From the silent voter: “I Voted” stickers met with bipartisan backlash

Nick Moran

I’m taking the names of who I vote for to the grave.

In the political world, I’ve always lived by one rule: keep your political opinions and who you vote for to yourself. Growing up, my dad had a list of things you don’t talk about with others, including personal finances, religious views and politics. Prior to this year’s midterm elections, I followed that list, and I did so out of both privacy and courtesy. But it took this round of elections to change why I did that. 

While the issue has been around for a handful of years, it’s recently been picking up as a result of our currently hyper-political climate. If you’ve been online at all either before or after the midterms, you’ve probably seen the same rhetoric that I’ve been seeing.

“If you don’t agree with me, I don’t want you following me.”

“I don’t get how people believe this shit.”

“If you vote for this asshole, you’re an asshole too.”

Posts like these turn digital discourse into a minefield. Timelines are flooded with both parties pushing citizens to wield their votes like pitchforks and rush to the polls to stomp out their opponents. Friends and family who were quiet for the rest of the year finally speak up about what they see as right, and celebrities use their influence disseminate their affiliations. 

This rhetoric forces you to walk a tightrope, with one side accusing the opposition of supporting hatred and the other saying they’re leaving this country to rot. And the thin rope below you: silence. 

It’s a difficult line to walk when everyone is encouraging you to jump off, vehemently pick a side and be politically active. Those who are proudly and publicly political try to crack the silent open in hopes that you’re on their team. Better yet, you may disagree and they have a chance to change your thinking or mindlessly scold you. It depends on the day. 

Yet, the moment you open your mouth and make a stand on your own, half of the country is at your throat. You’re called a coward for being silent, but you’re called worse by some for speaking out: unamerican. 

To many like myself, election season is like being handed a loaded gun, with each party anticipating we shoot the other. 

Quite honestly, I admire the politically confident. Those of you who vote every election and understand the issues – and potentially educate others – are flexing their constitutional rights in the way they were designed. There’s a boldness that’s inherently respectable, and I often times see people with political zeal have it with the best intentions.

But the vocal and the brash aggressively criticize Congress for not working together, hope for conversation that leads to building fair legislation and support the First Amendment with bipartisan fervor – but the moment someone opens their mouth with an opposing opinion, their courage to speak is labeled as ignorance. They should have just stayed quiet in the first place.

We’re seeing these conversations turn into echo chambers. Social media accounts are purging followers of opposing viewpoints and circling declarations of biased truth like moths to a flame. Those of us who see this unfold are quietly watching from the sidelines, threatened to keep our tongues in our mouth in fear of losing them with one slip of a conflicting opinion. The nation’s definition of democracy is shifting from discussion to being a yelling match, leaving many of us without a seat at the table because we reserve our right to speak out of fear.

So, before you get on my case for standing silently, ask yourself this:

Who’s the unamerican one here?