The day is finally here.

Wait, let me put that differently:

The day is finally here.

It’s Election Day in America after a long, grueling, divisive, and, at times, violent campaign. The day has come for us to choose the next leader of the free world.

I’m honestly torn. Part of me is really happy this campaign is finally over because it should (emphasis on should) mean the dust can settle and we can adjust and adapt to whomever is elected into any office. The election, after all, decides so much more than just presidency. There are elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate, in addition to the Executive branch. And, after the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, the new senate and president will need to fill the seat as soon as possible after much controversy. Indiana (my home-state) is also electing a new governor, state legislators, and other offices. The role of local politicians is just as important as the federal politicians just with less grandeur. Which is why part of me was pretty upset when I went to vote and I heard a lady say she only wanted to vote for president. Yes, the presidency is a huge responsibility and everyone should cast their vote for that office, but there are so many other offices with even more influence on our day-to-day lives.

But the other part of me is absolutely terrified by the prospect of many candidates gaining office. I was too young to remember the details of the 2000 election, much less understand it, but I do remember the 2004 election in bits and pieces. I would have been eight years old in 2004. I remember that as a kid I was so excited to vote. I had seen my parents do it, my father committed over twenty years of his life to defend our freedoms, and I understand the role of voting in democracy as a citizen’s civic duty.

When I was home for my fall break, I was finally able to live the dream I had as an eight-year-old kid: I voted. I never would have expected to vote third-party as much as I did, and in the offices I did, on my first ballot. Eight-year-old me thought third parties were made up of a bunch of losers, but now I consider myself part of one–hence reinforcing the idea that they are composed of a bunch of losers (it’s a joke!). I was so nervous. I was shaking so much and I was taking deep breaths trying to settle my nerves. I was worried I was going to make a mistake even after I spent hours researching candidates from top to bottom. I still have the note in my phone detailing who I was going to vote for–it’s color-coded and everything. So I was worried that I was going to fill in the wrong bubble for a candidate or that I was going to accidentally vote for a measure or a candidate with unforeseen consequences.

I never had any interest in political science, but I always feel like I would be pushed away from the field by the field itself because I am a moderate. America has what I believe to be an insecure attachment to the two-party system; an attachment that has been weakened by the choices for presidency who may go down in history as the two most disliked candidates ever to run for that office. Maybe I’m completely wrong and maybe the field of political science would welcome a moderate whose faith in the two-party system is, to be frank, through the tubes.

If you’ve registered to vote, which I genuinely hope you have, go vote today. But please, make sure you know who and what you’re voting for. If you want to see a change in politics, you have to sound your trumpet. No vote is wasted. To quote something I saw on the internet somewhere, “I would rather vote for what I believe in and lose than vote for what I do not believe in and win.” Please be educated–do your homework, know what each candidate stands for and, seriously, don’t vote a straight ticket unless you’ve done your research and one party’s candidates all believe the same things you do. And if that happens, I hope you re-evaluate what it means to be a free-thinker.

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Seriously, don’t fill out one of these.

Be an independent. Be your own party with your own platform. For those of you who may be curious, I will disclose how I voted, not for whom I voted, out of interest of privacy. I voted for six Democrats, three Libertarians, and two Republicans. I even committed the cardinal sin of a Wabash man: I voted to retain a judge who studied at DePauw! Even as the 123rd Monon Bell Classic approaches! #WAF. I address the people of my proud hometown of South Bend, IN: did you do enough research to know which judge I’m referring to? If you did, post a comment or live with the eternal shame.

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So I’m not trying to write one of those articles that goes viral. Or one of those articles people respond to with a “this changes how we view the world on a fundamental level” reaction. I’m doing something I actually really hate doing: I’m spouting common sense, nothing more. I’m not trying to start a revolution, I just want to make sure everyone actually makes their voices heard in 2016. To quote Rush, “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” In 2016, if you choose not to decide, you have made the choice to silence yourself and that is not the action of a free people. Too high a cost has been paid for liberty.

I, maybe controversially, would argue that you are silencing yourself in the same way if you vote for someone you don’t agree with and/or believe in. The great part of democracy is that the people are meant to rule over the government. So use your power; vote for you ideals and your beliefs. Fight for your independence.

 

“Crazy, but that’s how it goes

Millions of people living as foes

Maybe. it’s not too late

To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

Mental wounds not healing

Life’s a bitter shame

I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train

I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train

I’ve listened to preachers, I’ve listened to fools

I’ve watched all the dropouts

Who make their own rules

One person conditioned to rule and control

The media sells it and you live the role.”

-Ozzy Osbourne, “Crazy Train”

 

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