A few days ago, my family and I received voter information in the mail. Because of the coronavirus, my home state of Massachusetts is allowing mail-in voting in order to limit exposure. We were informed of all of the deadlines for the state primaries and the general election. That night, my family and I went over the material together and made the decision to vote in-in person on election day like we always do.
I am 19 years old. I was not old enough to vote in the momentous and turbulent 2016 election in the United States, though I wanted to. However, I still went with my parents to “vote with them,” as I have done for my whole life. My first time voting was in the 2018 midterm elections. More recently were the Massachusetts Primaries for the Democratic and Republican parties, in which my family went together to vote in the primaries. We all walked up together to hand in our ballots, and the lady collecting them noticed that both of my parents cast ballots in the Democratic primary, but I voted in the Republican primary. She made a joke, one I cannot remember because it wasn’t very funny, but it made me think about the importance of voting as a family, irrespective of political party.
At WYA, we believe that the family is the fundamental unit of society. Furthermore, we understand that government is derived from society and culture. Taken together, we arrive at the family as the foundation for a legitimate government; furthermore, healthy government requires a healthy family. There is some evidence that marriage plays a role in how people vote, which suggests that voting values are family values; family values, such as responsibility, love, honor, integrity, respect, solidarity, etc., translate to how people vote. A corollary of this idea is that the family becomes a voting value; people vote for policies and candidates that are pro-family. If the family structure is in shambles, the larger society–and thus the government structure–is soon to follow.
In America, when only men had the right to vote, it was understood that they would vote on behalf of the whole family. As Lyman Abbott wrote in a 1903 article, “[gender difference] is not merely physical and incidental. It is also psychical and essential.” For Abbott, gender essentialism left different tasks to each sex for the good of the whole family.
This is a view that most in America no longer hold. For one thing, we know that the sexes are not essentially different. At WYA, the Declaration on Women states, “Equal in dignity, and in a way that is complementary to man, woman is unique in her capacity for love and so can experience freedom in a radical way through her gift of self.” American society has since recognized that women have their own values and opinions that must be respected by virtue of the equality of all men and women, a principle enshrined in America’s Founding Documents. However, there is still a need to enshrine and secure the family through the vote.
This does not mean that everyone in a family votes the same way. To use my own example, I am the only Republican in a family of Democrats. That’s okay. To vote together as a family is to continue the tradition of family solidarity as a precursor to government and society. Voting together enshrines the value that the stability and longevity of the family transcends politics. It symbolically essentializes and sanctifies what ought to be sanctified: the keystone for all human relations, the family.
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Published: August 5, 2020
Written by Thomas Sarrouf, WYA North America intern