Voting: A Timeless Fashion
AC BRAKE: A few weeks ago, as I settled into my (approximate) fifth rewatch of Sex and the City, I thought ‘tis the midterm season for the episode where Carrie Bradshaw dates a politician. After all, this episode does combine my favorite things: fashion and politics. Carrie’s boyfriend, Bill Kelley, was a candidate for New York City Comptroller and Carrie chose to take the job of “politician’s girlfriend” very seriously, with her wardrobe that is; this is the same woman that knew her polling place by its relation to Barney’s after all.
As I rewatched the episode in the midst of midterm frenzy, I was shocked with how politically disengaged the ladies who lunch were, most poignantly exhibited when Charlotte cried out that “Carrie doesn’t even vote!” Um, excuse me, Carrie? The character might be notoriously selfish (and annoying), but she is also an intelligent female professional, constantly contemplating women’s roles in relationships and in greater society, encouraging women to focus on finding themselves rather than a man (a revolutionary concept when the show aired twenty years ago). This resumé perfectly fits the profile of passionate voter in 2018.
The age of social media has given us numerous Carrie Bradshaw’s for fashion and lifestyle advice alike. Along with many other women in my generation, I (religiously) read The Skimm, Man Repeller, The Cut (cue the inevitable Gwyneth Paltrow: “I don’t know what the Cut is”) and other similar publications. If you follow any of these or their staff writers on social media, this midterm season has spammed your feed with an overload of GOTV pleads and the hashtag “NoExcuses,” creating an election year dominated by “influencer enthusiasm,” a phrase coined by Jennifer Solorio, GU Politics’ Manager of Student Engagement & Logistics and Fashionista in Residence (a title bestowed by me).
It is official: being politically engaged is in style. But why is it so fashionable to be politically engaged now? And more importantly, is it a style here to stay?
I have been engaged in politics since I was six years old, attending campaign events with my mom and attending her city commission meetings every week once she was elected. I have been waiting for this level of engagement! I went to the polls with my parents and brother every Election Day, just as my mom had done with her father decades before.
In an open letter to my grandfather published in her column before the 2016 election in the Messenger Inquirer, my mom described how her dad would take off every Election Day (he was a phone man at AT&T, so he had to take a vacation day) to make sure he had time to vote.
She described how voting was a mere expectation. My grandad would wear the same USMC issued utility jacket he wore in Vietnam- a jacket I proudly wear today- an item my mom said was appropriate to wear to the polls. He enlisted in the Marines because he wanted to help preserve freedom and democracy just as his father had done in Europe in the 1940s. She concluded her column: “you have my word our family will show up. No matter what, we always will.”
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column wondering if this country was experiencing a movement or a moment pertaining to the MeToo campaign with women’s political enthusiasm and the number of women, specifically the number of minority women, running for office, but this also applies to the excitement within the Resist movement and the increased number of young people participating in the political realm this year.
I am worried that the current state of enthusiasm about voting and the discourse surrounding it (“Why I’m voting…”) is creating a system modeled as a fad like saddle bags and platform shoes: as soon as the hype and anger resides, it will go out of fashion again becoming a moment in history rather than a movement of real agency.
I vote because it is a reflex. I vote because less than a century ago, I wouldn’t have had a constitutional right to do so. In my view, not voting would be a dishonor to those who have fought for enfranchisement and who still continue to fight for it today, around the world and in the United States. I vote because I don’t need a reason, I have a right.
This column will be published the day after polls close around the country. I’m so proud of my generation on this Election Day. Our excitement and our voices will be heard tonight. However, one Election Day does not a movement make. I hope this election’s enthusiasm persists years into the future creating a movement and an expectation of an engaged electorate.
Happy Election Day!