It’s noon. Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Polls have been open for five-and-a-half hours — since 6:30 a.m. — and you still haven’t voted.

You’re utterly disgusted by Democrats’ lack of spine. Perhaps you’re upset over their “compromises” on healthcare reform or the bail outs. Perhaps you think they haven’t done enough to actually lead and have instead allowed the whining, whimpering obstructionism of Republicans and Tea Partiers to carry more days’ debates than you can count.

Or, maybe, as a gay American, you’re pissed the Obama Administration is continuing to uphold “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Or, you think Democrats haven’t done enough to push forward on employment protections or other LGBT issues.

I feel the same way. I don’t think Democrats have led. A majority in the House. A majority in the Senate. The White House. When was the bully pulpit used? Was it ever used? Republicans know how to march in lock-step. Why not us?

Trust me. I know how you feel. It’s a really shitty choice. I stood in front of the ballot box this morning and felt saddened.

“Are these the only choices I have,” I asked myself. “Must I really only choose between the people who hate me and the people who either don’t like me quite enough or are too scared of some right-wing boogey man to actually take steps to help and protect me?”

Either way, I had to make a choice. I had to mark an answer, and weigh the bigger picture. As disappointed as I am in Democrats, I honestly believe that the alternative is much more sinister and more dangerous. As tempted as I am to pull back and think about the Democrats’ failure on the issues most near and dear to my heart, I have to take pause and really think about what this election means.

Today, I voted to put back into office those people who seek to preserve our nation, keep us safe, take care of the poor and needy and put our economy back on track. I voted for Democrats, and voted against radical Republicans and Tea Party activists whose only goals this year are to tear our republic to shreds.

This is a choice you have to make, too. It’s a choice you have to make before 7:30 p.m. tonight.

If, come tomorrow, you did not vote today and Republicans take over the North Carolina House or Senate, or if they take over either the U.S. House or Senate, you will have only one person to blame: yourself. If Republicans continue to give tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans while you remain unemployed, you have only yourself to blame. If the Republicans are ever successful in disbanding the Department of Education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and other federal programs, you have only yourself to blame. If, in North Carolina, you become a second-class citizen subjected to constitutional discrimination, or if LGBT youth are no longer protected in schools, you have only yourself to blame.

The options are simple. The options are clear. Get off your ass and do something to save this country and our state from the absolute lunacy of the Tea Party extremists.

But, of course, if you actually believe in dismantling our federal government, or if you believe corporations should have free rein to spend limitless cash polluting our political system, then by all means either sit this election out or go vote for the Tea Party. This is, after all, a free country. But, one or two years from now, I don’t want to hear your complaints.

It’s our right to be upset or angry or pissed at the Democrats. But, either D or R, it’s the only realistic choice we have. I’m not telling you not to be upset or pissed. In fact, I say whine, bitch, moan, bicker and complain all you want. But, first, go vote. Do it for you. Do it for your future and your children’s future. Do it for this country. If you don’t, I promise you there will be hell to pay.

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Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.