Why elections matter (a political post)

For the next 18 or so months, we will be treated to the predictable insanity known as presidential campaigns. During this time, like many others, I will be tempted to throw my television out with the rest of the garbage so I don’t have to endure asinine advertising.

Considering that I can’t find anyone who actually enjoys the national campaign season, it’s a wonder that people turn out to vote at all. We’re probably fortunate that people do vote, even if those numbers as a percentage of the eligible voting public are embarrassing to the world’s leading democracy.

Except for die hard party loyalists (whose numbers are dwindling), many voters split their votes between Republicans and Democrats. There’s something that inspires pride in being able to declare independence from the two major political parties. A good chunk of these independent voters, if asked, probably say they vote for the candidate based on some factor or another. (Some of these factors I’ve heard over the years, though, are disheartening: I can think of one fellow who wouldn’t vote for a particular presidential candidate because he didn’t like the guy’s wife.) In its most basic form, the candidate’s character earns the vote.

This is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. If you are this type of voter, please stop doing this. Here’s why.

One single candidate (say to the U.S. Congress) can not make any difference at all. There are 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. We elect those folks, not a “boss” who will get things done. Every candidate can say he or she will work to change things in Washington, but that candidate has as much chance of affecting change as he does in changing how the traffic lights operate in Washington. It all sounds nice, but it’s baloney. No one individual can foist change upon the entrenched establishment.

So why bother voting at all?

The answer is simple: collectively we voters are choosing which political party will control the agenda and direction of the country.  We voters are choosing which party will make and approve judicial nominations. We are choosing which party will act—or not act—on climate change. We are choosing which party will make decisions based on accepted science or mythology.

From my perspective, the Democratic Party is more likely to nominate and approve federal judges who are not right-wing ideologues. The Democratic Party is more likely to listen to scientists when asking for answers about climate change or vaccination policies.

Don’t get me wrong. The Democrats are far from perfect. They are disorganized, dysfunctional, and often disappointing. But the alternative is disconcerting. They reject the science of climate change, even though over 90% of scientists agree that climate change is real and likely caused by human activity. Republicans seem more interested in expanding the power of corporations (I’m still waiting for Hobby Lobby to show up for Mass) than in limiting the ability of corporations to affect elections. Republicans are more likely to favor judicial appointments that are out of the mainstream thought of the population.

If you happen to agree with the Republican agenda, that’s great—then please vote for them. But if you happen to disagree with their agenda, yet you still vote for them because their candidates talk about “bringing values” to Washington…well, you need to stop fooling yourself. Voting for a candidate that belongs to a party whose agenda you dislike is unwise.

Our nation faces big problems that require solutions that cannot easily be explained on a bumper sticker or in a seven-second sound bite. We need to stop listening to the individual candidates and start understanding the agendas of the two parties vying for our support. The best way to figure out what the parties are likely to do is to look at their recent record, not what they and their candidates (and anonymous supporters like “Americans For Whatever”) say in TV ads.

Educate yourself. Talk to people who are well informed. Don’t talk to the candidates or party representatives. Make a wise decision and support the party whose agenda you believe is the right one for the nation.