The 2018 Midterm Elections are on Tuesday, Nov. 6. See bottom of column for voter information.
1968 was a turbulent year. As a U.S. citizen at the time, overseas, the Vietnam War took and mangled Vietnamese and American lives, with an escalated offensive by President Lyndon B. Johnson. At home, the Civil Rights movement was in full motion, both peacefully and violently after the President signed the Civil Rights Act four years earlier. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated on April 4. Then-presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was assassinated on the night he won the California primary. Protests rose across the country, for civil rights and feminism. The Chicago Democratic Convention devolved into a bloodbath. That November, University of Minnesota alum, ex-mayor of Minneapolis, and LBJ’s Vice President, Democrat Hubert Humphrey, ran for office of President of the United States. He was defeated by the Republican candidate Richard Nixon. To win that kind of election, there’s something Nixon must have done right.
You can imagine how divisive an election this was. What hung in the balance was both national and domestic security. Some voters managed to ignore the clashes on civil rights entirely, but one thing that captured the country’s attention from coast to coast was the war in Vietnam. President Johnson couldn’t please everyone — eventually, he died of a heart attack.
I’m sure you can also imagine the presidential election in 2020 will be important on a similar level. Domestic race relations, once again in the effort to improve civil rights for all, have become increasingly tense since our last election.
The same goes for the march for women’s equality, as an unprecedented ongoing confirmation process for the latest Supreme Court nominee will act as a barometer of how accountability will — or won’t — be handled in the highest court of the land. And an incredibly important, yet universally under-acknowledged, feature of the moment is that the U.S. is on the ground in a wartime capacity in seven countries. The difference now is that our wars are not under nearly as much scrutiny as they were 50 years ago, which pushes the issue out of sight, out of mind.
I could continue to list the current state of affairs and spend pages drawing parallels between then and now. But the only one constant that I think immediately matters, in a concise, heavy, battering-ram way, is President Nixon’s campaign slogan: “Vote like your whole world depended on it.”
President Nixon’s slogan hit home then, and it hits home now. Voting is, depending on who you ask, our privilege or our right. To me, without putting much thought or meditation into the matter, it is both. Please refer to political philosophy about the real significance and weight of voting, but whatever the scholars say, it will boil down to the fact that voting is something every citizen should do.
The U.S. does not, in practice, extend the right of the vote to every citizen, which is a shameful state of affairs — but this is the topic of another column, which I certainly hope to write. For now, with about a month before the midterms on Nov. 6 and two years before the next general election, please do as Nixon said and vote as if your whole world depended on it. It does.