Friday, October 28, 2011

To Vote or not to Vote

First morning in the 30's today.  Possible snow tomorrow morning. Yikes.  (I have used that word a few times lately.  Kind of like it).

This past Monday's Phila. Inquirer had an interesting juxtaposition of lead articles. 

One recounted the lack of faith in either American political party in this current election cycle.  Republican voters are dissatisfied with their cast of candidates while Democratic voters are disappointed with President Obama and the economic direction the country has taken since 2008. 

The second lead article portrayed the hope and excitement of the Tunisian people who were voting, at a 90% pace, in their first free election. 

Clearly, if given the option, most Americans would express preference for our democratic process as opposed to a totalitarian regime or military dictatorship.  We pride ourselves in the belief that we invented both democracy and capitalism, and seem more than willing to spread the good news of both systems to the far corners of the world, even if by gunpoint if necessary.  So why are we so complacent in exercising our voting obligation?   

Notwithstanding the current Occupy Wall Street protests, we decry the proliferation of money in our political system, cry foul when we hear of elected officials riding on corporate jets to "meetings" in warm climes (why don't they ever fly off to Alaska for these "research meetings"?), and shake our heads in disgust when we hear of another Wall street insider fraud scheme or another round of obscene bonuses paid to the CEO's of corporations recently bailed out by taxpayer money, yet we continue to shy away from the polls as if voting itself is the cause of our ills.

We watch without response as our representatives in Washington routinely pass "defense" spending bills that include the building of infrastructure and schools in Iraq and Afghanistan, while cheering the same politicians who propose plans to balance our state and national budgets by slashing education budgets or eliminating the Department of Education.    

If we are less than excited about our choices for this next election, perhaps we need to take a few moments, put down the sports page, the TV remote and the I-phone, and spend some time finding a candidate and/or party that we do believe in.  And, if that candidate or party lets us down, find another.  Perhaps we should pretend that participating in the electoral process, local, state and federal, is actually important.  That knowing the names of the people who represent us is as good a conversation starter as the judges on American Idol.   

Perhaps we should remember that the alternatives to free and fair elections are being jettisoned in countries all over the world, in some cases after dozens of years of the killing of those advocating democracy.   Is that what we need, to have to fight for the right to vote all over again?  

And speaking of voting, why are we suddenly so focused on making it harder to vote?  Shouldn't we be promoting policies that encourage voting?  Perhaps make it a weekend long event?  Or, gasp, close all our schools and businesses for a day and make voting the focus of all activity.  We know that sex is used to sell everything, perhaps the right marketing campaign featuring just enough titillation and call for patriotism will work. 

I keep hearing that our government doesn't work any more.  Or that our political system is broken.  When only 1 in 3 people can expend the effort to vote, when more people watch the Simpsons than a political debate featuring the (possible) future president of the country, when the understanding of civics is considered either the study of underwear of a course on operating a Honda, then what is broken is the American belief in its greatest export; democracy.  And that is truly a sad state of affairs.


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