Earlier this week, Jonathan Swan interviewed 1968 Wharton graduate and President Donald Trump in a tense conversation focused on the coronavirus pandemic and our president’s apparent lack of concern. The interview was bizarre, and embodied the seemingly frenetic pace that the last several months have taken. Perhaps the most unsettling moment of the interview was when, in response to a comment about the unprecedented death toll, Trump said, “It is what it is.” Many opinion columnists are using the interview as an opportunity to viciously criticize Trump on his corruption or mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is that really productive?
Instead, I strongly urge you to vote.
The 2020 election is on November 3rd, which is just shy of three months away. The 2018 midterm election saw unprecedented voter turnout both at Penn and across the country, but the upcoming election will arguably be one of the most important moments in modern American history. In 2016, as many as 100 million eligible voters sat out the election, forgoing their Constitutionally-given right, and history cannot repeat itself come November.
A survey by the Pew Research Center indicates that 25% of registered voters who did not vote in 2016 abstained because they didn’t like the candidates or the campaign issues. The 2016 election was particularly divisive in its candidates, with both Hillary Clinton and Trump boasting record low negative opinion. However, that attitude seems to bleed into the contest between Trump and Penn Presidential Professor of Practice and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Though many who abstained in 2016 now back Biden, there is a conglomerate (though much smaller than it was four years ago) of exasperated voters who are still undecided. If you find yourself in this category, unable to stomach a choice between Trump and Biden, I assume you detest the fact that you have to choose between “the lesser of two evils.” I would submit that if forced to choose between a poor option and a poorer option, you should always choose the better one, even if it isn’t the perfect one. An abstention is a tacit endorsement of a worse option because it takes away support from a better one.
The second most common concern among non-voters was that they “felt their vote would not make a difference.” If you feel this way, I understand. It can be difficult to feel like your vote matters when candidates can win elections yet lose popular votes, but the truth is that every vote matters, even when it doesn’t. For example, in 2019, Andy Beshear (D) was elected Governor of Kentucky by winning just 0.4% of votes. Similarly, Del. David Yancey (R) won Virginia’s 94th District by a coin toss after a tied popular vote. Close calls and ties certainly aren’t common, but they happen often enough to suggest that every last vote has the potential to make a difference.
Even in states that are “solidly” red or blue, increased turnout can send a message of what public opinion really is, while abstentions embolden those in power to continue to ignore other voices. Furthermore, elections in the past couple of years have shifted attitudes, especially on local levels, with dozens of House seats flipping in 2018. The upcoming election is likely to be determined by a group of swing states, including Pennsylvania. If you are returning to campus this fall and choose to vote with your local address, your vote will matter more than ever.
The only appropriate reason not to vote is if you don’t care. However, I find it difficult to believe that one can truly not care about our government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the more than 150,000 Americans who have died from it, or the 31.8 million unemployed Americans struggling to pay rent. If none of those issues mean anything to you, then you certainly should not complain about them after the election, since you chose to have your voice go unheard.
VARUN SARASWATHULA is a rising College junior from Herndon, V.A. studying the Biological Basis of Behavior and Healthcare Management. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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