I’m proud of my lifetime of voting, exercising my most important civic duty — a lifetime duty that has its roots in the many times I went to the polls before I could vote.
My election season tradition began as a kid accompanying my parents as they cast their ballots. Both working people, they would go during the last hours — a deliberate move, I realized years later, to make sure they’d meet up with most of our neighbors, who also went to the polls at the end of the work day. It was a festive atmosphere, with my parents laughing and catching up on local gossip while showing off my sister and me as the well-behaved children that we were. I recall waiting in line, and how exciting and satisfying it was to go behind the curtain and watch my parents pull the levers on those old-fashioned machines.
From those early experiences, voting was a habit ingrained in me. As soon as I was eligible to vote, I did so faithfully, with pride. On the one occasion when I was forced to get an absentee ballot, I felt cheated out of an experience I’d come to treasure. Through the years and the many elections, I’ve been every kind of emotional voter. The excited voter, the anxious voter, the contemplative voter. But this year, I took on a new persona: the rage voter.
Maybe you won’t be surprised to learn that in the never-ending pathology that is 2020, there are a lot of us rage voters. So many that pollsters and political analysts have taken notice.
Rage voters include a broad swath of voters — a non-partisan, cross-generational, group of men, women and nonbinary citizens who are angry for various reasons. Yes, there have always been voters motivated by anger, but this year’s angry voters have transcended simple anger to rage, expressing a roiling combination of focused determination and passion. A recent New York Times report examined the rage trend, zeroing in on women declaring themselves rage voters. Women, overwhelmed by their COVID-19-forced multiple roles, the Times described as “teacher caregiver, employee and parent.” Alida Garcia, vice president of the immigration advocacy group Fwd.us, told Times reporters “I am so full of rage. We are exhausted.” Both the campaigns of President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden hope to capture the rage vote, with Biden so far, statistically, ahead in the battle.
Fueled by my rage, I headed to my nearby early voting location on the first day before the doors opened. I was the 75th person in line (I counted), which quickly grew longer behind me. It was clear that everybody in line had been there a while. They were — standing in the steady rain during an unusually cold morning — what New Englanders called raw. But they did not budge, not even to run to the car for a quick warmup. And for the most part, nobody talked. I didn’t ask them if they were rage voters, but I know it takes a powerful motivator to get people to stand still in rainy, raw weather.
Voting is important to me; I don’t want rage to be any part of my motivation ever again. That’s even though I know it spurred the record-breaking millions of Americans who’ve already voted well before tomorrow’s official Election Day. In these politically divisive times, I observe that there is one thing about which we voters all seem to be saying: “This is the most important election of my life.”