So....One of my readers contacted me and inspired today's missive. She had been reading a comment from another of my blogs and sympathized with the young man who is facing his first national election and really is having trouble picking a candidate that he feels holds his viewpoint on the world. I sympathize with him and commend him for paying attention. The problem he faces is an old one, neither major party offers a clean choice in leadership and neither is really offering any real statements of substance. At least that is the way he feels. I understand. I am a bit envious that he gets to take that first step into making a choice that really could affect his future. I think my first vote in a presidential election went to Gerald Ford in 1976, but the one I remember best was the year I voted for John Anderson in 1980. I clearly knew that Anderson could not win, but it didn't matter. I wanted to be heard by the major parties and voted for the third party candidate. Many of us did. I have never missed voting in a presidential election.
The problem was according to my reader is that she is one of the few people in her circle of family and friends who still planned on voting. Many in her circle was like that young man but they had decided that they liked neither of the major candidates and were simply not going to vote. As I told her, you get what you pay for. If you pay nothing you will get nothing. Tom Stoppard wrote, "It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting." The only way you can count is if you vote. It is because of the attitude of not voting that some try to make it difficult to vote. There is more on the ballot than the president. I believe that had the middle come out and voted in the midterm elections of 2010, many of the wack-a-doodles who got elected would be roaming the sidewalk muttering to themselves.
Unfortunately it will usually be the case that few presidents become legendary until they have the benefit of history. While in office, they are all too very human. John Adams and George Washington were just men with all the failings of someone from their period of time. It is history that bestowed legendary status on them. Lincoln, Jackson, Truman, Johnson, Reagan, Clinton, Roosevelt-take your pick of famous presidents and you will find all of them had political struggles and failings. All of them had ups and downs. All of them were human. We cannot judge a sitting president or a candidate as accurately as we would like, but ultimately we do judge and pick one and with only few exceptions, as a nation we've done pretty well. We realize that perhaps one is looking to the future or another is offering something we've seen before just wrapped in a shiny new package. We may think there are no more Lincolns or Jeffersons, but in truth, we cannot know that. What amazes me is that without knowing we still manage to pick them. Great men are still with us, it just may take a while to realize it.
There are congressmen and initiatives and judges and county and city officials and school board members and so much more than the president. It is some of those local officials who will affect so many aspects of our local lives as well. If you don't vote especially in this year where there is very definitely a group of extremely wealthy men who want to control the election, you really will be fulfilling someone's wishes. Someone who thinks he can beat you into submission by inundating your world with negative ads. If you think it doesn't count, Al Gore who won the popular vote lost the election by one state in the electoral college. John Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960 by just 2 tenths of the popular vote. Like now, that election was, most historians agree, decided on Television. The failure to vote does not make a statement but a non-statement.
We vote. Many countries in the world cannot. Many countries have elections that truly do mean nothing. They are for show. In many countries, the opposition simply disappears. Extremists can easily be in control and they will never let go. We have been given a gift by our beliefs and our constitution. I encourage you to turn off the negative ads and check out the real candidates. In the last twenty years or so we have learned many things because people vote. The Republicans controlled congress in the 1990's and the Democrats in 2000's and in both cases we learned that the adversarial nature of the two houses of congress was a wise decision on our founding fathers. We have learned what drastic prices we will pay in services and education when we pass agendas like TABOR. When we vote, we make a leap of faith. When we fail to vote, we have lost our faith.
Vote for those you believe in; vote against those you don't. Vote for the person who supports your one, most favorite thing or for the one who will more likely be able to handle the complexity of the job they are taking. Vote for the one that is least likely to be an idiot. Vote because you are an extreme conservative. Vote because you are an extreme liberal. Vote because you don't like Democrats. Vote because you don't like Republicans. Vote because you are a Libertarian, a Socialist, a union member, anti-union, evangelical or atheist or a dog lover. Remind your congressman that he or she is in Washington or the state capitol for you, not some special interest or personal agenda or a lobbyist or rich fat cat who thinks his money entitles him to more say than you have. That is the wonder of the one voice, one vote. There are so many reasons to vote and really only one not to.
Franklin Roosevelt said "Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting."