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And Now, the Traditional Election Day Rant
    (Actually, it's the message I have been wont to broadcast indiscriminately over the last few years, any time an election appears on the horizon. Here it is again, because I think it's important. I hope you take it seriously. Because Democracy, besides being as necessary as oxygen to the healthy human condition, is as serious as a kick in the teeth. Or childbirth, if we want a slightly less disturbing image.
    Mind you, Democracy is disturbing. So read, do, lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.)

***********   *********   ************

 Consider elections, my friends. And consider well what you do before elections, the day of elections, and in the weeks and years between elections. What you do is important. The actions you take will either save democracy or kill it.

 First, if you aren't registered to vote promise yourself, and me, that you will register the day after this election, and vote the next time out.

If you are registered, vote - in this election and in every election, big or small, thereafter. Do it even if you aren't enamored of all your choices, even if you don't think it's an election that matters. That doesn't let you off the hook. Find at least one race that will affect you; make a choice, even if it is the lesser of two evils. Often "the lesser of two evils" turns out to be one of two things - "better than one expected," or "helping keep the greater of two evils out." In either case, your vote is important.

A political meme that still inexplicably enjoys some coin puts forth the idea that a) one's vote doesn't count and b) one's vote is important enough to be withheld from the ballot box as a form of protest.

The illogic inherent between the front and back end of that message is staggering. If you want to sound like some first year Business Communications major/French Lit minor trying to impress a potential roll in the hay with your world-weary political sophistication, go ahead and believe it. If you are a Business Comm/French Lit student and understand the stupidity of that little conceit, my apologies.

The only person who pays attention to an "unvote" is the campaign strategist for the winning candidate; she's the one who's glad her opponent's candidate was the beneficiary of every single unvote not in the ballot box.

 If votes don't count, we're to blame. Make them count again. Try showing up and voting, each and every election, in a way that Americans (and Canadians, unfortunately) haven't been regularly doing for 20 plus years. Bet you a nickel that they start counting again.

 And after you've voted, don't walk away. You didn't think your responsibilities ended with the election canvass, did you? Our biggest job as citizens is just beginning.

We have a responsibility to keep ourselves informed on issues, even the ones we don't care about, because they can still be important. We must pay attention to what our elected representatives are doing, what they're saying, what laws they're drafting or co-sponsoring, what committees they're on,

 That's not difficult, friends. The information is out there, and easy to get, via C-Span, the news, and our elected representatives' own offices. Oh, and this; Teh Intarwebz, where those representatives can be checked out via their sites and others. (What, you thought it was just LOLcats and porn?)

Then use your phones, your emails, your "send" button (I used to mention faxes, but I'll relegate faxes to the shelf where we put rotary dial AT&T phones, Zenith 15" black and white televisions and oil lamps.) Let our elected representatives - at all levels - know what we think of their performance, their votes, their comments, how they're doing on subcommittees, etc. We have to tell them what we want them to do for us and for the country.

 In short, we must hold our reps' feet to the fire. Surprisingly, it works. They pay attention when we do that; take it from someone who's watched the system. Even the less than stellar ones will pay attention. It's hard, but it's the way human constituents must and should interact with their very human representatives.

 And we're more apt to get civil, informed discourse in the political arena if we take the five minutes to call (even if you just speak with an assistant, be assured the message will get through) and say something like this:

 "Ma'am, I want you to refrain from grandstanding. I support you when you support/oppose these things, so you don't have to play to me. Please listen to your opponents, and try to change their minds with logic, don't ambush them in front of the cameras. But please be brave enough to oppose them when you know you should, even if it's not a popular stand. Please be brave enough to ignore the lobbyists. Please pay attention to my streets, *and* to read the bills you vote on. You must take care of me locally and nationally. You don't have to hide the truth from me; I'm an adult, and I know how to take it. I'll respect you more if you do these things than if you don't. And please expect more calls from me. Thank you."

First we vote, then we hold them accountable. 

Or perhaps I'm just blowing smoke from inappropriate egresses.

Wait, let me think.

 No. No, I'm right.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 2nd, 2010 09:32 am (UTC)
Really couldn't agree more with every word of this. I get incredibly ranty with people who "can't be bothered" to turn out and vote - do they not realise how lucky they are to have full democratic rights? Less than a century ago in this country (UK) there were women protesting, being imprisoned and dying to get me my vote. There are still people all over the world being imprisoned and dying because they're fighting for the right to vote for their leaders.

Equally, there are times when election campaigns really let us down. I am still fuming, in these times of savage spending cuts in the UK, that when we had a national election in May there was no real debate on concrete economic policies by any party - no-one would put figures to anything, no-one would propose in concrete terms exactly how much they thought would have to be cut and by when, and what that would mean on the ground, or whether we should put taxes up instead/as well. Result, electorate voting largely in the dark, and now coalition government with no real mandate for what it's doing other than "the other lot got us into this mess, you lot get us out of it any way you can..."
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
I watched a very little of the UK campaign and was surprised that the press didn't push everyone on all sides for more specifics. Of course, I fault the press (my national brethren, since I report at a community level) for doing the same thing. We, and our editors and publishers, make the mistake of thinking readers and viewers aren't interested in the nuts and bolts, then we compound the mistake by not making any of the nuts and bolts as interesting and compelling as she should be, and as we're perfectly capable of making them. It's sloppy and has an immediately detrimental effect, because people don't go to the polls as informed voters. So reporters and editors have a lot for which to answer, sadly.
Nov. 2nd, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
Great post! I've been forwarding this around to people, especially to counteract the, "my vote is meaningless" whining I've been hearing too much of . . .
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks; if it helps convince something to exercise their franchise, I'm happy. I'm preceding most of my conversations and discussions today with "Did you vote?"
Nov. 2nd, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
LOL! A friend just linked to this in reply to another friend's FB post (to the effect of "why I'm not voting"), so it's gettin' around. :D
Nov. 3rd, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks to everyone for giving me more information about registration laws around the country.
Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
In Wisconsin, one can register to vote at the polls on election day. Not sure where else that's possible.
Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
Idaho. I had to re-register today thanks to an address change, but it's all right there at the polls.
Nov. 3rd, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
Virginia. They do check your residence and so forth after, so your vote could be pulled, but you do get to vote the day you register.

My city's check-ins are now done on laptops which makes things a lot easier; the voting machines are touch screen.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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