Sunday, August 22, 2010

Senator Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches # 1211

  “My one vote does not count,” is a refrain that I have heard many times. I took exception each time. I take exception now – strongly.

  Did you know that Hitler became head of the Nazi Party in 1923 by one vote? What would have happened if Adolph Hitler had failed by one vote? Would we have had the Second World War? Would millions of soldiers have died in war and millions of citizens in concentration camps? That’s the power of one vote.

  Our one vote always counts. It counts if we don’t vote. It counts twice if we do vote.  When we don’t vote, our one vote counts against that for which we stand. When we vote, our one vote counts once against that for which we stand and once for that which we stand. Our one vote always counts.

  Sure, you say, that one example was from way over in Germany on the other side of the world. What about right here in the United States? Well, Texas became a state by one vote in 1845. Otherwise, it would have been an independent country. Just think, without President Lyndon Johnson we would not have a Voting Rights Act insuring African Americans the right to vote. That’s the power of one vote.

  Do you know that our one vote has power whether we cast it or not? When we vote, we decide how the power of our one vote is used. When we don’t vote, we increase the power of those who do vote. But they decide who benefits from the power of our vote.

  I see, you want more examples. Two are not enough. Well, in 1876, one vote elected Rutherford B. Hayes President of the United States. The man who cast that one vote in the Electoral College was a congressman from Indiana who was elected by one vote. President Hayes changed history. It was President Hayes who pulled federal troops out of the South leaving those recently freed from slavery at the mercy of unfettered violence. This act allowed the Klan and others to effectively take away the newly won right to vote insured by the highest man-made law, an Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. That’s the power of one vote.

  The hard, cold truth is that we can never know the difference our one vote will make until it’s too late. We do know that our one vote always makes a difference because it combines with the one vote of others to make a bigger impact. It may inspire our friends and neighbors in ways we cannot fathom. We simply cannot know the impact our one vote will make, but we do know the impact will be ours only if we vote.

  You want more examples. California became a state by one vote in 1850. Think of what this country might be without California. We may not have had Richard Nixon as president. You may think that may have been good. Well, we may not have had Californian Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. Remember, he provided the leadership for the case of Brown vs. Board of Education which struck down segregation in our schools and in other areas of life. That was made possible by one vote cast over a hundred years earlier. That’s the power of one vote.

  As a rule, it takes about a half hour or so to vote. There are 17,520 half hours in a year. Isn’t it worth investing just one half hour each election even if we think our one vote will not count? One little vote may be the biggest vote of our life.

  Do you know that in 1791 - by one vote - English was chosen as the official language of the colonies that became the United States of America? One vote the other way and we would be speaking German. Do you know that one vote per precinct would have elected Richard Nixon president in 1960 rather than John F. Kennedy? Think of the path this country may have followed if Kennedy had not been president. For starters, we may not have been the first to land a man on the moon. In addition, Lyndon Johnson would not have become vice president and ultimately president. Do you see that our one vote leads to all kinds of impact we can’t foresee? Do you see the power of one vote?

  Just think, our one vote may inspire others in our families to act. It may inspire our children and our children’s children in manners we cannot foresee. That’s the power of the vote.

  Do you know that one more vote per precinct in Florida would have elected Al Gore as president rather than George W. Bush? One more vote per precinct and we may not be stuck in wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. We never know how our one vote will combine with the one vote of others to change the course of history. Moreover, the significance of our one vote sometimes does not manifest itself until years later, i.e., 15 years in the case of Hitler; 100 years in the case of California; 120 years in the case of Texas; etc. Let’s all unleash our one vote in the next election and watch its power at work.

EPILOGUE – Every action we take then takes a life of its own. We don’t know how it will impact current events. We don’t know how it will impact history. We do know the impact will be different if we don’t act. Such is the case with casting our one vote.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents the 23rd Senate District in Alabama.

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