I love election day. There is something about the excitement and satisfaction I feel going in on the day of the elections to vote. In this way I am taking part in our civic duty, making a difference, exercising my right, and honoring a long -standing tradition in my family.
I grew up in a house where all of the members and guests were encouraged to discuss, shout, argue and even offend each other on the subject of politics. My husband’s entire career has been in public service. He has served at the state, federal, county, and local levels of government. When I stop and think and realize that when my grandmothers were born women weren’t allowed to vote and my great grandmothers were unable to vote in the first few elections of their lifetimes; I wouldn’t even consider not voting.
The expectation in my family that we will all partake in this civic duty began with the election of 1948, 23 years before I was born. On election day, my mother, Jacquie, was home from school sick with the measles. She was eight years old. Her mother, my Meemaw, came into her room, sat down on her bed and told her that she was going to have to leave my mother alone for a little while because she had to go vote. Meemaw said it simply was in her DNA to support Truman. She told Jacquie that Truman supported the labor unions and that Meemaw’s step father was an early organizer for the Teamsters. Meemaw explained that she remembered how much better things were for her stepfather and other truck drivers after the Teamsters organized. People could live off their wages and their lives improved. Meemaw would never forget being taken to those initial meetings by her stepfather in Battlecreeek, Michigan and Toledo,Ohio. To her, voting meant that things would not go back to how they were.
My grandparents had both been Roosevelt democrats, but were not in agreement of who should win this election. Meemaw wasn’t out the door 10 minutes when the phone at home rang and Jacquie answered. It was her dad, Grandpa Marvin. He chatted with his daughter and then asked to talk to her mother.
Jacquie said, “She’s not here. She went to go vote, and this is why.” She proceeded to repeat everything Meemaw had said to her. Exasparated, Grandpa Marvin said he would call back later. My grandfather always jumped around, waved his arms and yelled a lot. He was more animated than mad. In fact, he said that he would only be mad if Dewey lost by one vote.
When my grandparents spoke on the phone later he said, “you left her alone to go vote for that son of a @#$%&??!!”
To which my Meemaw replied, “yes, of course I did!”
This election was one of the biggest upsets in American history. The newspapers had already predicted a Dewey victory and had printed the following day’s papers with the banner headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman!”
Meemaw was right, our votes matter. Every vote counts. I am honoring the legacy of my grandmothers and great grandmothers, all of the women before me who didn’t have the right to vote, and the women who fought so our voices could be heard. Election day always makes me feel hopeful and excited for the future. No matter what the outcome, whether I agree or not; as I settle in and watch election returns tonight I will be reminded that we are a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”