Revealing to a number of people that I did not vote this past Tuesday has resulted in many scornful facial expressions. My message or response, to put it simply is: be bitter all you want; I really could care less.
I take voting seriously, but there honestly was no one to vote for in my state or congressional district. I explained my disappointment in a recent column entitled “5 Billion is far too Much…,” so I’m not going to bore you by repeating myself, but there’s a deeper problem in American politics that needs to be addressed.
I read an editorial in the Observer-Reporter (Washington, PA) today that reaffirmed my biggest complaints about the American voter’s psyche. I first took issue with the following: “If you voted on Tuesday, congratulations on performing your duty as a citizen.” There’s a lot to be pulled from that statement. Here’s where I stand: Sure, our duty as American citizens is to vote on election days, but an even greater responsibility falls on our political leaders and political activists to ensure that worthy candidates make the ballot. Of course, our own culpability should not be overlooked. But irregardless of whose to blame for the slew of terrible candidates, one thing’s for sure: I’ll never vote in an election devoid of solid candidates.
Here’s what should become the routine of all implicitly devoted citizens. Our first job is to keep aware of what’s going on and hold our leaders’ feet to the fire, and as long as enough citizens do so and ignore the endless attack ads, we’ll have solid candidates on our ballots every election. Once we get the process down pat, voting will not only be much easier, but also second nature. Disturbingly, stupid Americans base their vote on the persuasiveness of political attack ads and there’s no way around that insult. Conversely, the smarter among us are turned off by attack ads and therefore are less likely to vote. While neither behavior is a good sign, fortunately, the latter seems to be more common.
One response to my voting philosophy, which I hear an awful lot is the, “I vote to keep certain candidates out of office” bit. This voting-out philosophy exemplifies the degradation of our political culture in America. Instead of working toward worthy candidates, Americans who hold to this philosophy are spending the little amount of time they commit to concentration on current events and politics by voting for, well, anyone with a blue or red tie, depending on their political label (liberal or conservative). They might not even know his/her position on key issues. All they know is that he/she is not a symbol of the take on government they hate the most. Once again, provided the candidate they voted for wins, they’re stuck with an immovable “leader,” a nominal public servant whose been given no mandate from the average citizen and thus will undoubtedly end up answering to his/her largest contributors.
I still regret not voting on Tuesday. I should have walked in and typed “NOTA” next to every position to stand for “None of the above.” I wouldn’t be surprised if writing-in was no longer an option in Tuesday, especially in a state like Pennsylvania, whose corrupt political theater has been well documented in books like “Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny,” by Theresa Amato.
Washingtonians like to think that Americans just don’t care enough about politics and to a large degree they’re right, but there’s more going on than just an epidemic of apathy that’s resulting in low voter turnout, especially on midterm election day.
There’s the bleeding fact that the Obama administration, along with most of the Democrats, have not held true to their collective campaign promise of change in Washington, which would mean a change in America. That for months the major media, reading the lips of the Federal Reserve and the White House, has had us hanging on to an unemployment range of 9.5-9.7% despite a more devastating number of 17.5% describing the whole of American plight is proof that Washington is far from operating any differently. Obama’s empty words were probably the cause for the following incredible number of absent 2008 supporters: 29 million.
One truth is clear. Voting is a privilege akin to everything else in our lives that we tend to take for granted. If not for the back breaking work of our ancestors, the 12-hour work days (16 for enslaved African Americans), the rise of factory level organization that spawned labor unions in the 19th century, the feminists and politicians who pushed for women’s suffrage and equality, the civil rights movement, on and on and on again, ask yourself where we’d be today. All progress in America can be credited to the activism of several generations of average citizens who compelled the power structure to meet the most basic demands for social integrity and justice. Through that light it is a privilege to vote, but it is not a requirement (nor should it be) and it is not guaranteed.