The very first time I voted, back in 2000, I voted for Harry Browne for President. It was very exciting for me to finally feel as though my voice would be heard. I knew Browne had no chance of winning, but he was the best candidate in my mind and I wanted him to have my vote. My college campus had countless resources for students so that registering to vote was easier than finding a keg party. We were all highly encouraged to get out there and make our generation be heard and seen. Getting that “I Voted” sticker for the first time was a thrill, I won’t lie. A tiny piece of sticky laminated paper that was worn like a badge of honor up until it crinkled up and fell off late in the day. If you didn’t have that sticker, you didn’t want to leave your dorm room.
In elementary and middle school, we would hold mock elections, complete with the actual voting booths that would be used by the adults later on and the stickers to let the world know we cast our vote. Back then, I always voted Democrat, regardless of what the candidate stood for and what I knew about them (which at that age was very little). Once practice voting was over and I began educating myself more, I began seeing how the party wasn’t everything and should not be a deciding factor in who my support goes to. It’s a nice starting point, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
During the months before election day, our television screens and radio stations are jam-packed with political ads, the most misleading, useless, and often comedic thing about the election and the candidates. Rather than clearly express goals, intentions, and desires, the majority of candidates launch attacks on their opponents and simply say that they are the polar opposite of this awful person. Guy A voted against better funding for public schools. Woman B doesn’t pay her taxes. Occasionally you get a person like Mourdock who will say or do something worthy of a negative ad, but for the most part it feels forced and doesn’t assist voters whatsoever; I need to know what a candidate stands for, not just why the other guy isn’t worth my time.
Regardless of party affiliation, candidate preference, general outlook on the state of this country, or other vote swaying factors, the general consensus seems to be that you must get out and cast your vote today. The importance of voting seems to be in the spotlight more and more with every passing election, be it because of the ease we can now communicate with others worldwide or because of close elections in the past few years where it seemed that every single solitary vote carried a lot of weight. If you fail to vote, you are almost shunned by peers and coworkers, looked at as someone who doesn’t care about their country and who has no interest in securing the best future for themselves and for the rest of us.
What I feel is most important is for everyone to be as educated as possible about the candidates, the process, and the power that our future President actually has. So many people used to think (and surely some still do) that popular vote secured the new President. Too many people fail to realize that our system of government is built with checks and balances that keep the President from simply doing what he feels is best. A large number of people take political ads as pure fact instead of doing a bit of research themselves, leaving their education up to thirty-second spots between their favorite television shows. Voting is important, but it means a lot more when you are educated, prepared, and know that simply electing a shiny new guy isn’t a quick and instant fix to all of our problems.
Pushing the need to vote is important, but we should also be pushing the need to be properly educated and informed prior to casting that vote. We need political ads that highlight the candidate’s goals, plans, and outlook for their future term. We need to be less focused on how good someone looks in front of a camera and be more focused on what they can and will try to do for us. We need to base our vote on factors that actually matter rather that basing our vote on race or religion. We need to have realistic expectations from our leaders instead of expecting them to wave a magic wand once in office and cure all that ails us.
My prediction is that Obama and Biden see success in this election and will have another four years to try to improve the state of this nation. I hope that this time around, they receive more support from Congress and that we start to focus more on the successes instead of only highlighting the failures. I hope people like Mourdock quickly fade into the background, their nonsensical statements becoming a distant memory as we stop quoting God in order to justify our crazy beliefs and wishes. I feel that this country is a mess, but I have hope that we will see upward trends in the next few years. It may be slow, but I feel it coming.
Did you get out and vote? If you’re brave enough to say it, who did you vote for and why?
If you declined to vote this year, what kept you from the polls?
I’m not a political expert and I’m not about to pretend to be, but this year’s Presidential election just makes me sad. I felt similar in 2000; I didn’t want to vote for either Bush or Gore, choosing Harry Browne instead due to his views and promises. I knew he wasn’t going to win, but I didn’t feel that Bush or Gore were the best choices and I don’t have the right to complain if I abstain from the election. This time around, I don’t even have a Harry Browne to turn to.
There are over three hundred million people in the United States. Nearly two hundred million of them are 21 years old or over. Out of that two hundred million, there should be a fairly large number who are of the proper age to run for office, are natural-born citizens, and have the proper education and credentials. Yet, out of all those people, we are given candidate choices that are sub par at best. I was one who had faith in Obama and cast my vote in his favor in the last election, but my confidence in his abilities has wavered because he is either unable to do the job to the best of his ability due to checks and balances, or he doesn’t have the same vision he projected while campaigning. As for the other options we’re given, I have zero interest in any of them taking up residence in the White House.
When I learned about our government in school, I felt proud that our country allowed the people to make such important choices in deciding who runs what. The older I got, the less proud I became. I do appreciate the structure, but at this point in time I don’t feel that it’s working the way it was originally intended. Not due to the system being flawed (though it may be) but due to people being focused on power and influence rather than on keeping the country running like a well oiled machine. The people out there who could make major differences are outnumbered by those who have their own best interests in mind rather than those of the masses.
With as many people in this country who are qualified and able to run for President, I fail to understand why we seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for candidates. We should be choosing between the best people available for the position, not the people who a select few groups decide is the best. We shouldn’t feel this limitation in elections, knowing that either a Republican or Democrat will win, but rather feel that any of the candidates has a fair shot at the office. We shouldn’t have good people go unheard just because they can’t pull in the money that Democrat X or Republican Y can pull in to fund campaign costs. We should be choosing our President from the best of the best, and that is not what we are doing at all.
What sickens me further are the campaign efforts to sway the public vote one way or the other. I should be hearing what Person 1 can do for this country to make it better, not why Person 2 is a lowlife and doesn’t deserve my vote. I don’t care that Person 2 got a parking ticket last year, I want to know what Person 1 is going to do about the economic state of the United States. Unfortunately, every time an election approaches, we are smothered in ads insulting the opponent, sometimes offering the opposing and better view of the person we are meant to vote for, but it is overshadowed by the trash talk. What sticks in our minds is all of the negative, not the positive things the candidate can offer, and that’s simply not right.
I want to see things fair and balanced. I want every candidate to get equal air time to state their views and address public concern. I want all parties to be treated with the same amount of importance. I want to be presented with the best this country has to offer for that office out of the many people who are qualified. I want to hear exactly what each candidate has to offer our country without hearing nonsense about other candidate’s college days that has zero relevance to their ability to run this country. I probably want the impossible. At the very least, I want an improvement. We seem to be getting worse and worse as the years go on.