When people who vote try to encourage others to vote, they often use the old saw
"people died for your right to vote". That's true - people have died to protect liberties
such as the freedom of speech, assembly, religion and democracy.
I believe that was their choice, in most instances. I'm grateful for the sacrifices they have made. But it's not why I vote.
In the United States, anyone 18 years of age or older has the right to vote, as long as they register to do so. I believe that being a citizen of a country, especially if the country is a democratic one, requires that one participate in the system of governance to the best of their ability. The easiest, simplest form of participation is voting in all elections whether they are local, state and/or federal.
With the right to vote comes the responsibility to become as well informed as possible on the issues to be voted upon. Just voting for the sake of voting - which is what the "people died for your right" speech means to me, is irresponsible.
It's easier now than it has ever been to become well informed on a candidate's position - where they stand on the issues of the day. Every candidate and party has a website where they post their position papers. You can also utilize websites that are independent of the candidates and their party affiliations. The independent websites help you compare and contrast the candidates, usually in a balanced and fair manner. You can watch C-SPAN or the debates on local issues on your local television channels. You can read the newspapers. You can attend town meetings.
The voters have to go beyond the rhetoric and mudslinging. Ignore the silly and occasionally stupid 30-second sound bites and uncover what each candidate is really offering us in the way of service.
To me, the act of voting is similar to hiring a new employee. I think each candidate, whether it's for the office of Town Selectman or President of the United States, has to sell me on his or her ability to serve. They are asking me to give them a job of one, two, four or six years. The person seeking a job has to prove to me they are worthy of the job they want. Just as with anyone else I hire, they have to give me a resume and I have to determine if they are telling me the truth and if they can really do the job. If I only read the resumes I received, I would never have a full picture of the candidate's ability. A good employer investigates; they call references and previous employers. A smart employer calls in the candidates for one or more interviews. Once the employer has all the information possible to make a decision, they offer the job to the candidate they feel best meets the qualifications. An employer who does not go through all these steps gets the employee they deserve. Or, maybe they'll luck out and get someone who was better at the job than they ever hoped for. But that’s a sloppy way of doing business; it’s a sloppy way to run a country.
And yes, we run this country. I think that, collectively, we have forgotten that important point. It isn't "They, the Congress" or "He, the President", it is "We, the People" who run this nation. By not voting, or voting when uninformed, we are abrogating our responsibility to ourselves, our families, our friends, and posterity. We will get what we deserve.
Or maybe, we'll get lucky. But I don't like the odds. They are too well stacked in the favor of the most personable, the most charismatic, the fastest or slickest talker.
I do my best to make sure I'm well informed on where all the candidates stand on the issues. I read their papers, I listen their speeches. The vast majority of the time, especially as I get older, I like very little of what I read or hear. It's all to slick, too well spun for my comfort.
I want a candidate who, like the fictional candidate Jed Bartlett, admits they "screwed" someone, somewhere, sometime. They messed up, they made a mistake. I want them to admit they are human. I don't care if they have a spouse, kids, or a pet goat. I don't care if they smoked pot when they were 20 or served in a war. I want them to show me their humanity. I need them to make me understand that they're going to do their best to work with others. I need them to make me understand they'll try not to hurt anyone. I need them to show to me they understand the job and all it entails. I need to know that they know they don't have all the answers, but at least have a clue where to look for them. I want humility, not arrogance. I want truth, not obfuscation.
I know that I will probably never get what I want. So, I make the best choice I can. I do my best to contrast and compare what everyone says and then I vote my conscience.
Sometimes I wince a little.
Sometimes I cross my fingers.
But I never, ever, fail to vote.
I'm a citizen of the United States of America. I have the right to vote. I exercise my right responsibly by learning all I can and making the best choice I know how. It’s important to me. I am responsible not only to myself but to the other citizens of this nation. By not voting, I let everyone else down. That comes across as a bit ridiculous, slightly grandiose, doesn't it? It's what I believe. I have the right to state my mind, read what I choose, where and when I choose to read it. I have the right to go where I please, when I please, as long as I can afford it. I can live where I want, eat what I want. I can go to church, mosque or synagogue, or not, if and when I want to. I can burn the flag, flip off a Senator, sing the National Anthem at baseball games. Or not. It's my choice.
It is also my responsibility to do what I can to make sure those rights, and the other rights we have, survive. If were lucky they will last long beyond our being dead and dust. This nation survived the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Jim Crow laws and I know we'll survive the Patriot Acts - but only if I vote. It's only through voting that we can guarantee we will be heard. If, like me, the current Administration disturbs you, concerns you, you should tell them to leave by voting for someone else. If you believe the current Administration has done a good job to date, ask them to stay by voting for them.