By Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Today America will choose those who will lead us over the next years. We will make a choice.
Your first choice is to vote. Exercise your power. If you choose not to vote, you cede your power to others. The right to vote has been won through years of struggle. When this republic was born, African Americans, women, the young and the working class could not vote. Only white, male landowners had the right. It took decades, a Civil War, demonstrations, martyrs and sacrifice to extend the right to vote. Do not spurn the sacrifice that others made so that we could exercise this power.
Vote even though our election laws still are rigged to make it hard to vote. Registration isn’t automatic. Voting is on a workday, not a holiday. Districts are gerrymandered. Voter suppression continues — by limiting places to vote, limiting early voting, requiring special ID, making student voting hard, purging the voter rolls and much more. African-Americans, the poor and the young particularly targeted. But the more obstacles they put in the way of voting, the more obstinate we should be about casting our vote.
Choose the candidate you support, the America you want to build. In the race for the president, the choice is stark. Hillary Clinton is for raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing paid family leave to workers; Donald Trump is opposed. Clinton is for reviving the Voting Rights Act; Trump is opposed. Clinton is for women’s right to choose and equal pay for women; Trump is opposed. Clinton would raise taxes on the rich and corporations to invest in education and rebuilding America; Trump would slash taxes on the rich and corporations. Clinton is for bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows; Trump is for deportation and building a wall. Clinton is for tuition-free public college for all but the rich; Trump is opposed.
Clinton will push for green jobs and take on catastrophic climate change; Trump thinks climate change is a “Chinese hoax.” Clinton is for strengthening Obamacare; Trump is for ripping it up, depriving 20 million Americans of health insurance. Clinton seeks to bring us together; Trump has sought to drive us apart. Clinton has experience; Trump is too erratic to be near the nuclear button.
Some cynics say Washington is so broken that nothing can get done, that the stark differences between the candidates don’t matter. Yet despite the partisan obstruction in Washington, budgets do get passed; choices are made; priorities do get set. Would you rather mobilize with the president to pass a stronger Voting Rights Act or have to mobilize against a president who wants to deep-six the act Would you rather mobilize to support Supreme Court nominees who will stand up for women’s rights and civil rights, and repeal Citizen’s United, or have to work to defeat nominees who would repeal women’s right to choose, gut the Voting Rights Act and side with corporations over people constantly Would you rather push for a budget that seeks to increase investment in our schools or fight against one that would cut education funding savagely.
Americans are tired of a campaign that has been too long, too negative, too much an exchange of insults rather than a contest of ideas. The New York Times/CBS News poll reports that 82 percent of voters feel this campaign has left them more disgusted about American politics.
But the differences are stark. Clinton will push to bring America together and to make this economy work for working people. Trump will leave America more divided and more unequal. On Tuesday we get to choose. Choose to vote, to exercise your fundamental right. And then choose the candidate who stands with you. Your vote does count.
This commentary by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times.