Frank Capra Goes to Washington

Like everyone who isn’t feeling “Cubs euphoria” or staying up nights over Amy Grant’s Christmas album and the new Starbucks cup, I’m thinking about next Tuesday. I’ve seen many of the impassioned pleas on Facebook about the waterfall we’re about to go over in a canoe (different canoes, different waterfalls, same outcome), and my inbox is teeming with last-minute appeals to avert certain disaster, and I’m pretty much done. I feel as if I’m trapped in the last season of Lost, no longer caring if the smoke monster gets me, or if I ever get off the island, or even if whether I walk far enough I’ll run into Gilligan, Ginger, and Mr. Howell.


And, yet, I will vote. Why? In part, I was raised to be a compliant child, and I don’t want to ruin my perfect attendance record. But I’ve also seen too many Frank Capra movies with Jimmy Stewart to give up on democracy just yet. In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stewart finds himself a newly elected Senator awash in a sea of corruption, but with Jean Arthur’s help, he clings to his ideals and makes a difference.

How do we make a difference? By voting. Even if you’re a solitary blue person living in a red state (or the other way around), vote anyway. Even if the candidate who best captures your beliefs is a third-party outsider with no chance at winning, vote anyway. Voting accomplishes several purposes:

  1. It reminds you that there is no “they,” no matter how disenfranchised you might feel; there is only “us,” and we all have a say–but only if we vote.
  2. It reminds those in power that those of “us” who live outside the beltway must be taken seriously. Red states can turn blue, carefully designed foolproof districts can shift, new parties and movements can exert influence and cause change–but only if we vote.
  3. It reminds us of our own limitations and of our need for each other and, most importantly, for God. Jesus isn’t running, and everyone else I could hope for as a second choice–including Peter, Paul, and Mary (thinking Bible here, but a folk trio wouldn’t be bad, either)–would be guaranteed to mess things up in some fashion.

In short, the only wasted vote is the vote that isn’t cast. You may not feel able to check certain boxes on the ballot. Go to the polls anyway and be counted. Jimmy’s counting on you.

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