Fall 2016: “Why Bother to Vote?” University Winner Ben Marcus

Read Ben's essay, "The Voting Superhero," about how we may not be able to fly or have an arsenal of high-tech crime-fighting tools, but we do have the power to vote.

Ben Marcus, a student of Paula Patch at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “5 Reasons to Vote Even When You Hate Everything on the Ballot.”

In this article, journalist and millennial Yessenia Funes shares her opinion on why it’s important to vote—even if you hate everything on the ballot. Funes points out what’s at stake, especially for those groups who vote the least, and options if you are dissatisfied with the slate of candidates.

Writing Prompt: Is not voting a responsible option in a presidential election? Weigh in with your argument.

NOTE: This essay was written before the Nov. 8 election. Please read Ben’s post-election thoughts at the end of his essay.

The Voting Superhero

As kids we grew up wishing we could be superheroes. When I was six, I woke up early Saturday morning to reruns of The New Adventures of Captain Planet, uncomfortably aware that climate change was real and that this was a mythical superhero who couldn’t actually save the planet. When I was thirteen, I began to follow the news, witnessing story after story about horrible mass shootings and wishing there were characters like Batman or Superman to stop the bloodshed. In my early teen years, I also began to notice the complexity of dealing with poverty in America, signs of which were all over my hometown of Atlanta, from boarded-up buildings to panhandlers at every corner. At that moment I had to ask: Where is the real world Robin Hood? Now, at 18, I’ve come to understand that voting is the solution to all of those questions. Voting makes us all the superheroes of our dreams.

When you vote for candidates that support meaningful environmental legislation, such as the Kyoto Protocol and The Paris Agreement, you are channeling Captain Planet’s Planeteers. The Planeteers are youth from around the globe who have powers to fight environmental destruction. When they alone could not succeed, they summoned someone to represent their combined powers—Captain Planet. You and I alone cannot stop big issues, such as poaching and carbon emissions, but our votes can through the people we elect. Elected officials can put forward sanctions, regulate industries, and prohibit products that contain environmentally damaging substances; their influence is far greater than the impact of an individual, everyday American. This is no more true than in the state where I go to school—North Carolina. Pat McCrory, the current governor, has been accused of favoring his former employer, Duke Energy, the company that caused the third-largest coal-ash spill in American history. His administration is one of many state governments that have opposed environmental regulation in favor of big business. This election day, the people of North Carolina can “let [their] powers combine” to protect our environment simply by voting for McCrory’s opponent Roy Cooper.

When you vote for candidates who support gun control and rational policies to reduce crime, you tap into a little part of your inner Batman and Superman. Although none of us can fly or have an arsenal of high-tech crime-fighting tools, we do have something that is equally as potent: voting for candidates who, like Hillary Clinton, believe that reasonable gun control should be a priority. Superheroes won’t stop the next mass shooting—it’s you and I who go to the polls November 8th and vote for candidates who support reasonable gun control. Americans are unsatisfied with the state of gun violence in this country, so why are we waiting for a superhero to stop the carnage?

Poverty is a complicated and menacing archenemy for even a superhero. But there are weapons that can help stop this beast. When you vote for candidates who support closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions that benefit the rich, you bring out your inner Robin Hood.  Donald Trump’s success can be partly attributed to the anger of America’s white rural poor, who feel abandoned by the current political establishment. They believe poor urban Americans, in particular people of color, receive too much government and media attention, as well as resources.

Poverty and issues over race have become deeply intertwined in politics, making it an  uncomfortable problem to discuss, and an even more overwhelming to solve. Politicians must be reminded that poverty is a problem that affects all Americans—regardless of their race or where they live in our nation. When millions of our citizens are in poverty, this country has a moral obligation to support them. By voting for candidates who wholeheartedly support early childhood education, elimination of food deserts, and social support services, we can all be the superheroes who eliminate poverty from the richest nation on earth.  

Whatever political issue you are most passionate about, whatever your party affiliation, whatever your age, your race, your gender identity or your sexual orientation, know that you have the superpower to create change. Yessenia Funes, in her article, “5 Reasons to Vote Even When You Hate Everything on the Ballot,” correctly pointed out that especially in this election the “People who vote the least have the most to lose this election.” These people should not be waiting for some mythical superhero to save them. They already have that power by voting. Unfortunately—in this world of injustice—not everyone has the right to be a superhero. Yessenia reminds us to “Consider all the people who have an important opinion but can’t vote.” So, if you have the power to vote, utilize it, and be the superhero that many of us cannot.

 Postscript: The election did not, in fact, change my opinion. It only strengthened the ideas I discussed. The fact that Clinton won by 2.5 million votes proves that voting should make a difference, but that our system is broken enough for Trump to win and lose the popular vote.  I also believe that not voting is a major problem. I heard a lot of people say, “Well, my district is already gonna go for Trump so why vote?” That is the mindset that made Clinton lose states like Wisconsin and North Carolina. 

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