“The Personal Is Political” : How Personal Experience Determines Who Gets My Vote

Every day on Facebook, I see some really nasty discussions and some remarkably uninformed conversations. I always wonder how people make their voting decisions, so I thought I’d share mine.

I have benefitted from programs that were put in place to prevent and break the cycle of poverty. They worked for me and my family, and I am proof of that. And I don’t think that I’m alone.

  • I was educated in a public¬†school.
  • I got Pell Grants and Stafford Loans to pay for the degrees I earned at two public universities.
  • My mother, who worked two, sometimes three jobs at a time, but still couldn’t get ahead, received WIC when she had my brother and couldn’t find a stable job.
  • When my mother couldn’t afford dental insurance (or health insurance for that matter), I went to City-County Health in Tulsa.
  • Just last year, 20 years after teaching herself how to write computer programs, but could never afford to take classes because she was raising either me or my brother, my mother was finally able to get a college degree through a government-funded job training program at TCC. Previously, companies wouldn’t look at her resume because she didn’t have a degree, despite two decades of experience.
  • I studied and used computers in public libraries.

Interestingly, there are people who say that these programs never work and that we are leeches for using them. That doesn’t feel good, and more to the point, it’s incorrect. Along with my personal drive, it “took a village” to get me where I am today, and I can be honest about that. I have paid it back. So has my mom. And if, through my success, I can pay a little more back to help fund programs to give someone else the same chances I had which helped me become successful and healthy, that works for me. I understand some people don’t share that view, but that is what I believe.

Those specific programs aside, a quick, but incomplete, list of other things that have been important in my life:

  • I have been safe because my local police department was a phone call away.¬†So was an ambulance or fire truck.
  • I had equal access to sports because of Title IX (very important for a tomboy).
  • If I am discriminated against at work because I’m a woman or sexually harrassed, I have legal recourse through the EEOC.
  • I rode the bus exclusively when I lived in Denver and my first two years in Austin so I could save money and pay my debts.
  • When I worked for a Small Business Development Center, I saw how crucial an SBA loan can be for someone who is chasing the American dream and just needs a little help.
  • I enjoyed more than a few trips to city and state parks and city swimming pools. Almost all of my softball games were held at parks maintained by the City of Jenks.

Those are just a few things that make me believe in government and that it can and does make a difference in the lives of people like me. Every. Day.

Since that is what I believe, and furthermore, what I KNOW to be be true, I vote for people who believe similarly or have had similar experiences. I vote for people who believe that government can make things better by improving the quality of life of its citizens. When you give someone a hand up when no one else will, you might be preventing someone from starving, dying, or descending into a spiral of hopelessness, defeat and resentment of the circumstances they were born into.

I will not vote for someone who wants to cut programs like these, because I feel that it would limit opportunities for people who need it like I did and like my family did. I will not vote for someone who campaigns on the notion that government is inherently bad, because I know it’s not.

For what it’s worth, that’s how I decide.

PS – “The Personal Is Political” is the title of a famous essay by Carol Hanisch. Regardless of whether you agree with her philosophy, that phrase is true.

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