An Optimist’s Guide to Voting

cheerful graphicPolitics and optimism seem to mix like oil and water. Yet formidable British statesman Winston Churchill once said, “I am an optimist. It doesn’t seem too much use being anything else.” Those of us with such dispositions can successfully navigate the midterm elections by clinging to some simple values most optimists hold dear to their hearts. 

At the end of the day, optimists really just want everyone to be happy. It’s an idea our founding fathers shared, at least in theory. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” When optimists vote, they want nothing more than to keep our country moving towards fulfilling those promising words adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

Most optimists believe good character to be the most important quality in any person, particularly someone who wishes to hold the power of a public office. I can’t say I understand voters who only care about a politician’s policies or party. Abraham Lincoln reminded us, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Think about the personal qualities you admire and likely insist upon in the people you want in your inner circle. Before you vote, consider how well the candidates hold up against that basic measure. 

Optimists have trust in their fellow citizens and in democracy itself. We have faith in the democratic process and take seriously our right and responsibility to vote. After decades of protest and civil disobedience, the 15th amendment to the constitution extended voting rights to men of all races, and the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. When we go to the polls we must keep in mind that democracy, the cornerstone of an optimistic nation, is always at stake. 

At the risk of sounding like a Miss American contestant, optimists really do want world peace. George Washington said, “Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations, cultivate peace and harmony with all.” Here at home, we want to live in a country that’s peaceful and united in the belief that we all deserve to feel safe and respected, despite our differences. I will always support the candidate who wants that, too.

For those of who like to keep things simple and sweet, election cycles can seem awfully messy and rude. Let’s stay true to our ideals of happiness, character, civility, and harmony. Don’t worry when the cynics call us dreamers. Remember what Harry S. Truman said, “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

“Democracy is not a spectator sport.”
~ Marian Wright Edelman

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