You have most likely heard it, “2020 is the most important election of our lifetime.” But is it really? Was it not the same thing said about 2016? And 2008? What is so special about 2020 then? Each of those elections were all special in their own way.
In 2008, we elected our first black president, a massive step forward in our concurrent battle against racial disparity. In 2016, two less than ideal candidates battled it out in what would become one of the ugliest and most divisive elections in recent history. But 2020 is different than those elections; the soul of our country and our democracy is on the line, and how we vote next year will decide the direction of the United States for years to come.
The list of why 2020 matters is a long one that varies with perspective, but there are three universal reasons that everyone should know.
First, 2020 will set the tone for future presidents. Whether or not you support our current president, it is hard to disagree that Donald Trump has had an unusual presidency. From excessive name-calling to cozying up with foreign dictators, Trump has redefined the standards of the highest office.
When we vote in 2020, it will not just be for Trump or his democratic opponent but for future presidents as well. Electing Trump will stamp our seal of approval on future presidents behaving in ways that were not previously acceptable. But electing his opponent, whoever that may be, will say the opposite: that we will no longer stand by and watch the Oval Office be degraded to a platform for lies and insults. The identity of the presidency is on line, and what we decide now could go down in history books as one of the most critical turning points in American politics.
Second, 2020 is a decade year, which means it is time for the census. The census, despite sounding very anticlimactic, actually has the power to define the next 10 years. This is all because of a sneaky tactic called gerrymandering.
For those who are not familiar with the term, gerrymandering is the manipulation of congressional districts for the benefit of a certain party. Every 10 years, with the release of the census, state legislatures are required to redraw the districts in accordance to the population change. Often, the party who controls those legislative bodies will redraw the districts in ways that limit the electability of the opposition and increase the chances of reelection for themselves. This is not a partisan issue, both sides have been known for using this technique.
But since Republicans had more control in 2010, Democrats have been much more outspoken about ending the practice for good in recent years. Gerrymandering eats away at our democratic values, and we should not and cannot allow it to stain 10 more years of elections.
Finally, every election matters. It does not matter who is in office, or how the economy is doing, every vote we cast should be considered of high importance. It may seem like Washington, D.C. or Des Moines are far away, but every little decision they make can and will directly impact our life. That is not just policy from a policy standpoint, rhetoric also can affect us, a fact that was proven by the rise of white nationalism under Trump.
The general election is over a year away, but that does not mean we should not start caring now. We live in Iowa, one of the most critical states in the electoral college system. Candidates will be head over heels to get a foothold here, a luxury that only a few other states share.
Get out. Hear them talk. Take advantage of Iowa. Prepare to make an informed vote come February and November, because an informed vote is usaully the right vote.