If any of you have seen me lately, you may have seen me wearing a pin that says “Don’t Boo, Vote!” No, this isn’t a Halloween joke. I wear the pin because it expresses how I feel about voting. During this year’s election, it’s my observation that many people, if not most, are feeling very personally invested in the outcome. Conflict and controversy abound. Some political partisans want anger and mistrust to motivate their voters to show up. I hope for something better.
We as doctors and citizens need to be active participants. Here are five reasons for General Internists to vote this year:
- We set our government’s priorities: Politics is always responding to new crises. The response to any crisis—whether it is related to health, immigration, environment, sexual misconduct, government ethics, violence or any other hot button issue—is heavily determined by the results of the preceding election. In other words, if we don’t vote, we allow others to determine how our government responds.
- We have a legacy of Democracy to maintain: Many Duke physicians may have roots in countries where governments do not hold fair elections or allow open political discourse. Voting and participatory government are gifts bestowed by prior generations of our fellow citizens. We need to pass on these traditions to our children.
- Physicians ignore voting at the risk of themselves and their patient care: Studies show that compared with others of similar education and socio-economic status, physicians vote less frequently than expected. The reasons for this lack of voting likely include work schedules, and a feeling that clinical care represents our contribution. Providing patient care is what we do. Elections determine the policies that dictate our patients’ circumstances.
- Health care is on the table of policy makers: Health care remains one of the more contentious areas national policy. Budget deficits and proposed changes to funding for health care and public health will force our elected officials to make difficult decisions about priorities. We as physicians have an obligation to our patients and our country to participate actively in shaping health care policy. The first step in this is to vote.
- Voting is how our society peacefully solves contentious issues: You may feel like booing. I have my moments too. People on all sides of the political spectrum feel dissatisfaction for various reasons with our various leaders’ policies and priorities. Beyond expressing our dissatisfaction and frustration, we have a chance to continue the great tradition of peaceful political transformation and pass the process on to the next generation.
If you haven’t voted already, block time on Tuesday and don’t let anything get in your way of heading to the polls.