Monday, August 23, 2010

The man who does not vote has no advantage over the man who cannot vote

Just borrowing/amending a line from Mark Twain to promote a little more activism. The general election season is steadily on the march, and you can expect things to get more tense as November approaches.

At least, you can expect things to get tense in Washington and in the candidates' headquarters. Whether or not it's tense for any of you depends on how closely you've been paying attention these last few years. True, things were getting bad in this country before the financial meltdown, but that was when, I think, the country started paying more attention to what Washington was doing.

In the last few years, Congress has spent more money trying to revive the economy than they have on any other endeavor (with mixed results, at best). They've passed more controversial legislation than almost any Congress in history, and in shorter time. The American people have responded with a massive shift in ideological enthusiasm. The same left wing of the country that rose to help sweep a Democratic supermajority into Congress seems to be taking a seat while the Tea Party has already ensured that several long-term legislators will not be returning to Washington this next year.

To say this political "realignment" is unprecedented would be untrue. I think we can all agree that the country has mood swings, not to mention unrealistic expectations of our leadership. On the other hand, while it is the responsibility of the people to keep an eye on our elected representatives in Washington, it's often the fault of the people who don't vote. How many Americans just don't like Congress, or politics, or elections? How much do we take for granted our right to choose our leaders? We can decry the process and shout "fraud" whenever someone is elected who we feel shouldn't be; but how many Americans simply don't vote when the time comes? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you forget about your country, then your country will forget about you.

Whether you like the candidates or not is irrelevant; whether you like Congress or not is irrelevant. These men and women will represent you in Washington. For the next two years, they will vote for you, whether you voted for them or not; they will speak for you, whether you speak to them or not; and they will act on your behalf, whether you tell them what you want or not. You can attempt to influence them and their vote, and you may or may not succeed; but if you don't at least try, then it is certain you won't. They make decisions that can change the course of the country, and that is not something that can be safely ignored by any of us.

The next presidential election won't be for another two years; but that doesn't mean you should wait until then to exercise your rights, to vote, to speak, and to demand accountability from your representatives. The only safe option is to become involved. Whether it's running for office, convincing someone else to run, supporting a candidate, or continuing to raise issues until the candidates can no longer "safely" ignore you, you have many options. You are just as responsible for what happens in Washington as any member of Congress.

When November comes, don't let anything stop you from voting, even if the only candidate you trust is yourself. There is no such thing as a wasted vote, except the one that is not cast.

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