A century-old Election Day message from Queens’ Ridgewood Times that still rings true today

The front page of the Oct. 30, 1919 Ridgewood Times
Ridgewood Times archives

When the Ridgewood Times published its Election Day issue on Oct. 30, 1919, it acknowledged that the races contested on the first Tuesday of November weren’t as exciting as in previous years.

That year, voters in the Greater Ridgewood area were asked to elect a Municipal Court justice, an alderman (a forerunner to today’s City Council member) and an Assembly member. It was an off-year election, and it figured to lack the drama and the turnout normally seen during a presidential or a midterm Congressional election (in case you haven’t heard, there’s a midterm election happening this year, on Nov. 6).

But on the front page of that supplement from 99 years ago, the Ridgewood Times ran a stirring editorial that reminded voters of the importance of that election, and all other elections in this country. The stark thing about this editorial, when reading it in today’s political climate, is how many of its tones still ring true all these years later.

The editorial’s headline blared at the top of the page, “Who are the men who come to you for your vote?” Men made up the vast majority of elected officials in New York and the United States in 1919, even though New York women had the right to vote. Women’s suffrage wouldn’t be extended nationwide until the following year, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified. Today, a record number of women across the country are seeking elected office in this year’s midterms.

Clearly, the Ridgewood Times sought to remind all voters of their duties as American citizens to participate in the election — and the power each of them have to chart the future of their government. It mentioned that the country was going through “momentous times,” referring specifically to the Red Scare of communism following World War I. Many observers would say the United States is going through momentous times of its own today; one needs only to log on to their social media feeds to see it for themselves.

Moreover, the editorial stressed the concept of country over party — that every voter should study the candidates’ records and follow their own conscience in casting their vote. The paper urged residents to reject “any candidate of any organization who does not measure up to the type of representative which your organization should offer to the voters.”

Here are some excerpts from the Ridgewood Times editorial of Oct. 30, 1919. We hope you enjoy it, and we hope that you head to the polls and vote in the Nov. 6 general election:

Tuesday will be Election Day! It is the one paramountly important day for the average citizenship of our country to express itself fully and freely regarding the kind of government it wants.

Election Day is your day. It is your privilege to place your hands directly upon the affairs of government, and say the way in which you think government ought to be run. It is the day when you select from a given number of candidates certain representatives to whom you plan to delegate your power, and who you expect to represent you in your government.

This year, there will be no big offices for which to vote. You will be asked to cast your vote locally for a Justice of the Municipal Court, for an Alderman, for a State Senator and for an Assemblyman.

Usually, these offices are held to be insignificant, because of their seeming minor importance in politics; but in reality, they are just as important, just as vital to your interests as if you were called upon to cast your votes for a candidate seeking the highest office within the power of the people to give.

There should not be a single office within the gift of the people which could be called unimportant. You want in every office, from the smallest to the biggest, the BEST MAN OR WOMAN possible as your representative. Moreso now than ever before in the history of our country.

These are momentous days! They are filled with momentous problems — social, political, economic — which must be solved in the right way. In many quarters, destructive elements have been let loose, types of minds who know how to tear down; who are the opposite of the constructive types of mind which build governments and nations. …

Let your CONSCIENCE rather than your PARTY dictate in every instance where the candidate does not answer the requirements which you demand in your officials.

Remember that you are an American citizen first, and only secondly are you expected to be governed by your organization.

We need political organizations. They are the concrete expressions of bodies of people who stand for certain principles which they believe will either protect our government, advance its interests or correct abuses which may have crept into it.

But organizations, like government, need correction, advancement and protection in the work which they perform, and whenever they fail to live up to the guiding principles which brought them into existence, then it is no party disloyalty on your part to check up and correct them.

This is best done by repudiating any candidate of any organization who does not measure up to the type of representative which your organization should offer to the voters. You make your organization of value when you compel it to select the very best material for office which it can find among its members, and when this cannot be done in convention, or in the primaries, then you use your final weapon for good government at the polls on Election Day.

In doing this, you discharge your high responsibility, both as a party organization man, and as a citizen of a country whose good government depends ENTIRELY upon the men to whom you delegate the power to administer your government.

More than this no man can do for his country. Instead of dying for it, you live for it, you protect its institutions, its form of government, and help in the magnificent work of making it serve in bringing about better conditions for all of us.

Remember that our government will always only be what the majority of its men and women citizens make of it. Do your share.

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