Leadership Competencies

Elections Are Decided By Those Who Participate

Long before I ever got involved in communication and marketing, I was a political junkie.  (I still am, I just don’t do it professionally anymore).  So as we listen to the pundits break down the race for president and tell you what’s going to happen on Tuesday, rest assured that the only thing anyone knows for certain is that people decide elections –  not polls, money, Super Pacs, etc.  Polls are an excellent measure of preference but, too often, an unreliable predictor of who is going to vote and what choice they will make, in the moment, alone in the voting booth.  People who actually show up on election day, wait in line, and cast their ballot (or earlier if they participated in early voting or mailed in an absentee ballot) are the ones who will pick our next political leaders.   That’s all we know for sure.   It’s why much of the nation will be glued to their TVs and locked-in to their Twitter feeds on election night.

We’ve been through enough close elections to know, that even in a presidential contest likely to attract more than 125 million voters, our vote not only counts, it matters.   And if you don’t happen to live in a state that’s been identified as a battleground, your vote matters too.  While it’s true that the Electoral College reigns supreme in electing the president, the psychological importance of winning the national popular vote as well will be critical to the president who will govern for the next four years.   While it’s only happened four times in our history (John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush), losing the popular vote can be difficult to overcome.  Given all the tough challenges our country faces in the years ahead, the next administration will need the popular support of the American electorate.

An even better reason to vote, whether you live in a battleground state or not, is to stand up and vote for all the other candidates and questions on the ballot.  There are US Senate contests in 33 states and, of course, all 535 members of Congress are up for reelection.  For all the complaints about Congress over the past two years (and longer), here’s your opportunity to decide whether your member of Congress is part of the solution or part of the problem.  Cast your vote accordingly.  (If you’re a term limits fan, then you must love elections because this is where you can limit or extend your elected official’s term in office). You decide.  What’s more, the extended list of state and county races and ballot propositions will, as a practical matter, produce results that will likely affect your everyday life more personally than whoever occupies the White House.  Think about that if you’re thinking about staying home.

Finally, I spent some time in DC last month, visiting with some amazingly talented and hard working staffers on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.  After my meetings, I took advantage of the beautiful day and walked just over three miles to Georgetown.  Along the way, I stared at the monuments in the mall with the same awe inspiring feeling I had when I traversed the same route for the first time more than 30 years ago.  (Keep in mind, I’ve visited the city countless times since).   We live in an amazing country among citizens, who through peaceful elections rather than violent protest, have the power to change our government’s leaders.  Celebrate that by voting on Tuesday.

Category: Leadership Competencies

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About the Author: Leo Bottary

Leo J. Bottary is an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University's graduate level programs in strategic communication and leadership.  Leo has enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in the areas of strategic comm…

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