Sunday, October 26, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote!

Note: while this post encourages people to get out to vote, some opinions raised here won’t necessarily be agreed by everyone.

As November 4th American election draws closer, I just wanted to remind you to vote. With a little more than a week left, many people will be glad that the campaigning is finally over. Certainly there is a lot at stake and this could be one of the most important elections in many years.

Although media coverage tends to focus on Obama, and McCain (with a lot of discussion about the effect of Palin), it is easy to overlook that there are a lot of possibly key House and Senate elections and a variety of people running in races that could have very strong and lasting effects on our lives. There are also a lot of local elections for a whole host of positions. In my home state of Michigan there are a variety of college board members and trustees up for election, that could have a huge impact on the direction that these institutions take in the future. There is a board of trustees a local community college that has apparently been so ineffective that a local newspaper is calling for the two board members that are up for re-election to be defeated. There are several state judges (partisan and non-partisan) that are up for election. In many states there are varying ballot proposals and initiatives up for consideration.

I have already submitted my absentee ballot and in many states there is early voting, so you don’t necessarily have to wait till November 4th to vote. America has historically held national elections on Tuesdays, have you ever wondered why? While living in Germany, I’ve noticed that elections are held on Sundays in many European countries. In the past, it was thought that because Sundays were meant for worship, elections shouldn’t be held on this day, since it might keep people from going to church and Tuesday seemed like a good day because it allowed people that were traveling to make it to their polling place to cast their ballot.

I have tried to stay away from political issues, especially ones that tend to get people all worked up, but I have to admit that I have been very disappointed by the lack of progress made by both major parties in Washington on some of the big issues that are facing America and the world. So often it seems that both major parties are only concerned about getting elected and keeping power. In Washington, the politicians spend way more time raising campaign money and campaigning than they actually spend doing the job that they’re elected for. A culture of partisanism, where the big and important issues don’t get tackled has become the norm. If businesses were run this way, they’d be out of business and quickly. If people outside of government did their jobs this way, they wouldn’t have them for very long. I’m certain that our founding fathers would be disappointed if they could see what has become of the government they designed. Social security: health care: the environment: our dependence on foreign oil (much of which comes from many countries that don’t like us very much) and fostering the design and use of alternative energy; a corporate culture that doesn’t seem to feel any social responsibility; education; the cost and sustainability of American foreign policy and its military; good paying jobs that allow people to be able to afford to raise families and buy homes; and the financial crisis that we have all recently become aware of, need to be tackled and not just with the stop-gap measures that Washington has done for the past few decades. Both major parties have been pushing the “hot button” issues that get people fired up (abortion, same-sex marriage, and gun ownership rights). These issues have been around for a long time and will never really disappear (think about how long gun powder has been around) but many of the other issues we’re facing do have deadlines, where if action isn’t taken our options to do anything about them become less and less and more expensive the longer we hold the “age old” debates on the “hot-button” issues. America and the world needs leaders that can look past the next election, people willing to risk their own re-election and do the job that needs to be done. In his Gettysburg address, Lincoln referred to the American government as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, the peoples’ voice doesn’t seem to be heard over corporate and other lobbyists’ money.

I’m encouraged to see numbers of young people that have taken an interest in the election and hope that they will become more engaged and less apathetic. With all the polling mentioned you hear that it is more and more the undecided voters that decide and will decide elections. The undecided voters are not necessarily a group of like-minded people, but people that don’t see themselves represented by either main party. I hope that the candidates that we elect will pick up on this. Please vote, and bring a friend or two.

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