May 28, 2023
REAL TALK From AJ Woodson

Your Vote Is Not a Valentine, It’s More Like A Chess Move!! Democracy Is On The Ballot!!!

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“Democracy is on the ballot” is probably the most ubiquitous phrase that pays in every political speech and commentary during this midterm election season. You cannot go an hour without hearing it on radio or on television or reading it multiple times in traditional newspapers and online on social media. It is a phrase repeatedly invoked by President Joe Biden, and practically every Democratic candidate, and left leaning news outlet. We hear before every election, ‘vote like your life depends on it because this is the most important election of your life.’

The truth is the act of voting has never felt so critical. With accusations of rigged elections, voter fraud, machine malfunctions, and vote tampering, the ballot is at the center of the debate, and many election-denier are on the ballot in key races around the country.

Black Westchester had no intention to join the noise and sing choruses of why you should vote, tell you that you must vote for the Democrats, how so many people died so you can have the right to vote or even try to explain the power of the Black Vote, yet again. But I’ve seen so many people talking about the candidates in this election with many saying they are sitting this one out. Acting like there is such a thing as a perfect candidate. To them I say, “Your Vote Is Not a Valentine, it’s more like a chess move!!!”

When you cast your vote it doesn’t require you like 100% of what the candidate represents. That would be unrealistic, and simply ridiculous. You aren’t choosing a spouse; you are choosing a President, a Governor, a member of Congress or any other elected official. Passion may be required to choose a spouse or a career, but love is not a requirement when choosing a candidate.

“A Vote is not a Valentine, you aren’t confessing your love for a candidate, it’s a chess move for the world you want to live it” – Rebecca Solnit, a writer, and activist who spoke powerfully about the importance of voting as a strategic choice rather than a solemn duty.

The Lincoln Project pointed out that we will save America, if we are united: “The biggest threat to democracy isn’t Trump, rigged elections, or radically obstructionist Republicans. It’s apathy!”

The truth about democracy is that every two years we are voting on whether we want to continue this great experiment called democracy, even though we don’t hear about as much as before any election like we are now! Warning that democracy itself is in peril, President Joe Biden called on Americans Wednesday night to use their ballots in next week’s midterm elections to stand up against lies, violence and dangerous “ultra MAGA” election disruptors who are trying to “succeed where they failed” in subverting the 2020 elections.

“Silence is complicity.” This is no time to stand aside,” Biden declared. “There’s an alarming rise in the number of people in this country condoning political violence or simply remaining silent. In our bones we know democracy is at risk, but we also know this: It’s in our power to preserve our democracy.”

Biden’s speech — focused squarely on the right to voting and the counting of that vote — amounted to a plea for Americans to step back from the inflamed rhetoric that has heightened fears of political violence and challenges to the integrity of the elections.

Biden is not the first United States President to plead to Americans about the importance of saving our democracy. President Abraham Lincoln thought it was the sacred duty of every president to preserve our Union. As defined by Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. It means a democratic government, which serves the people, is made up of members of the public elected by their fellow citizens.

“Hated and hailed, excoriated and revered, Abraham Lincoln served as President of the United States in an existential hour. Other Presidents have been confronted with momentous decisions—of war and peace, of life and death, of freedom and power. Yet it fell to Lincoln to adjudicate whether the nation would, in his phrase, remain “half slave and half free”—and whether the American experiment would survive the treason of a rebellious white South that put its own interests ahead of the Union itself,” Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham wrote in his cover story ‘Lincoln Saved American Democracy. We Can Too,’ in the October 24/ October 31, 2022, double issue of Time Magazine.

Meacham goes on to describe Lincoln as “A President who led a divided country in which an implacable minority gave no quarter in a clash over power, race, identity, money, and faith has much to teach us in our own 21st century moment of profound polarization, passionate disagreement, and differing understandings of reality. Newspaper headlines warn of an impending civil war, and in a recent YouGov­-Economist poll 54% of self-­identified “strong Republicans” thought “a civil war was at least somewhat likely in the next decade.””

