11 Obama Quotes About Voting That'll Keep You Focused Until 2020
The Associated Press estimates about 113 million Americans voted in 2018 — the highest number in 50 years for a midterm election. Both Republicans and Democrats showed up at the polls in numbers unseen in modern history. About 30 million more people voted on Election Day compared with four years ago, and with the results already in, the case for voting almost makes itself. But, just in case it doesn't, here are 11 times Obama talked about the importance of voting to keep you focused on 2020.
The turnout this year was impressive — potentially higher than any year since 1914, depending on the final numbers. But that doesn't mean that there's not room for improvement. One estimate from the United States Election Project puts the turnout this year at 49.2 percent.
While much higher than years past, it's still far below other democracies around the world. Compared to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, a Pew Research Center report says the United States has relatively low turnout. Belgium, Sweden, and Denmark all see turnout higher than 80 percent.
But don't believe the statistics — or the progressive policies that could be adopted if more people voted. Listen to what President Barack Obama has said about voting, and spread the word between now and 2020.
1) The Hard Sell
The consequences of anybody here, not turning out and doing everything you can to get your friends, neighbors, family to turn out, the consequences of you staying home would be profoundly dangerous to this country, to our democracy.
Obama said this at an October rally in Nevada. The argument ought to holdover until 2020.
2) The Spotify Argument
Obama recorded a video in 2018 specifically to motivate young people to vote:
You wouldn't let your grandparents pick your playlist. Why would you let them pick your representative who's going to determine your future?
3) The Australia Model
"Australia has got mandatory voting," Obama said in April 2016 during the presidential campaign. "You start getting 70-80 per cent voting rates, that’s transformative."
He didn't fully endorse adopting their system, but he did note something about the U.S. that many activists are working to change. "We really are the only advanced democracy on earth that systematically and purposely makes it really hard for people to vote."
4) The Obama Legacy
In 2016, Obama made a point that even if he's not on the ballot, his accomplishments were. Trump's first two years make that clear, and likely will through 2020.
"So the notion somehow that, ‘Well, you know, I’m not as inspired because Barack and Michelle, they’re not on the ballot this time, and, you know, maybe we kinda take it easy’ — my legacy’s on the ballot. You know, all the work we’ve done over the last eight years is on the ballot," Obama said during an interview on the The Steve Harvey Morning Show.
5) The Voting Rights Act
Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who ran for governor in Georgia, focused on voting rights while on the campaign trail — and after, even calling out a "system of suppression" in her concession speech. Obama has spoken similarly, and in 2015 endorsed restoring the Voting Rights Act.
"Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act. Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier — not harder — for more Americans to have their voices heard. Above all, we must exercise our right as citizens to vote, for the truth is that too often we disenfranchise ourselves," Obama wrote in a letter to The New York Times Magazine on the 50th anniversary of the act being signed into law.
6) No Sitting On The Sidelines
7) Remember Who We Are
“I’m hopeful that despite all the noise, all the lies, we’re going to remember who we are, who we’re called to be. Out of this political darkness, I see a great awakening,” he said. “If you vote, things will get better, it will be a start.”
In Detroit, Obama called the 2018 election a possible start for things to "get better" — but the 2020 election will have an impact as well.
8) No Fear Or Resentment
In September, Obama laid out what happens when you don't vote. He barely called out Trump by name (later in the speech), but he did mention that "demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems."
"When there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void," Obama said during the speech in Illinois. "A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems."
9) Don’t Boo — Vote.
If you're not a big fan of a candidate, be it Trump or someone else, Obama's 2016 DNC speech has some avice for you: "Don’t boo — vote." There should be at least a few names on the ballot for which you can use this mantra between now and 2020.
10) Elect Leaders Who Look Like America
Obama released a statement on the 2018 results, and it makes a good argument for voting again in 2020. "The more Americans who vote, the more our elected leaders look like America," Obama said in the statement posted on Facebook that praised voters, candidates, and democracy itself.
Our work goes on. The change we need won’t come from one election alone — but it is a start. Last night, voters across the country started it. And I’m hopeful that going forward, we’ll begin a return to the values we expect in our public life — honesty, decency, compromise, and standing up for one another as Americans, not separated by our differences, but bound together by one common creed.
11) Voting Served Cold
If you thought the 2018 results felt good — maybe they make facing someone in your family who doesn't agree with you these holidays a bit easier — try to remember that feeling through 2020.
"Voting is the best revenge." Obama said in Springfield, Ohio, way back in 2012 (to a bit of controversy — see who tweeted about it above). Make sure that you show up again next time, because some of the revenge for 2016 can only happen four years later.
If these Obama quotes keep you focused on voting now — and into the future — share them, remember them, and use them. If there's something else out there that might motivate you even more, go ahead and try it, too.