Instead of Reaching Across the Aisle, We Should Look Outside the Doors

My “I Voted” sticker from the April presidential primary election. Photo: Alyxaundria Sanford

According to reports almost half of Americans eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election did not do so. And if they had, there could’ve been a landslide win.

On November 9, 2016 you either woke up in tears of jubilation or heartache.

Donald Trump, the failed businessman turned reality show host, won the electoral college vote to become president of the United States of America. As the majority of American’s disbelief and grief subsided, the question of “what happened?” changed to “what can we do now?”

People were holding out hope that this could be rectified and he would never get in office. There were requests for recounts in swing key states, and the public imploring the electoral college to fulfill it’s duty of not letting an unqualified individual take office. It didn’t.

There were marches and protests, small community actions and letters to local state leaders. When liberals and conservatives began to realize that most of them were finally fighting the same fight they decided that we should reach across the aisle and work together to figure out how we got to this place in our government.

While coming together in a kumbaya moment with your political opponent is ideal, it probably is the least important effort right now. No matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, or not affiliated with any party, if you cared enough to place your ballot, you’ve essentially been talking to yourself this entire time.

Jeff Jarvis, journalist and professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, says you need to look outside of yourself.

“The people we need to focus on are the people who didn’t vote.” -Jeff Jarvis
Jeff Jarvis telling us to focus on those who didn’t vote. Photo: Alyxaundria Sanford

To understand the state that our country is in now, we need to understand why these people did not vote.

It’s easy to assume that anyone who didn’t vote were apathetic — they didn’t like either candidate or they just didn’t care. And according to Time report, that assumption could be correct — most don’t regret their decision not to vote.

Beyond apathy, there was a rise in voter restriction laws and oppression claims. PBS NewsHour reported:

“Fourteen states installed new restrictive voting laws, which have historically targeted minorities, before the 2016 election, including in Wisconsin and Ohio. And this general election was the first since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 that required federal approval on any state election law.”

And what about those who had issues with accessibility issues?

Many civic-minded people may jump to the conclusion of, “But our ancestors fought and died for the right to vote. It is our duty.” — Or maybe that’s just me. But is this fair?

Maybe we need to really dissect the question that’s been asked for years:

Is the process of voting too hard?

Looking past census data and polls, the implementation of design thinking and community engagement can take further steps to understand this demographic. We can then ask those people who did not vote what kept them home for one of the most important, historical, and now infamous, elections in American history.