There were other presidents who words we remember in history as defenders of democracy, but the country may never have been as divided under any president more than Lincoln until now. And now history has its eyes on us. Years from now history will recall how we handled the fragility of democracy and what we did or did not do to protect it or let it fade away into autocracy, which no one reading this wants to truly find out the definition by example.

Much like President Lincoln in 1861, and with the same urgency, Wednesday night President Biden laid out the threats to democracy, using a prime-time address, calling the midterm elections a “battle for the soul of this nation.” Biden reminded us that there are those who want to take us “backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love. They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.”

“But while the threat to American democracy is real, I want to say as clearly as we can: We are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy. There are far more Americans — far more Americans from every — from every background and belief who reject the extreme ideology than those that accept it. And, folks, it is within our power, it’s in our hands — yours and mine — to stop the assault on American democracy.”

Its bigger than whether you like Joe Biden or not. To be honest all elected officials, all politicians have their issues and have their own agenda, there is no perfect candidate. There never will be. President Lincoln and many of the other presidents we celebrate were all flawed individuals. Same goes for Senators, Congressmembers and every candidate on the ballot right now.

I repeat “You aren’t choosing a spouse; you are choosing a President, a Governor, a member of Congress, or any other elected official. Passion may be required to choose a spouse or a career, but love is not a requirement when choosing a candidate. – A Vote is not a Valentine, you aren’t confessing your love for a candidate. It’s a chess move for the world you want to live it.”

Our democracy is imperfect and always evolving, but that’s the nature of democracy. The changes, for better or worse, reflect the will of the people. There has been some debate among historians whether the Unites States is the oldest democracy, but I believe it is the longest standing democracy. Whether the United States is the oldest democracy or not, it is the first to include elements of democracy, it is the oldest existing nation with a constitutional government in which the people elect their own government and representatives.

I am not a diehard Democrat who preaches vote ‘Row A’ all the way. I am not going to sell you dreams that by voting for Democrats in the 2022 midterm election, everyone is going to get everything they are fighting for. But if you do not vote for democracy in this election, I guarantee – whether it is civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, rights to choose (abortion, same-sex marriage, etc), police reform, voting rights and so much more – you will have no chance in getting any of these and like the overturning of Roe V Wade you will lose whatever rights you do have now.

You won’t have to worry about voting or sitting out another election because you do not like the candidates because your right to vote will definitely be lost, if some on the ballot get their way. It’s as simple as that. Now this great experiment we call the democracy of the United States is far from perfect, as a Black Man in America, I know that more than anyone. But with all its flaws, do you really want to live the way they do in Russia, North Korea or one of the many other autocratic countries?

I am not trying to scare you to vote one way over the other like both political parties frequently do. I am simply giving you some Real Talk. You do what you will with it.

This election is not the one to sit out, and not to sound repetitive like a broken record, Democracy Is On The Ballot. History has its eyes on you. Before you decide to definitely sit this one out, just think about the type of world you want to leave your children and grandchildren, because that is who is going to benefit or suffer from our decisions in this election and that’s REAL TALK!

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Rae Sampson-McMillan November 4, 2022 at 6:31 AM

Comment Correction – Noting too, that the Oppressiveisms (TM) are clearly on the ballot….

Rae Sampson-McMillan November 3, 2022 at 9:57 AM

Such a timely, relevant, meaningful and focused article, where so much is at stake including our authentic democracy.
Love the analogy used – “Your Vote is Not a Valentine, it’s more like a chess move!” Yes, and it is one’s constitutional rights to vote hence, it is important to put that power right where it should be. Nothing too, that the Oppressiveisms (TM) are clearly on the ballot. That should be concerning to all of us.

AJ Woodson November 3, 2022 at 10:46 AM

Thank you very much, after hearing so many people complaining about the candidates and talking about sitting this election out, I felt I needed to write something


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