The United States is a stable democracy. And the beauty of a democracy like ours is that our elections allow citizens — citizens who wish to activate their right to vote — to utilize their power as U.S. citizens, by casting their ballot.
Conversely, those who choose not to vote, who choose not to participate, who choose not to cast their ballot, are not punished, not reprimanded.
Just as nobody needs to vote for whom you voted, nobody needs to know if you voted.
I love our elections. I embrace the act of voting. I take a deep breath as I engage in the act of actually casting my ballot. And then I celebrate the moment.
I wear my “I Voted” decal with pride.
Our government is a representative government. Quite simply, that means that the voters elect the representatives. Those representatives are then sent to the halls of power on the local, state and federal level. They are there because we, those who cast our ballots, sent them there.
And here is the essential point of a representative government: once elected, the representative is free to vote any way, on any issue. Voters can call, write or visit their elected representative, but the elected official is accountable to voters on one day and one day only.
And that one day is Election Day.
It is only during those few, nail biting, hours that voters get to reward incumbents or to punish them and replace them with a newbie.
In general, massive shifts do not take place in stable democracies. The pendulum does not swing too far right or too far left. In general, in stable democracies the center is where governing takes place. That’s the place where consensus can be found. It’s the place where bipartisanship can work. It’s the place where magic happens.
Historically, having that massive electoral middle was the secret of the U.S. government. Of course, there were moments when politics became heated and extreme voices caught the wave and gained influence.
And that is when our system of checks and balances emerged, making certain that those on the extreme did not take over.
Midterms keep government in check. Without midterm elections the peoples’ voice would only be heard, and their choices would only be utilized, every four years.
Instead, every two years the people have the ability to redirect, the opportunity to let their representatives know what they are thinking and how they are feeling about issues and about the choices their representatives have been making.
Obviously, in the case of a trifecta, when the House, the Senate and the White House are all from the same party, it is easier to move partisan issues along. But because of our system, that trifecta often only lasts for two years. Voters rebel against that kind of partisanship, they vote to stop it.
That is what happened in this election.
The voting public stopped the trifecta mid-step.
We keep hearing that our country is split in half, that it is divided. But most pundits are wrong.
Most of America is actually and truly in the center. They lean a little left or a little right depending on the issue, but most of America is neither extreme right nor extreme left.
Most voters find political extremism disheartening — some would go as far as to say abhorrent.
There are, of course, areas, regions, counties, cities and states that are decidedly and historically more left or more right. They elect people in line with their positions. But when those people, their representatives, get to the halls of power the only way for them to pass legislation is through compromise.
The secret to success in government is compromise.
Our electoral system created a difficult conundrum. In order for a candidate to successfully navigate and win in the primaries. To win a primary, the candidate must present themselves as thoroughbred, pure blooded, pedigreed.
Candidates during primaries need to present themselves as representing the party and its policies up and down the line, above all else.
But in the general election, well, in the general election that very same candidate needs to pivot to the center to get the middle-of-the road votes. Every candidate — on both the national and local level, and even the federal level — needs those middle voters.
Certainly, there are exceptions like New York City, LA and Boston. In New York City Republicans are such a minority that the Democratic primary is the only election that counts. Once a person wins the Democratic primary, they waltz into office.
I celebrate elections because I love the freedom elections represent. In our democracy, if you are disappointed by the results, you have a chance to rectify the situation in two, four or six years. Elected officials are given that injection of reality.
They are there to represent us. They are there because we put them there. And every few years they are reminded. And every few years they are humbled.
As for those who choose not to vote, they are missing out on one of the greatest opportunities, perhaps the greatest of all gifts, bestowed on those of us fortunate to live in a stable democracy.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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