Now that the primaries results are in, the stage is set for the general elections on all levels from local to national. In the 30-plus years that I have followed elections, I cannot recall an election cycle with more controversy and importance than the 2020 election.
From the controversies surrounding Rep. Steve Watkins and the attempts from Democratic and Republican political action committees to influence the Republican primary election for the opening U.S. Senate seat, national attention has been focused on the state of Kansas.
Even before I sat in Mr. Wayne Wingo’s classroom taking U.S. Government as a sophomore, I had appreciated the importance of the presidency and the electoral process.
I had heard through the grapevine that sophomores were not particularly welcome in Mr. Wingo’s class. Mr. Wingo had no personal animus against high school sophomores, he strongly felt students taking U.S. Government needed the yearlong U.S. History to more fully understand and appreciate the topics covered in U.S. Government.
However, Mr. Wingo did not know that I had already spent considerable time reading about U.S. History and especially presidential politics. In my sophomore year, I had discovered Robert Caro’s "The Path to Power," the first volume of his magisterial biography of Lyndon Johnson.
The next year, I read William Manchester’s "One Brief Shining Moment: Remembering Kennedy." I remember plotting my future course that would lead me to Capitol Hill with my ultimate goal of being a U.S. senator. The combination of my own reading and the lessons imparted by Mr. Wingo contributed to my strong appreciation of the importance of public service and the distinctive quality of the United States with regard to our system of government.
Thirty years later, I found my life coming full circle as I began teaching my own U.S. Government classes to students from all over the country. My life and education have taught me the importance of voting and the potential power of the franchise that many of us take for granted.
Returning to my study of President Lyndon Johnson, I learned of the seismic change Johnson effected by finally convincing entrenched Southern senators like Richard Russell to finally vote for the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights Acts.
Much of the history of the United States has been a story of the attempt to manifest fully the promise enunciated with the eloquent words of the Declaration of Independence "All men are created equal."
My students and I work to understand the importance that voting has held in American history. From the electoral college, to the original decision to not allow popular election of senators to the 17th Amendment, which changed that decision, to the 15th, 19th and 26th amendments which gave the vote to African-Americans, women and young people respectively, the right to vote has been central to the history of the United States.
Many of us have accepted the notion that our vote may or may not count because we live in a red or blue state. Such views are short-sighted because whether it is a presidential or midterm election, local and state issues are often on the ballot during these elections, too.
No matter where you live, Election Day is the one time where you can allow your voice to be heard. Don’t waste this opportunity in November.
Nicolas Shump is a longtime educator and writer in northeast Kansas. He can be reached at email@example.com.