On September 17, 1787, a few remarkable men published an idea for a country based on “we the people.” Not “they the government,” not “he the king,” but “we the people.” They willingly relinquished power from their own hands and spread it across a new society: one that encouraged loyalty to the ideas of individuality, personal choice, and natural rights rather than to a leader. The United States was not formed based on geography or ethnicity or an accident of history. It is simply an idea meant to become something more, and it is one that defied all expectations by achieving unprecedented success.
Only the idea of the United States can classify such a diverse mass of people into one group. The racial, financial, and political divisions between our lives often seem so immense that they subvert any possibility of unity. And yet, all of us are undeniably linked by several inherent privileges: in our country we have the right to speak, we have the right to practice our own religion, and, vitally, we have the right to walk into a ballot box and choose the leaders that we have decided best represent our beliefs. We sometimes make the mistake of assuming that all of our rights, especially our seemingly simple right to vote, are guaranteed. They are not.
In Saudi Arabia, where women only just gained suffrage in 2015, no officials at the national level are elected, and any other elections are rare and often delayed. For each district in North Korea, there is only one potential candidate, and it is a name carefully selected by Kim Jong-Un and his party. In Brunei, national legislative elections have been nonexistent for over five decades. In the United Arab Emirates, seven hereditary rulers possess all executive, legislative, and judicial authority. And yet, despite parts of the world that would prefer otherwise, we have the right to vote. So while suffrage may be considered a natural right in our country, we cannot assume that it is invincible, and we must be aware that it has not lasted without cost. We must be aware that our right to vote matters because it is not guaranteed; it exists only due to our soldiers abroad and our citizens at home who have dedicated themselves to protecting and taking advantage of it.
The fact that our leaders’ positions are incumbent on our voting for them is truly remarkable. Throughout September 2019, President Donald Trump’s approval rating has fluctuated between about 40 and 47 percent. These numbers signify a division in our country regarding opinions about our leadership, but it also represents our freedom. As Americans, we are permitted to act as we want, say what we please, and apologize for none of it.
The rights guaranteed by our democracy are fragile, prone to crumble and disappear without the support of those willing to die to keep them alive. Our votes matter because there are victims of dictatorial regimes around the world who are being abandoned by a government that silences their voices. Our votes matters because in our country, our voices have the power to contribute to change, and we have the privilege and obligation to use them. Our votes matters because every time we go into the ballot box, every time we put forth our opinions into society, every time we exercise our right to choose our own leader, we fulfill the idea that the United States was created to be: a home for “we the people.” And, as the 2020 election nears ever closer, regardless of our political opinions or who we will vote for, “we the people” have the right, responsibility, and absolute necessity to act on these ideas at home.