There are many ways to begin reshaping our government, and voting is one of the most vital.
In the 2004 election 64% of Americans voted. That's a record number, but it's not close to Australia's 96.2% and Belgium's 91.1%. Both countries have compulsory voting, and that is a point we would like to make - compulsory voting is one way to make a difference in this country. Our politicians may not like it - they enjoy low voter turnout and apathy in our society, but officially making voting a duty will go a long way in changing the make-up of the government machine.
Let's make it compulsory, move it to Fridays and Saturdays, and give everyone a holiday on the Friday polls. And don't forget the fines. If you do not vote, you are fined, say ... $100.00. That's how it works in Australia, although the fines are not enforced as strictly as they could be.
Who do you vote for?
When you go to the polls to elect a president, assuming that you DO vote, how do you make your decision? Do you vote for the candidate you believe in, the one who most reflects back your beliefs and ideology, or do you vote against a candidate? If your answer is the latter, you are part of the problem, but know that you are not alone as many people feel and vote the same way.
If you ask the average Democrat how they voted in the 2004 presidential election, many will tell you they voted for Mr. Kerry because they hate Mr. Bush, not because they felt John Kerry was the better man for the job (We don’t think even the most whacked Dem could say that with a straight face). Conversely and unfortunately, that type of voting mentality also applies to many Republicans. Entirely too many Americans vote against a candidate instead of voting for one, and this says a lot about the type of people running for office and what has become of our choices.
If you feel you have to vote for “the lesser evil” what does that tell you? It should tell you that you are settling, that you are not getting what you deserve from the politicians who are running. It should tell you that there has to be a better way and that the status quo is not good enough any longer. It should also tell you that there’s work to be done, and if you again vote for that lesser evil you are perpetuating a part of the pattern that has brought us to this point. We as a society deserve, and should demand, candidates we can believe in. We deserve to support people we believe will represent us to the best of their abilities while in the jungles of D.C. How do we get that? Keep reading.
During the last presidential election my cohort and I received political e-mails almost every day. The mostly unknown authors of those messages were attempting to sway our votes with rumors and outright lies in both directions. Being that we rarely take e-mail messages such as those at face value, we did our homework, sorting through the falsehoods and smear tactics, separating fact from fiction. The problem is that most of those e-mails came from friends and coworkers, people who seemed to believe everything they read. As we see it, not enough people are doing their homework, thus allowing skewed views and then voting on those views, ones mostly based in lies. This is no way to go about voting intelligently.
Research is necessary if you wish to vote smart. As voters we have an obligation to ourselves and our country to be informed, and to never show up at our polling places without knowing something about every candidate. If you are an uninformed voter, or if you strictly vote your party line, we would rather you did not vote at all. We would rather you stay home and let the rest of us make informed decisions about our political makeup.
Become a smart American. Do the work and know your choices.
Ridding ourselves of those heavy incumbents
John Dingell has served in the senate for 50 years, Senator Byrd 47, and Ted Stevens 37. Quite obviously they have forgotten their jobs were meant to be temporary, not lifetime seats. When folks stay in D.C. too long they tend to forget their obligation to the people who put them there in the first place, and they lose touch with the average person. This is part of the problem.
The rest of the problem is that we continue to vote for these people. This has to stop. We need to vote the cronies out - all of the incumbents, and replace them with people who wish to actually accomplish something good for our country. Did you get that? We must vote ALL of the incumbents out of our government.
We should be looking in our communities for that man or woman who views the world realistically, who has a genuine love for our country and our people, and who has more common sense than anyone else we can think of. When we find that person we need to support them in running for local offices, and stand behind them as they work toward D.C.
This, of course, is not an easy task. Professional politicians are good at playing the game, and they will not relinquish their cushy jobs without an ugly fight, but it can be done. It's a matter of commitment - our commitment to reshaping our government so that it actually works.
Before you head to the polls next time, arm yourself with knowledge so that you become an informed voter. It's the best place to start if you want to make a difference in this country.