My dad called me on Sunday. He wanted to know how I was feeling about the almost certain demise of Roe v Wade and the likely criminalisation of most — if not all — safe abortions in the United States.
To say I was stunned at this sudden flush of sensitivity is an understatement. This was what he used to be like, but since reversing his longstanding contempt for Donald Trump and becoming a Fox fan-boy before the 2016 election, he’s been too full of grievance and unbridled certainty about an ever-growing list of fake facts to have had much interest, let alone insight, into others’ fears and interests.
“Thanks for asking, Dad.” I was on the foreshore, walking the dog, the sky a scrubbed and vibrant shade of blue. “I feel sick, and scared and…” I hesitated, providing an opportunity for interruption that few in my New York born-and-bred family would allow to pass (but he did, his breathing making clear he was listening) “…humiliated.”
“I just want to let you know I don’t agree with it. As long as women…” he referenced a few right-wing tropes about the degraded nature of female moral sensibilities, before concluding, “… they should be free to do what they want.”
The younger me would have gone after the sexist wrapping paper in which this pro-choice offering was packaged. But the person I am knew there were bigger fish to fry, and so I asked him something else: “What are you going to do. At the midterms?”
“If you don’t agree with the Republicans on abortion rights, how can you vote for them?”
“Oh!” he scoffed. “I’m not changing my vote!”
Then who cares what you think? But I didn’t say it. He is, after all, my dad.
But I can talk straight to you, dear reader, as our chance to weigh in on the next federal government nears. And what I want to say is this: no one cares what you think, despite the near-constant presence of pollsters asking for your opinions. The only poll that counts is on election day, and the only way to make your representative care about what you care about is to vote on it.
If you don’t want a minimum wage rise but vote for Albanese’s Labor, your views on the matter will not be heard. If you care about integrity but vote for a party that even former Liberals have abandoned because of “blatant pork-barrelling” and “serious corruption”, don’t be surprised when a federal anti-corruption body never happens.
In fact, it’s worse than that. Whoever wins the federal poll will see your vote as a tick of approval, one that delivers a mandate. In the case of a 10-year-old government, a mandate for more of the same. For Labor and the minor parties, a mandate to implement the policies and promises they made in the lead-up and during the campaign.
It’s no use telling pollsters, as my dad probably does, that he supports a woman’s choice, when on election day he votes for representatives leading the charge towards Gilead.
Nor is there any point driving your kids to the climate strike protest in front of Kirribilli House to support the outrage on our country’s inaction, but then voting for that inactive government.
Your opinions don’t matter unless you vote according to them. What you tell pollsters doesn’t matter unless it changes your vote.
Voting is the only language politicians understand. Cast yours wisely.