Listen to your mother — get out there and vote


(Nov. 8, 2016) — This election matters. Every vote matters. I learned this morning that the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment was Tennessee (thanks RadioLab!) — and that ratification hinged on the vote of one state representative who listened to his mother.

I’ve felt sappy and anxious and urgent for the past several weeks. All elections do this to me a bit, but this one, this 2016 election when we may elect the first woman president in the U.S. has particularly struck me. It is the case that the person at the top of the Republican ticket is a hateful, racist, sexist, lying xenophobe, but even if he were not — there is a woman at the top of the Democratic ticket. A feminist, a mother, a grandmother even! One who doesn’t apologize for her ambition, for her smarts, for her experience, for her qualifications, or for being a woman. It makes me proud.

I can’t help but be thrilled and moved when I see pictures of women lined up to post their “I voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s gravestone who introduced the 19th Amendment, but didn’t live to see it ratified. Shots of women over 96 who were born without the right to vote, and are now voting for a woman for president put a lump in my thought. Filling in that bubble on my ballot filled me with such a sense of the ground of history shaking that I had to wait a bit before moving on down the ballot.

And then — moving on down the ballot, I got to mark it for the first immigrant woman to represent Washington’s 7th Congressional District. While the epitome of the worst in the American character is running for president, so is the promise of a truly democratic nation where a young woman coming here from India can share the ballot, and govern at the national level with the first woman president. Sends chills up my spine.

Remembering that it was that one vote in the Tennessee legislature that ratified the 19th Amendment puts the lie to any ideas that down ballot races don’t matter. There is an amazing cadre of candidates for state offices on our ballots this year. Women, and men who champion working families are ready to serve in the state legislature, perhaps flipping the Senate and strengthening the House so that the possibility of progressive legislation that truly changes the lives of people in Washington can pass.

When I see the real possibility of voters raising the minimum wage and gaining paid sick and safe leave for all Washingtonians with I-1433; transit measures that will (literally!) move us into a future; a Seattle initiative to protect hotel workers; and even an aspirational step toward amending the constitution and ridding us of the scourge of corporate citizenship in our elections… well, it seems to me this IS the most important election of my lifetime.

Today is the day. Election Day. If you haven’t turned in your ballot, do it.

Thank you Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, Susan B. Anthony, all those women (and the men who voted for them), suffragists who demanded a voice and a vote, not just for themselves, but for the generations of daughters to come. I want to celebrate tonight with my daughter with those suffragists’ voices echoing in our hearts.

Listen to your mother — get out there and vote.

Lynne Dodson is secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

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