Every vote counts. Even ours.

One of the reasons why I live in Vermont rather than, say, New Hampshire, is because there’s no pressure when the presidential primary finally arrives. I already have way too much pressure in my life, and the last thing I want is for my decision to be meaningful when I am inside the voting booth or to have to make small talk should I run into Clinton, McCain or Obama at Muddy Waters.
Actually, I think it would be fun to run into any of them at Muddy Waters. I’d bring them next-door to Old Gold and ask them for their opinions on the mannequins in the window.
My point? Because the Vermont presidential primary occurs months after the very first primaries in January, and because the whole population of our state could fit inside Fenway Park, presidential aspirants are more likely to send Seamus here than actually come visit themselves.
In case you were wondering, Seamus is the name of Hillary Clinton’s chocolate Lab and the name of an Irish setter that former presidential aspirant Mitt Romney owned in the 1980s. I have always found it ironic that Seamus is such a bipartisan moniker. Moreover, both dogs have had their 15 seconds of fame: the Democratic Seamus because he replaced Bill Clinton’s beloved dog, Buddy, and the Republican Seamus because the Romneys put him in a box on the top of their car in 1983 when they drove from Boston to Ontario, and the dog pooped so much that it dripped down the rear windshield and terrified the children. (I really, really wish that I was making that up. I’m not.)
Now I know a lot of political scientists and Vermont politicos insist that our 23 Democratic delegates and 17 Republican delegates are critical — especially with the Democratic race still undecided. After all, our Democratic delegates represent almost three-quarters of 1 percent of the Democratic total (3,060 delegates) and about one-half of 1 percent of the Republican total (3,101 delegates). Actually, not all of our delegates are binding, so we might represent even less of a prize.
Still, there are people out there who will tell you: The road to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. goes through Vermont. Of course, these are also the people who are telling you there are secret codes written on Triscuits. Either that or they haven’t looked carefully at a map.
And yet I will vote on March 4, and not simply because it’s Town Meeting Day and I have to choose our local Justices of the Peace anyway. The reality is that on occasion single votes here and there have been critical. It was a single electoral vote that sent Rutherford B. Hayes to the White House in 1876 — after an electoral commission awarded 20 contested delegates from four states to Hayes. And we all recall how much every vote mattered in the presidential election in 2000, especially those Floridian votes for Patrick Buchanan and Ralph Nader and someone named Butterfly Ballot.
Incidentally, among those four contested states in 1876 was Florida. So, perhaps what I really mean is that single votes are critical in Florida.
In any event, voting is a privilege, and with all privilege comes responsibility. And perks. If you actually vote, you can actually complain. Voting gives us the right to speak our minds when we are unhappy with the direction our nation is moving. As New York once said about its lottery, “You’ve gotta be in it to win it.” It’s really a sort of two-for-one deal: You speak your mind in the privacy of the voting booth, and you earn the right to speak it in public for the next four years.
So, a week from Tuesday: Vote early. Vote often. And don’t put your dog in a box on the roof of your car.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on February 24, 2008.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “Every vote counts. Even ours.

  1. Neil says:

    When I was traveling by bicycle in the Netherlands, I spent a night at a bed and breakfast in Volendam. The owner was nice but she was particularly concerned that her small dog would get out of the house unless we were all vigilant entering and leaving by the front door. Apparently, the bitch was in heat.
    The next morning, my travel companion and I were up early and so went out for a walk before breakfast. We returned to find the bitch on the front steps locked in intercourse with a neighborhood mutt, with an unsightly and large amount if dog shit protruding from her anus. It was a sight to see.
    We had been quite cautious about not letting the dog out and so just a little worried that we had been unsuccessful. The subject didn’t come up at breakfast.
    I can’t tie this comment into voting in the primary but I will say this: Has there ever been a time in our lives when voting for a president seemed more important? Pinch me when this nightmare is over.

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