Tuesday, October 31, 2006

As I sit here writing this we are about a week away from the 2006-midterm elections. I’m sure you’ve noticed a few political ads on the TV lately. As I have just finished a voter awareness program at my local church I thought I would share a few thoughts with you. This will not be as intense as that asinine “Vote or Die” campaign during the 2004 elections. I would never burden you with such hyperbole. Instead they will merely be the thoughts of someone who is both concerned for and irritated by the current state of affairs.

First let’s approach the concept of wasting your vote. By wasting your vote I mean voting someone who neither Democrat nor Republican. Usually when someone votes for a member of the Green Party or the Libertarian Party people far too beholden to the two major American political parties chide them for wasting their vote. I say the only way you can waste a vote is by not using it. You have the freedom to vote for the candidate you feel is best qualified for that position. It doesn’t matter if it’s the mayor of a small town or the President of the United States of America you have the right to vote for whomever you see fit.

The reason people use this weak wasting your vote concept is rather simple. They don’t want their party to lose. Since I’m not particularly cozy with either the donkeys or the elephants, I don’t care. Sure I’m not happy with what the Republicans have accomplished in the last twelve years of controlling Congress and six years of having the White House. In fact I’m rather irate with them. But I’m not blindly loyal to the Democrats. In fact if you really look at what the Democrats and the Republicans stand for a whole lot doesn’t separate them. In fact the two party system in this country is a joke everyone is afraid to laugh at, if I may twist Voltaire. I really think we need to use our votes on candidate outside the two main parties to shake the system up a bit. As it stands right now both parties are in bed with special interests. If the people were to start voting in candidates from outside the current system however you would see a major shift in the paradigm. It’s either that or the Democrats and the Republicans would make it next to impossible for the other parties to get on a ballot.

When you do vote it is mission critical that you are informed. So I have a few suggestions. One is ignore the political ads. The advertisements employed by campaigning politicians are pathetic narcissistic nonsense. If political ads were translated into what the candidates would really like to say they would sound like this, “I’m great and my opponent is an asshole.” This is not exactly the stuff of the great Lincoln Douglas debates. You could look to newspaper endorsements but most newspapers have an editorial bias and seldom venture from it. So my advice to you is to keep an eye on sources that are impartial. One is C-Span. Sure C-Span can be as dull as a nature special on the mating habits of the Nicaraguan fruit fly but there is a lot of good unvarnished information there. You just need the dedication to go get it. The other source I really like is Project Vote Smart. Project Vote Smart is a fine non-partisan gathering of information indeed. Everything you need to make good decisions is in there somewhere.

I must now whine and complain about one of my pet peeves, single-issue voters. You’ve seen them. Usually they’re all worked up over some emotional hot button issue like abortion or gay marriage. I swear they would vote for a Nazi if the Nazi promised to ban abortion or never allow gays to marry. The problem with these people they are usually poorly informed. If you truly press these people on let’s say abortion they have nothing to offer to the conversation. Let’s say you ask them if they would rather vote for a candidate who wants to ban abortions or a candidate who doesn’t want to ban them but rather offer things like a living wage, guaranteed maternity leave, bigger tax credits for adoption and universal health care in an effort to make abortions rare. They will almost invariably get all excited and tell you how wrong abortions are and how it should be outlawed. When you press them on bringing babies into a world that treats them as if they are expendable, they usually don’t give a shit. So there is the problem in a nutshell. Their single-mindedness leads to complete lack of willingness to compromise and the ignorance of assuming they are absolutely correct.

One last thing before I put this puppy to bed. Please I beg of you, be active politically. Voting is simple thing and no one should be too busy to do. The voter turn out in this country is pathetic. I don’t know if people don’t care or if they don’t realize the awesome responsibility they have. Yes you must feel it is your responsibility to vote. You are responsible to vote because it is your country. Thomas Jefferson once said, and I’m paraphrasing because I’m too lazy to look the exact quote up, we don’t have a country that is run by the majority, rather our country is run by the majority of those who participate. If that doesn’t inspire you to act I don’t know what will. If you want the country to do well by its entire people they must make their voices heard. They must vote, write letters, speak out, rally and protest. You must always remember that the politicians work for you. We elect representatives not exalted and beloved rulers of all they survey. It is we the people that rule this wonderful country not the special interests or the corporations or political parties. It is the people’s responsibility and their responsibility alone to steer this country in the right direction. It isn’t easy but the price of freedom is vigilance. We must be willing to pay that price because the alternative is too awful to consider.


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