Editor’s Notebook: The most important Election Day is the next one
The polling station inside the Warner Town Hall during the September primary election. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)
If you ask quarterback Tom Brady, winner of seven Super Bowls, which championship ring is his favorite, he always answers the same way: the next one.
It’s the answer I would give if someone asked about the most consequential election of my lifetime: the next one, always the next one.
But I also have a tendency to be a bit nostalgic, and so with Election Day less than a week away I decided to do a little research on the first election of my voting life: the 1990 midterms.
Despite Republican President George H.W. Bush’s sinking job approval rating – he was at 54 percent in November 1990, according to Gallup – his party still had a strong showing in New Hampshire. Bob Smith was elected to the U.S. Senate over the Democratic nominee, John Durkin, by 34 percentage points, and Bill Zeliff took over Smith’s 1st Congressional District seat by handily beating Joe Keefe. The Democrats did, however, manage a victory in the 2nd District, with Dick Swett topping Chuck Douglas by 5 points. In the State House, the Republicans rolled. Judd Gregg was reelected governor, and Republicans held control of the House of Representatives, 269-128 (with one vacancy and two independents), as well as the state Senate, 13-11. (A big thank you to the reference desk at the State Library for helping with that State House breakdown, which, sadly, I had not committed to memory.)
One issue in particular dominated that election: Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. I was 18, newly registered with Selective Service, and so the potential for a major war in the Middle East held an added, and frightening, dimension. Once again, old men would decide whether young men would be sent to die in a foreign land. I wanted to have my say, and that’s what voting gave me.
While the world has changed a lot since 1990 – back then we were still more than two years away from the first web browser – the opportunity to have a real say in the direction of your state and country remains exactly the same.
You are free to decide not to vote – but to make that choice is to withhold participation in your own fate. Why would anyone choose that kind of silence when offered a voice?
This year, my older daughter plans to vote for the first time. She is a freshman at a nearby college and will come home on Monday night so we can go to our polling place together on Tuesday morning. We talk often about politics and policy, and she does a lot of work on her own to understand the issues and what is at stake. I couldn’t be more proud of her engagement. As heavy as that first election in 1990 felt to me, the weight she will carry to the polls next week will be greater. The dawn of her adulthood has been shaped by a pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, the Jan. 6 insurrection, the ongoing threat to democracy, the fall of Roe v. Wade, and a climate crisis that remains the No. 1 issue whether candidates are talking about it or not.
But even with all of that, she will not bend and she will not be silent. She will speak clearly and definitively with the voice given to her.
She will vote.
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