In some respects, it’s hard to believe mid-terms are here. This moment has been a national focal point for two years for many people. In other respects, the presidential election of 2016 seems like decades ago. Whatever your political perspective, I suspect we could all agree this has been an eventful two years.
Immediately in the aftermath of that election and the inauguration, the Women’s March reflected the intensity of emotional reaction among many women to the outcome. In October of that year, the #metoo movement challenged many people’s perception of sexual assault and its prevalence. A number of men resigned positions of power and the implications of movement continue to be felt.
The Women’s March 2.0 in January 2018 was a measure of the sustained emotion, with crowds in many places surpassing the crowds of the previous year. The Mueller Investigation continued to grind on, with indictments and convictions. A controversial supreme court nominee faced allegations of sexual assault and was ultimately confirmed. Our tax code was changed substantially.
Environmental protections (or burdensome regulations, depending on your political views) were curtailed by executive order, business regulations were loosened. Charlottesville. Pittsburgh. Charleston. Congressional baseball team. Sutherland Springs, Texas. Las Vegas. Parkland, Florida. I suspect most of us could recount immediately the horrific stories associated with each of these.
We left NAFTA and the Paris Agreement. We thought we might engage in a nuclear exchange with North Korea, then our presidents met and liked each other before they didn’t again. The strange, on-going story with Russia culminated in a confounding summit with our presidents in which Mr. Trump said each side shared blame for bad relations and would not condemn or accept the idea of Russian interference in U.S. elections despite all our intelligence agencies saying it is so.
Both sides of the political aisle have attacked and counter-attacked. It seems one cannot be a “true” American if they disagree with our political philosophy. Some of us have re-evaluated what being an American really means. That kind of soul searching could be productive in the long-run, but it can be painful in the moment.
Climate change continued to be, at best, a non-priority while Hurricane Harvey caused historic flooding in Houston. Two weeks later hurricane Irma devastated the Florida Keys. At the end of that same month, Hurricane Maria became the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century. And then there are all the wildfires.
You get the picture and you remember what it has been like. We’ve reeled from one story to the next. We can’t process a wave of politically targeted bombs being mailed across the country before we’re hit with a mass-shooting at a synagogue. It’s exhausting.
Through all of these events, our political process has continued to work its course. We’ve had campaigns, primaries and now we are ready for mid-term elections. We already know a few things: Women are running and winning primaries and elections at a pace we’ve never seen before. Knoxville’s city council races are an example: In every race including a female (which was all but one), a female won. We know large numbers of people have registered to vote.
We also know that early voting is setting records across the country, though the numbers aren’t that amazing in Knox County. About 114,000 people voted early here and that compares to about 107,000 in the last mid-term year. It’s more, but it’s hardly a wave. As a commenter pointed out below: I misunderstood these numbers. More Knox County voters voted early this round than in the entire election in 2014. That is stunning! Thanks for the correction!
It’s interesting to note, however, that state-wide, Tennessee has more than doubled the early votes from four years ago. Of course, we don’t really know who these people are and whether more people are voting or more are simply shifting from election day to early-voting.
So, with all that has happened in the last two years, the primaries and early voting complete, we’re down to decision day 2018. From all the polling, it appears the U.S. Senate will likely remain in Republican control and the U.S. House will likely shift to Democrats. But we don’t really know. It’s also important to remember that we have state-wide races underway which will have at least as much, if not more, impact on our daily lives.
Lots of people have been excited for the last two years. Both sides have argued their cases on Facebook. Some people have joined social media groups, marched and otherwise increased their political involvement. But there is only one action that has the potential to make a difference: Voting.
These elections will be won or lost depending on who votes. It matters. It doesn’t matter if your Facebook post got the most likes as you eloquently expressed the outrage of your cohort group. It doesn’t matter if you stood up to your friends or family. Marching is nice, but it’s not likely to make a difference. If you don’t vote, you might as well have stayed home, stayed off social media and simply accepted that you have ceded control to others.
Voting in Knox County runs from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Tuesdday, Novemeber 6 (tomorrow, as of this publication). You simply need photo ID, if you are a registered voter (topic for another day: Why do we have voter registration cards? topic for another day, still: Why aren’t people registered to vote when they get their driver’s license renewed, if they are over 18?). You can find your polling place here. All KAT Buses are offering free fares for the day to get you to the polls (thanks fr that info, Compass)
In an effort to help out a bit, I’m posting two recent interviews from KnoxCentric (WUTK, 90.3, Sunday Mornings at 10:00 AM). The first is an interview with State Senator Richard Briggs and Jamie Ballinger, candidates for Tennessee State Senate, District 7. The second is an interview with Renee Hoyos, candidate for U.S. House District 2. It should be noted that Tim Burchett, the Republican nominee for District Two was invited, but declined to join the conversation.
Finally, tune in next Sunday at 10:00 AM on WUTK when I’ll be joined by UT political science professor Richard Pacelle. He will break down all the results locally and nationally and attempt to read the tea leaves as to what the election said about the state of the state and the state of the country.
Interview with Jamie Ballinger and Richard Briggs