn’t matter, you say, we already know who’s going to win. After all, I saw it on CNN, you add. Besides, you ask, what difference is my one vote going to make? In a national election such as that for president, not very much.

Your vote will, admittedly, be one among millions. However, in state and local races, your vote could make all the difference in the world.

But this much is certain: Your vote will not make one bit of difference if you don’t cast it.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Just ask those whom we will honor a week from Sunday, Veteran’s Day.

They have played their roles in the ongoing drama, which is the American nation. Election day is our chance to step out of the wings and play ours.

Don’t miss your cue.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at