By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
We are moving quickly through the election year. As Primary Election season draws to a conclusion, we will very quickly be focusing on the General Election, which will, at its conclusion, tell us who and what the Tribal Council will look like for the next two years. We may be looking at another restart with many new faces and new learning curves to overcome. Or, we may see familiar faces and the direction of Tribal Council will not change much at all. Or, it may be somewhere in the middle. In any case, the General Election will answer those questions for us.
I guess the bigger question is whether we will engage. Mid-term or off Chief elections have traditionally been poorly attended. You have heard the excuses before. “My vote won’t make any difference. It is all rigged. I don’t have time. My vote won’t matter. Things will never change.”
I have always been interested in the science of psychology, particularly when it comes to marketing. Selling has been a part of my life since I graduated college in 1983. All of my work assignments have had something to do with product development, sales, and distribution strategy. I never present myself as an expert on anything, but I do have some expertise when it comes to the psychology of what motivates us to do the things that we do. It is how marketers predict what will drive people to a particular product, service, or outcome.
By now, you have seen the motivational monies that have been offered in states and even on a reservation or two to incentivize people who have been slow to take up the idea of getting immunized against the coronavirus to get vaccinated. At least one state reported double-digit increases in the number of people agreeing to be vaccinated, after the monetary incentive was offered. The states and tribal governments are realizing that if they want an outcome, they must find the right combination of appeal to civic responsibility and personal gain to motivate.
Publishers Clearing House spends millions of dollars to promote their publication subscription services by promoting giveaways of millions of dollars. Their motto, for decades, has been, “You can’t win, if you don’t enter”. Their literature is not deceptive or misleading, but it does direct those reading it to draw some questionable conclusions. One example, while the rules of entry clearly state that no purchase is necessary to enter, human nature and the way the advertising is written lead you to conclude that your chances are better if you buy a magazine subscription or two.
I guess my point is that we are conditioned to believe what we see and hear on media. Those people responded when the announcements were made that they could potentially win a million dollars for taking the vaccine. Publishers Clearing House has made millions, one magazine subscription at a time, by promising that someone will win the big money. The internet and social media are some of the most influential motivators of our day and age. The running joke is “It has to be true. I saw it on the internet.” We laugh at that statement and wonder who would be so gullible as to believe that what they see on the internet can be trusted as accurate and factual; that what we see there can be taken at face-value. But look at the chaos that has happened, particularly over the past four years in American society because belief in media “reporting”; the racial and ideological divides, the polarization of our society. It has come from people listening to the voices, not in their head, but on their screens.
So, repeatedly hearing and seeing that our vote doesn’t matter or that elections are rigged or that we can’t affect change is partially, if not largely, impacted by what we hear from our “friends” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like. And it may fit our desire to shift blame. Nobody likes to be at fault when things go wrong, or a goal is not achieved. If things don’t get better or the right person didn’t get into office or didn’t stay in office, I can believe that it wasn’t my fault if the prevailing wisdom is that my vote wouldn’t matter anyway.
But the truth is that our only real voice in our community is our vote. You may complain, write letters, attend meeting sessions, you can scream in an official’s face, and it may give you some personal satisfaction, but it will not substantially change your life and the lives of those in your community. The power that you hold in representative government is your ability to select leadership. I know that some of us get that, but based on voter participation numbers, most of us don’t.
Did you know that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you are on our tribal rolls, if you are a citizen of this tribe, then you have a right to vote? Yes, you must register and yes you must work out the logistics of off-Boundary voting, but you have a right to participate. You have a duty to participate. And if you don’t vote as an off-Boundary tribal member, then you are allowing others to decide for you what decisions will be made about your part of the per capita distribution and what services will be afforded to off-Boundary citizens of the tribe, like you. You are no less Cherokee in Oregon than you would be in Birdtown, and you should be voting.
The Tribal Council and Election Board have made it super easy for on-Boundary and near-Boundary tribal members to vote. Nice, long early voting sessions have been afforded us ample opportunity to vote during the Primary election.
As they say at Publishers Clearing House, if you don’t enter, you can’t win. They sell you on the fact that if you enter, you might win or might lose. But if you don’t enter, you are guaranteed to lose. If you vote, things may get better, but they may not. If you do not vote, it is guaranteed that you will not make a difference in the outcome of the election and the possibility of improving your community.
I hope you have taken the time and effort to make a difference by voting in the Primary election. And I hope that you will be engaged, stay informed, and get educated on the candidates and items that will appear on the ballot for our General election. Ask the candidates questions about community investment and improvement. Ask them what they intend to do for your children, you, and the elders in your family. Ask them how they plan to secure your future. It is worth your time and effort. It is your right, your privilege, and your duty; to yourself, to your family, and to your community.