Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1586: Doing what we’ve always done will get us what we’ve always gotten

  Habit is a powerful thing. Habit is when we do what we have always done. There is great security in habit. There is great stability in habit. There is great comfort in habit. However, habit does not change things; it maintains things. If we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always gotten.

  The author of the preceding statement is unknown. Some say it came from comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Others say Henry Ford. Still others say Albert Einstein. Others say Tony Robbins and so on. We don’t really know the original source. But we do know the power of the statement.

  Just last week I was discussing the Vote or Die slogan with a friend. She reminded me that some fellow strugglers were resisting the slogan. Of course, I already knew that this friend did not particularly like the Vote or Die slogan. But I said, “The slogan is not meant for you.You are already voting. It is meant to move those who are not voting.” I had shared similar words with others, but my words did not move my friends. If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got. I say, “Vote or Die!”

  Some years ago, we recognized that way too few 18-25 year olds voted. A few years later it became too few 18-30 year olds. Then it was the 18-35 year olds. Now it’s the 18-40 year olds. Those of us who strongly encourage all people to vote keep doing what we’ve always done. Therefore we keep getting what we have always gotten. But the problem is getting worse. The 18-25 year old non-voters were a serious problem. Now it has evolved to the 18-40 year old voters. This is a critical problem!

  How do we get younger people to vote in much larger numbers? I don’t really know the answer. I have asked younger people. Alabama New South Coalition had a youth panel at its last convention. We will have another panel this weekend at the convention. However, I don’t know any more than I knew beforehand. I do know that we cannot keep doing the same thing.

  There was a great increase among younger voters in the 2008 and 2012 election cycles. President Barack Obama was seeking election in 2008 and reelection in 2012. However, in the compression election cycles 2010 and 2014, younger voters did not vote in strong numbers. Is the only way to get 18-40 year olds to vote in large numbers is to have Obama-like candidates on the ballot? That cannot possibly be a viable solution for there are very few Obama-like candidates.Then what is the answer? I don’t know.

  We have asked younger people to take the initiative; take the leadership. The response has been inaction. I am willing to see if Vote or Die will be effective. I think the slogan Vote or Die came from a rapper. Maybe rappers know something that we don’t. If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.

  It is very difficult for us to get beyond ourselves. A certain perspective comes with our age and experiences. Therefore, it is very difficult to change what we have been doing. Our approach to younger voters involves talking about how important it is to vote; the struggles and sacrifices made by previous generations to secure the right to vote; and current attacks on voting rights. However, that does not appear to move the 18-40 year olds. Therefore, we have to expand our perspective and approach.

  The Vote or Die slogan is a little bit shocking. It is supposed to be shocking. What is shocking to those of us in our 60s and 70s may simply get the attention of the 18-40 year olds. They are swamped by information.  Mild messages may not even register with the younger generation.

  I wrote a previous Sketches setting forth some ways we die when we fail to vote. Those ranged from areas involving health to law enforcement, to education to voting, to jobs to business and so forth. Voting determines so much in our lives that causes us to live longer or die sooner. If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got. Vote or Die!

  Our election system is contorted to make sure that the young and certain others do not vote. First, we have to register to vote when we come of age. Second, we must go to the polls to vote. Third, we must provide photo identification. Fourth, some polling places are located so that it is difficult to get to them, they may move without notice, and there often can be too few of them in certain areas. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. I know that some will say, “If we older folks can overcome these obstacles and vote, then the younger voters can do so as well.”

  As I was working on Sketches, a Selma community leader came into my office. He was so excited about how the nonpartisan Vote or Die campaign was going in Selma/Dallas County. “People love it,” he said, “especially the younger people.” If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.

Epilogue – It is so hard to change. To change we must first realize that we need to change, and that is really hard. To change, we have to do that which is not safe, not secure, not stable, not comfortable. And that is real, real hard. However, when we change for the better the reward is really great.

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

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