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Here We Go!

On June 3rd we go once more unto the breach. That’s the beginning of our summer fund drive when, once more, we begin what we have always referred to as “The Great Schlep Forward.” Since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the amount of time it takes to make a million dollars has been sliced by a great deal. Sometimes we do it in a day. I have assumed that from Day One of Trump, WAMC has been the main, if not only, place on the radio dial to hear about the latest tragedy and trauma confronting our country. Our Roundtable Panel has gained a huge following, becoming the go-to place for so many people each morning as we discuss the news of the day. We know that tens of thousands of people are listening. As I meet people in the street or read their mail, they tell me that they are addicted to WAMC and the Panel.

Donald Trump was elected to the presidency by the smallest of margins. We all know that Hillary Clinton received more votes than Trump but that he pulled it out by relatively tiny pluralities in three states because of our antiquated electoral college system. The other reason why he became president has to do with the simple word “turnout.” Only about half of the available electorate vote in our presidential elections. If a few more people had voted, Trump would not be president today.

So why didn’t they vote? Well, some have told pollsters and me, directly, that they didn’t like Hillary Clinton so they didn’t vote as a protest. Some have expressed the view that they were for Bernie Sanders (as I was) and they were so angry about how the Democrats “stole” the nomination from him that they didn’t vote. Some simply reported that they forgot to vote or woke up late. Some said that they hate the two party system and refused to support it. There were other reasons, too, but almost everyone that I have spoken to is aghast at what this country has come to. Nevertheless, because they and others like them didn’t exercise the franchise, the very right that so many Americans have fought and died for, Trump is president. It’s that simple.

Obviously, I am telling you this story for a reason. When people forget to do the most self-evident things, results can be catastrophic.

In 1979, we got the chance to build a beautiful, important public radio station. Little by little, bit by bit, we all made WAMC what it is today. Some people have told me stories of great sacrifice to keep us going. The one I will always remember was the flower girl in New Paltz, fingers freezing, who donated her night’s take to the radio station. Oh, there were a few who thought up excuses of one kind or another, but overwhelmingly you have been there and the results have been amazing. Look at what we have built!

Every fund drive I have a nightmare that this will be the one where people will turn their backs and the one where the flame goes out. In each of these efforts I have been so gratified about the generosity and understanding that you have shown. It really hasn’t mattered what was happening economically in the country. Even in the worst of times, you have always been with us. Even when the little bit that we had in our bank accounts or 401(K)’s was threatened, you realized that we can’t let this precious thing go. Unlike those voters who didn’t show up at the polls at the most crucial of times, you did your part. You have adhered to Pete Seeger’s admonition not to let the light go out. For that, you are owed a great vote of thanks. You really do get it.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.
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