This election day I decided to take my 7-year-old son with me to the polling place. Like many of you, my interest in voting was kindled by tagging along with my mom as she cast her vote. My parents made it clear — voting was important, and they always made time to exercise their civic duty. Of course, I thought “pulling the lever” was pretty cool, too.
So I told my son that he could come along, hoping to demonstrate to him the same sense of responsibility my parents showed me. He was excited when I told him he could “help” me vote and even help push the buttons. Imagine my surprise when on election day he came downstairs bright and early in his newest and nicest “church clothes.” For him to voluntarily dress up said to me he knew what we were doing was important.
It was not just my son whose interest I have been working to spark. In the November edition of this magazine, I challenged you to exercise your rights as an American and go to the polls to vote. Across the country, almost 122 million people did. Here in Tennessee, just short of 2.5 million cast their ballots in races from president to dog-catcher. Compared to the same election in 2008, though, not as many folks made their way to the polls. In fact, across the country, 11 million fewer votes were cast. This is in spite of nearly two years of media attention and $2 billion spent on the presidential campaigns.
Some interesting statistics will come forth as political scientists dissect the voting patterns, exit polling and actual election results. However, one thing already seems to be clear: Voter turnout was high in large urban and metropolitan areas but lagged behind in rural and suburban communities.
That is a troubling conclusion when you consider some other important facts. Population in America’s largest cities is growing faster than that of small cites and towns. The recently completed census resulted in reapportionment that concentrated more representative districts in urban areas.
That, my friends, is a triple whammy. More people, more representation and greater turnout. Think of it this way: In a basketball game between big cities and small towns, Team Big City has more players on the team, a bigger gym and more fans. Who do you think the oddsmakers will favor? When it comes time to make difficult decisions about public policy — and these debates are coming — who will win the day? The juggernaut that has won three straight state championships or the small school from Hickory?
While I don’t think there is a looming war between New York City and Halls, Tenn., it is fair to say that many of the pressing issues of the day impact Americans differently based upon where they live and the lifestyle they enjoy. The future of how we consume energy is paramount among them. And more than almost any other modern convenience, energy issues affect the American way of life in powerful ways — and typically hit small towns in disproportionate ways.
Further, how will rural areas compete for jobs in a 21st century economy? Access to key infrastructure like roads has always been important. But in a changing world, what is the new infrastructure? I argue that access to high-speed broadband is vitally important. And this is an area in which government has tremendous influence.
While the job may be becoming more difficult, there is a proven way for America’s small towns and suburban areas to compete and win. Just like the true story that is portrayed in the movie “Hoosiers,” the recipe is simple: setting your goal, believing in yourself, working hard and playing like a team. It is teamwork that will win the day. It is teamwork that will ensure our continued prosperity. As Coach Dale said to that small-town basketball team, “If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be … in my book, we’re gonna be winners.”
You see, there is more to winning these battles than just voting. Our civic duties don’t end at the ballot box; that is where they begin. Now that the election is over, our elected representatives must begin the job of governing. And I tell you from experience, those who speak clearly, with purpose and in numbers will be successful.
You can join the team — it’s simple and easy. I ask you to take a couple of minutes today to visit www.ourenergy.coop. Once you are there, click on the button that says “Sign Up” and fill out the short form. You’ll receive no spam or unwanted emails, just important information about how you can help your electric cooperative protect the quality of life in your community.
Please sign up today. With your help, ours can be the winning team.