TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE

TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE…

 

I have to confess, I am writing this piece mainly because I know my son will read it. Ever since he’s attained the age granting him the franchise to vote, he has, to my knowledge, never exercised this right. Nor is he alone. The United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts amongst the democratic societies of this planet. To many of us, this is no startling revelation.

 

You could easily make the case that our level of voting apathy, combined with the ignorance, shortsightedness and provincialism of many of those who vote, are the reasons we can find so many of our politicians embodying the same traits. How else to explain former governor Kneip of South Dakota, when he was appointed as ambassador to Singapore declaring he had never heard of Gandhi. William Scott, ex-senator from Virginia, was called the dumbest senator in Congress by a magazine with limited circulation. He called a press conference to deny the charge. Or my favorite, ex-senator Roman Hruska’s comment that “there are a lot of mediocre people, and they are entitled to a little representation.” I don’t know any political reporter who would defend the position that today’s bunch in Washington is any more impressive.

 

In the postmortem of each election, the talking heads on the tube bemoan the apathy of the voters. Voting is good; apathy is bad. Some, however, would question this analysis. They make the argument that democracy in our country doesn’t work because too many of our voters are ignorant or too ill informed on the issues. Politicians are able to blurt sound bites like “military preparedness” or “Communism” or “soft-on-crime” and legions of voters follow like lemmings over the edge. When people don’t even know enough to follow their own self-interest, the system can’t work in the way it was designed to function.

 

The solution in a Utopian world would have all voters pass some type of uniform test, discriminating against no one, except those who had no knowledge whatsoever of any of the issues being contested. Some of us, imbued with civic class idealism, would argue that this is heresy, that suffrage is an inalienable right, that such a policy would go against what the Founding Fathers had intended.

 

Actually, the framers of the Constitution precisely intended a meritocracy, which is why they limited the franchise to those who owned land. In 1789, land ownership went hand in hand with a knowledge of public affairs. Matters went awry with the introduction of extended suffrage. That’s what had Mark Twain say of the nation’s politicians, “They are all crooks – and why? Because of universal suffrage. How, I ask you, can you have a country when every idiot male of twenty-one or more can vote?”

 

Realities dictate that there will not soon be any fundamental changes in our country’s political system. This leaves many of us utterly frustrated, our choices seemingly limited to supporting candidates for whom we have no respect or supporting no one at all. For those of us who have not been able to summon any enthusiasm for any political candidate since JFK, and who have by the legions opted out of the system altogether, the sad truth is that the results of the current State of the Union can be laid at our feet. Many now concede that politics in our country is largely a matter of cutting losses. It probably is as naïve at this point in time to expect honesty from our politicians as it is to expect originality of thought. Any positive change that will occur in our system will happen only by small increments.

 

The likelihood that changes for the better will only come slowly, and with great effort may well be the crux of our problem. For many of us in the post-war generation, given so much by our parents that we came to expect instant gratification as our birthright, perseverance remains a faintly amusing concept, like steadfastness or staunchness – words that seem to come from a bygone era.

 

That’s why I have so much admiration and respect for all those who have continued to work for those few candidates whose open expression of ideas and clear-cut stands on issues doomed their campaigns to fail before the onslaught of slick voter manipulation by cookie cutter manufactured spokesman of well funded issue groups. There still are Quixotic groups of people, going door to door, calling voters, attempting to explain issues, and supporting those who work in service of the odd belief that a politician should represent the interests and belief of the both the constituents, as well as the good of the country. I know of one such individual, still soldiering on, doing his part to make a change for the better in a district where the likelihood of his success appears to be insanely poor. I asked him, “Don’t you get discouraged? How do you keep doing this after all your disappointments?” He smiled, “I keep doing this because of all our old slogans, only one still makes sense today – ‘If your not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’”

 

This entry was posted in Thoughts & Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE

  1. Danilee says:

    Hello. I wanted to encourage you and tell you that I respect you. You are an amazing writer and I love everything you wrote. You are a deep thinker, like myself, and have great insight into a lot of issues in our world today. I will be lucky if I am half as intellectual as you.
     
    So, props to you!
     
    Have a wonderful day!
    dani

  2. Carol says:

    I have a sense that the only freedom and democracy that matters to most Americans is freedom of the marketplace where people vote with their dollars.  People are happy as long as they are free to acquire whatever they want without restrictions.  Do people favor environmental restrictions?  Apparantly not.  They Purchase SUVs and guzzle gas.  Do people want better schools?  They vote against referenda that would raise education funding.  I fear that we have the government that we deserve.
    ~Carol   

  3. Brian says:

    A vote is only valuable if the beneficiary of that vote strives to earn it after the fact.  Unfortunately they are few in number.  Voting becomes a pointless exercise when the politician\’s goal is to win and maintain office as an end in itself.  It\’s not that voters are ignorant or ill-informed, though there is certainly a case for that.  It\’s that they\’re ignored.  Especially when their representatives are whored to those who filled their coffers.
     
    Your friend, the dog that barked in the night, is dead to rights but Americans are a people who want to be comfortable and they will not listen to anyone who tells them uncomfortable truths.  The present administration understands this, which is why they continue to turn the propaganda mills in the face of more than reasonable doubt.  Jimmy Carter told us to turn the thermostats down and is villified to this day.
     
