By Ruth Gadebusch
It’s election time, as if you didn’t know! Our phone lines are busy. Our e-mail is jammed full. We are invited to fund-raisers. We are begged to join phone banks. We get pleas to walk precincts.
Our street corners, not to mention any other heretofore bare spot as well as lawns—at least where there are still lawns in our drought-damaged city—are filled with signs. We are pressured by friends and, in precincts known for high voter turnout, the faithful knock on our door. Our media is filled with reports of events, poll results, candidates’ gaffs or, on rare occasions, good news from the political world.
Most of all are the unending financial solicitations. It takes great amounts of money to run a credible campaign. The power of advertising is such that, despite all other actions, campaigns rise or fall on advertising.
In short, we are inundated; we are overwhelmed by the political world. Even those of us who consider ourselves political activist/junkies would like to turn it off at times. We dare not. Too much is at stake.
With recent Supreme Court rulings, money has been elevated to an even more important role than what we have so long deplored. Our valley, considered as belonging to the conservatives, has at least one race of sufficient competition to attract outside money—from the pockets of those with little appreciation of more ordinary folk who have not acquired such riches allowing them to buy elections.
Our weapon to counteract that is people power. See the above re various pleas for help. Just be sure you respond to the needs of the candidate who believes in government that serves, not the negatives who would destroy.
It would seem unnecessary to lecture about the power of the vote, but election after election, national and local, we see the results of so many failing to take advantage of the vote—the vote that our ancestors fought to extend past the power structure of the time. It is the vote that one segment is currently seeking to deny so many with various stumbling blocks: limited hours, picture identification, etc.
It was only six years ago that we had a graphic example of the results of not voting. Remember those maps that Mike Rhodes, then editor of the Community Alliance, compiled? An absolutely clear-cut line existed between north and south in the 2008 mayoral race. Our mayor, who was elected because one section of the community used the right to vote while the other thought it did not matter enough to bother, now wants to abandon us for something “bigger and better.”
Popping up again is the proposal to divide the Fresno Unified School District as a simplistic solution to the challenges of education. This is a story for another column, but I mention it here because of my conviction that our need is for more togetherness, not division. One way to promote that togetherness is for all to use the power of the vote. One vote does matter. Never forget: one vote made English our language, not German; one vote made Adolph Hitler chair of the Nazi party.
No matter how disgusted we get, how tired of the advertising, feel there is little difference between the candidates or that the issues won’t affect us, we must not succumb to excuses. We have a privilege and a responsibility that others around the world still give their lives for. That vote counts.
Ruth Gadebusch, a community activist, is a veteran, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.