I grew up in a house where there was a great deal of emphasis placed on our right to vote, as citizens of a democracy. “Women have only been allowed to vote for fifty-eight years,” my mother said. “Susan B. Anthony fought hard for your right to vote. So you will be voting in tomorrow’s kindergarten snack selection.” And so I did. (I voted for the goldfish crackers.)
When my sister turned eighteen, we all tromped down to town hall to watch her register to vote. “Democrat?” Dad shouted. “You’re registering as a Democrat?” He stopped speaking to her for a month. But by golly, she held her ground. She was now a registered voter, and she’d picked her party based on her own values and beliefs. Because she could—we lived in a democracy, after all, as she reminded my father.
When I turned eighteen three years later, I remembered my sister’s brave stance. She’d exercised her Susan B. Anthony-given right to register to vote and pick the party of her choice. Then I remembered how mad my Dad was.
I registered Republican. After all, my stance was that I could vote for whatever candidate I thought would do the best job, regardless of party affiliation. And I chose not to upset my father.
I switched my party many years later, because really, nobody could love the Kennedys as much as I did and stay registered as a Republican. I’d stayed true to my belief that I should vote for the best person for the job, regardless of party affiliation. But heck, by then even my father had to admit I was a Democrat at heart. (A year after switching my party, I worked as a volunteer for the Republican candidate running for state senate at the time. So there.)
But here’s the thing: I live in Connecticut. Nobody cares about Connecticut. We’re tiny, we have zero sway in presidential elections, and I’m pretty sure all of the current presidential candidates think we’re just a suburb of New York. It’s a little disheartening voting in my state, because deep down, I just don’t think anyone cares which way Connecticut goes.
So Tuesday started much like any other election day in my state. I drove past the polls on my way to work, stopped for coffee and gas, and internally debated whether or not I should even bother to vote. We’re the Nutmeg State. We’re known for . . . well, not much of anything. Women’s basketball and impressive casinos, maybe. That’s about it. Certainly not for our voting importance.
But then I heard my mother’s ethereal voice: Susan B. Anthony fought for your right to vote! You’re not going to disappoint her, are you? And me? Why would you want to disappoint your mother like that? The fact that my mother is alive and well made the ethereal voice all the more unexplainable, by the way. All I’ll say is that woman wields some impressive guilt.
Then I heard my father’s voice: You’re the one who wanted to register Democrat, missy. You’d better go vote in the Democratic primary, Little Miss Turncoat. The fact that my father—also alive and well—has never used the term “little miss” anything made his ethereal voice all the more unexplainable. I’m going to chalk this up to my overactive imagination, which both of my parents have accused me of having.
So I did it. I stopped at the polls on my way home from work. I was tired, and cranky, and I really needed to pee, but my full bladder was not going to stand in the way of doing my civic duty.
Then, it happened: I took my ballot into the booth and looked at it. And my breath caught in my throat. I studied my options, and there under Select Your Democratic Candidate for the Presidency of the United States, nestled among all of the old, white men . . . a woman’s name. A woman who had a real shot at winning the primary. I hadn't expect the moment to affect me—honestly, I didn't think I cared that much. But for the first time in my life, I thought I might actually live to see the day when a woman is president of the United States.
I am not here to tell you how to vote, or whom to vote for, or even whom I voted for. I’m telling you that for the first time in my voting career, I saw the possibility of a woman running the country. Maybe you men don’t get it, because your gender has been populating those ballots for centuries. Just about every other country in the world won't get it, because they've all had women prime ministers and presidents and queens for ages now. But for me, the moment gave me goose bumps. I stared at my ballot and smiled. I smiled hard.
Then I voted.
Susan B. Anthony would be proud.