It’s the night before the 2022 mid-term elections and I am nervous. And, to be honest, frightened.

There are countless races with so many election deniers, QAnon adherents who really believe that Democrats and Hollywood stars are all part of a cabal of blood-drinking baby killers, Christian nationalists who want to create a theocratic state where anyone who disagrees with their morals and interpretation of the Bible should be ostracized, jailed, or killed, and famous people with no political experience and no commitment to anything but Donald Trump and power.

The problem is that in the past these extremist candidates would not have made it out of the primaries, regardless of which party they were. This time around, they won their primaries and appear to be in position to win races they couldn’t have won in the past and shouldn’t win now. In the old days, I didn’t fear candidates winning whose viewpoints didn’t match mine because I believed in checks and balances and that worked so well for years, but checks and balances don’t lreally exist anymore. While there were always liberals and conservatives, they managed to work together for the good of the people. Society would fluctuate between the two somewhere closer to the middle where most of us live. Now there is very little middle. In the old days, there were certain unwritten rules that politicians of different parties lived by that didn’t allow for radical upheaval of the norms. But these slates of candidates have no respect for tradition, anyone who disagrees with them, the government itself, or the Constitution they will be sworn to uphold and respect should they win.

It is all about power. It is about gaining power and maintaining power in order to fulfill what they believe to be God’s agenda, though many of them who proclaim to be Christian clearly don’t follow their own religion. They only use it to manipulate voters who sincerely do believe. They know if they claim to be Christian, they can get votes even if, as Trump said, he could kill someone on 5th Avenue in New York and still people would vote for him. The pursuit of power creates a blindness to hypocrisy, and that is what is truly scary.

My hope, of course, is that none, or at least a very limited number of these extremists actually win their elections. My fear is that the millions upon millions of dollars of ads that outright lie or minimally distort the truth have genuinely hurt the chances of good quality candidates who deserve to win their races. Here in Wisconsin, the airwaves have been saturated with misleading ads about Mandela Barnes, a good man who has been characterized as a dangerous radical and not so subtly tied with high crime in ads in which the racism is barely hidden beneath what they are saying on the surface.

If enough of these people win, I fear we are done as a nation. I fully expect that they will pass laws rubber stamped by conservative courts that will take away rights instead of expanding them. Perhaps it sounds a bit paranoid, but as a gay man I not only expect our right to marriage to be challenged or simply taken away, but laws to be passed to recriminalize homosexuality. It wasn’t that long ago that queer people could be arrested just for gathering in small groups, and there are those would love to see those laws reenacted. There are many who openly believe that gay people should be killed according to the Bible. Likewise, there are many who are openly racist, and a great number of them who signify their racist tendencies with dog whistles, letting their supporters know where they stand while pretending that their words are misunderstood and harmless. These people would be happy to return to the days of Jim Crow. We already know after the overturning of Roe v Wade that most of these extreme candidates are happy to return to the days of criminalized abortion and that is the first step in putting women back in their place in the home.

This is a critical juncture in our nation’s history and our country’s future. Every vote is essential. I will vote tomorrow because it is my right and duty as a citizen of this great country. If I want to make sure it stays a great country I must vote. In the last mid-term election around 50% of voters cast their ballots. Those who don’t vote may get what they deserve, but unfortunately so do the rest of us. If you love your gay neighbor, friend, or family member, if you believe women should have the right to choose, if you want persons of color to be free and equal, if you want to keep this a great and free country rather than a totalitarian theocracy, this election is truly important. It’s not a matter of getting the likes of Dwight Eisenhower or someone like John McCain anymore. It’s a matter of getting extremists who want to take your vote away, along with your rights. Please vote, for all of us.


About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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