Today is primary election day; the day when a small number of dutiful Missourians will make the trip to their neighborhood polling places and cast their votes for the candidates that will represent their parties in the November general election. The majority of voting age citizens will opt out.

Today is primary election day; the day when a small number of dutiful Missourians will make the trip to their neighborhood polling places and cast their votes for the candidates that will represent their parties in the November general election. The majority of voting age citizens will opt out.
Our government was designed for citizen participation, so if we don't vote,
we allow other people to decide who will speak for us. If we want politicians in office who represent our needs and concerns, we have to vote for the ones we agree with.
 
There are consequences for not voting. One danger is that regulations may be changed, little by little, until a full-fledged reversal of policies that protect our citizenry have been eliminated. Leaders who have only their interests at heart may rise to power while an unconcerned electorate is distracted or burned out. A few years of ruthless ambition can change a nation from being a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, to a repressive regime where citizens have little freedom and no voice.
 
One has only to watch what has happened in other places to see this. Nations have elected strongmen who then packed courts and government bodies with their accomplices in order to limit challenges to the leaders. Benito Mussolini and his oligarch supporters united and strengthened their power through a series of laws that changed Italy into a one-party dictatorship within five years.
 
In Russia, Putin won a series of elections largely because he has eliminated, intimidated, or otherwise cut off anyone who might challenge his control while constantly feeding the people propaganda praising him. More recently, far-right parties were so successful in Italy that it was said, “While we were sleeping, Putin won the Italian election.”
 
Prominent Protestant pastor Martin Neinmoller spent most of his life speaking about the dangers of remaining silent when others are threatened, and he spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps as a consequence of speaking out publicly against Germany’s Adolph Hitler.
 
Nienmoller became well known for this poem:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
 
Nienmoller’s message resonates today with its warning about the ease through which the privileged can become the oppressed. Only when it directly affects them do people speak out and often it's too late.
Democracy has broken down in many other countries, and the United States is not completely immune from this danger. This country has avoided the excesses and injustices that are common in authoritarian countries, but it’s necessary to care more for America than for any political party or politician if it is to remain a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
 
Our vote is our voice in the things that affect us. Today’s the day to speak. Vote.
 
 
Vera Nall writes a column for the Neosho Daily News