    Adversity steels us to reach for better things, to come together in the spirit of Franklin who said, "We must hang together, or we will hang separately."  But as long as we are unwilling to sacrifice comfortability for a better future, as the war generation did, there will be politicians who will pander to our fears and fluff our pillows while paying lip-service to public service as they serve their paymasters.
     
    In one of our darkest hours, this President told us to go shopping.
     
    For shame.

  4. lima says:

    Jorge,i just vote when i am sure that is for a good thing.
    And in your case,i must vote,because your space is Great.
    But i have a problem,i don\’t know how i vote,where?
    Please give me the link.
    All the best for you.I hope you win, you deserve.
     
    Luis Lima

  5. Fructose says:

    I do exercise my right to vote, even if it constitute only 1 vote, it will make a great difference sometimes.

  6. Gayle says:

    I have voted in every major election since I was of age, and have missed local elections only twice, when I was sick.  Yes, it\’s too true that there is no one worth voting for, no one who is honest or gives a genuine care for the people.  But my people (and maybe yours) thought the vote was so important that they risked their lives to make it possible for me to vote.  I knew that clearly when I lived in NYC, I know it intimately now that I live in the south and the birth place of MLK, Jr.
     
    It\’s not good enough to say it all stinks and throw up your hands.  H*ll, Life freakin stinks, but we go on, we find purpose and create ways to have a voice in our own lives.  We figure out how to take our stands and we make our peace with those things that seem too difficult to bear. 
     
    It\’s not much different when we vote. I don\’t kid myself into thinking that I have much influence.  But I have my energy, my moment of casting that ballot that says I AM HERE.  Not because my being here will change the world, but because my being here makes me part of the world, this world.  And I have an obligation to those with whom I share this planet to stand in my spot and speak.  To use my voice when things are wrong and when they are right.  I have an obligation to stand up and be counted, because the many who stood before me were cut down (hey knew they would be), and they stood up anyway.
     
    This is not a small thing, to have the priviledge of voicing your truth and not using it.  It\’s a damn big thing.  Go vote when the chance comes.  Do it because you are here, and we need to know.
     
    Gayle

  7. Fructose says:

    I understand if you are featured, you were chosen by MSN editors. I didn\’t know that there is this Hall of Fame voted for weekly winners. 😦
    Are you still a candidate for the next week?

  8. Patricia says:

    I lean in one direction, and my husband leans the other…we cancel each other out…lol…

  9. Lakota Clay says:

    I am of two minds on this.  Yes, it is important to vote, and I usually am out there braving the lines with the rest. 
     
    But in a two party system, where the majority of elected members of BOTH listen not to the voters but to the lobbyists, I am also tempted, often I am afraid, to say BFD, why bother. 
     
    Although I pay credance to the system, intellectually and emotionally I have opted out.  And that is not because of apathy, but just because I haven\’t found the third alternative yet. 
     
    I have seen politician after politican mount a good campaign on issues that I agree upon, only to do a complete about face when they reach the realities of washington.
     
    Maybe I should move to Figi!  L.

  10. Magenta says:

    Congratulations, Jorge!!!!
     
    I think it\’s great that you are using your success on Spaces to encourage people to think about voting. I am totally behind you in this. If people will not participate in the democratic process they won\’t lose it; they will abdicate it.
     
    Princess H
     
     

  11. Deborah says:

    Jorge, excellent article.  I campaingned door to door during the last presidential election and was so frustrated.  Not by the doors of Republicans that were slammed in my face, but by the arrogant Democrats who said, "John Kerry is going to win.  I would rather give my money to Animal Shelters."  Carol is right.  We get the government we deserve.  Which is too much in my opinion.
    Blessed be,
    Deborah

  12. ~ Blue Star Mom ~ says:

    Reading this reminds me of all the times I had to choose to vote for a person who I did not care for…
    You (I) usually end up picking the lessor of two evils 😦
     
    Pebble

  13. linda says:

    Jorge if enthusiasm is contagious I am delighted beyond words if it produced this.  I do come from that by gone era… perseverance, steadfastness and staunchness.  I had almost forgot the words \’if your not part of the solution you\’re part of the problem\’.
    I see an illusion, and I step out of the illusion…. a third alternative.  I AM HERE, WE ARE ALL ONE.  I take this opportunity to campaign our ONENESS. You will always have my vote.  Love Linda

  14. Unknown says:

    This is said "son" speaking – To set the record straight, I\’ve only
    missed one presidential election due to voter apathy, and that was a
    long time ago.

  15. Jorge says:

    I\’m delighted to stand corrected. Obviously, our communication on politics needs a little more work. 🙂
    J.

  16. Deirdre says:

    Excellent article, Jorge.  Good job!

  17. Gelati Farms says:

    Wonderful blog!  I am from Canada and we have many of the same issues here.  For years I did not vote because I was never inspired enough to do so.  Particularly pathetic considering I am a Poli Sci grad.  In the last few years, I have made an effort to be more informed and to register a vote…even when the candidates leave much to be desired.  Unfortunately, this is the case much of the time!  I have made strategic votes and voted for what was best for our local area (our election system is different in Canada…) even though it was not what I would want to see at a federal level…you name it, I have tried it!
     
    I have voted for the best of the worst in the past as it was the only option other than not voting at all.  Most of the time, I vote with my conscience and with the belief that my vote will represent who I think is the best candidate.  With that said…I think I will go cast my vote for you at What\’s Your Story…
     
    Thanks, Alison

  18. SAAM says:

    Can\’t complain if you don\’t vote (even if there is no one good to vote for!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s