Politics

Democrats in the recent election called it the enthusiasm gap; others blame the apathy of youth, disillusionment with partisan bickering in Washington, people all out of energy to defend the party they were loyal to in the last election. While the mainstream GOP is calling this a referendum on business as usual along Pennsylvania Avenue, the President is calling his “shellacking” a signal for compromise and most are likely breathing a sigh of relief that most of the tea party wing nuts did not get elected. But the discrepancy in number of citizens eligible to vote and those that actually do or citizens eligible verses ones even registered is a bigger, much more multifaceted issue than that. Aside from individuals featured on things like The Tonight Show’s “Jay Walking” who don’t recognize well known persons running for office, who have no idea of the perspectives running for local senate or government positions yet are somehow registered to vote, you have people, young and old, across all political parties or subscribing to no party at all, convinced their vote doesn’t matter and unfortunately more and more they seem to be right.

In the 100 years since women’s suffrage, in the half century post segregation and the abolition of all Jim Crow laws voting no longer means what it used to; it no longer means letting your voice be heard, having a say in what goes on in your country, city or state, it no longer means choosing the people who represent your values, priorities, no longer selecting the people you want to make decisions for you on capitol hill. Anymore voting means, like too many other things in America, a lot of work for not a lot of outcome; too often it means casting your ballot and holding your breath, crossing your fingers then having to watch in disappointment, defeat as time and time again you don’t get what you want, what you voted for. The last 3 presidential elections are glaring pointers to exactly this; hanging chads and recounts might have pointed to an outrageous cause in 2000, but those who voted for someone other than Bush in 2004, where left throwing up their hands. Obama’s candidacy was seen as a milestone, his election an answer to a call for change, but not to everyone; once again those choosing to vote for someone else must now watch as the country is taken into what many feel is the wrong direction, put up with policies they don’t agree with. Writing your congressmen repeatedly, more likely e-mailing in this day and age, is probably a sure fire to get put on a watch list, labeled a fanatic, rather than you seeing a change in policy, forget garnering a response to you the lowly citizen

Not only is it the disappointment of election outcomes marring voter turn out but the effort put into finding someone worthy of your vote, finding the candidate that shares your goals, priorities values, looking at voting records to see how they voted on issues important to you, only for that person to be elected and the next thing you hear on the news is they’re embroiled in sex scandal with their mistress; the governor who disappeared for days then turned up in a popular tourist resort with someone other than his wife, for example. Of course there is the inevitable business deal, acquisition with questionable ethics, Whitewater anyone? Suspected of taking bribes, misuse of public funds for private dinners, use of jets, expensive hotels; the grievous case in California of city officials making at least twice as much as the average yearly salary for area residents, one paying himself more than the president of the United States. All of the above leaving the voter incensed, questioning their ability to discern moral and effective candidates. Ironically political commentators are longing for the Clinton years of budget surplus and a robust economy, which is too much for American’s possessing a moral compass, who think those in power should be held to a higher standard.

Frustrated would be voters who are smart, savvy and wishing to participate in something as important as a national election are likely kept away from voter registration lines and their polling place because on such ballots they are also inundated with senate races, gubernatorial races, local leaders for everything from city council to dog catcher. Add to that an indeterminate number of amendments 1- to any double numerical value and propositions ranging anywhere from A to double Z on things they didn’t even know were up for debate and containing a list of names to pick from that they haven’t even heard of. Usually the case not because the voter wasn’t paying attention to things, other than the endless stream of attack ads mainstream news fact checkers’ discover contain almost no truth outside the name of the person they’re bashing and the one they wish you to support, but rather because when they went looking for information all they found was dross. Opinion pieces, websites pro or con toward this or that proposal with no real independent breakdown of what amendment X or proposition Y really means for the average person, business owner, parent, college student, pet owner exc. Details missing from politicians voting records often include why they voted against a specific bill, what was in the fine print meaning more money spent, more usurping of freedom. Not only is there the closely related sentiment best summed up as no matter who I vote for democrat, republican, independent or rare outlying faction of an obscure political element managing to get a little news coverage in whatever current election, say the green party, nothing will change, you also have an abysmal pool of lack luster candidates.

Voting ala the 21st century is more about a candidates charisma than character, their popularity not policy; when it’s not that it’s the excitement of said hopeful being the first of a race, creed, ethnicity to hold whatever particular position. Pundants of Obama voters saying they voted for change without knowing or finding out what he was going to change, regardless of him never giving people his plans, ideas. Couple that with the negatives in the pervious two paragraphs and you have voting where the populace is choosing with a bar so low it’s between the lesser of who cares, picking the candidate that can speak in complete sentences and, based on recent events, appears to both have a rudimentary grasp on facts surrounding tough issues, like immigration, and can pass a basic psychological exam. Hopefully weeding out the African American gentleman, dressed in black circa 1870 something, complete with gloves and white handlebar mustache representing a forum platform for the “rent is too damn high” party, sounding like an old time circus announcer when he said it. Analysts of the recent election quickly pointed out the people who were elected got elected based less on the fact that they were the best for the job and more on the fact that the American people were so fed up with whomever it was presently occupying the position.

Lastly when explaining the voting gap in America you have individuals who know they have no political acumen, who are confused by politics, who know it is best left to people who understand it far better than they do. Persons choosing not to vote so they are not responsible for the next idiot to land in office, people who would have voted for Clinton a second time or Bush, who liked the McCain Palin ticket, perhaps before all of Palin’s gaffs started causing questions about her fitness to co-lead the free world. Even some that liked Obama, were glad to see him elected, are now wishing they had checked something else on their voting ballot, while those who liked him but didn’t cast their vote are shaking their head yes thinking see this is why I don’t vote. The best thing I can do for my country is not to, a similar view to those who say the same about having children.

At the same time what has the voting public done; what have they elected? In an effort to send a message to President Obama, in an effort to turn things around, they have now chosen a republican controlled house and a democratically run senate creating more of the very partisan gridlock, stalled government they were trying to get rid of. People placed a party in control that has more fringe members than not whom the regular GOP have no idea what to do with They have put a majority in power who has consistently had no plan on how to solve any of the major issues; one thing that can be said about the democrats is they are doing something. If it were almost any other point in history people would be praising Obama for passing financial reform, for making significant headway on healthcare and being concerned out heading into the future of the 21st century; as it is, voters began with their expectations far too high stumbling right into the recession while republican deficit hawks were and still are screaming about cutting spending, horrified by the national debt when economic analysts across the board say now is not the time to worry about sort term deficit increase and many Americans need their unemployment benefits to survive. None of them recognizing the emergency looming since Obama took office or the crisis still unfolding on main streets of America; ideas are bandied back and forth like balloons but there is no consistency on how Republicans are going to make things better for the American people, how they will put them back to work, how they will keep their promises.

Those committed to increasing voter registration, voter turn out should consider pushing for more ballot options so individuals who say I want to pick a president and a vice president in a general election can do so without amendments from 1 to 99 or propositions A to ZZ, senate races, governor races; while those focused on local voting from city council, dog catcher to trash collector can vote for said officials minus seeing presidential, senate candidates and those who want to vote for all the things they can still get that option. Politicians who want to get elected need to lay off the attack ads, work closely with organizations looking to get more voters to the polls and focus on disseminating information about places- general political websites, web pages devoted to a particular issue and other forms and forums that give an independent breakdown of propositions and amendments, voting records, instead of automatically assuming the internet is the great equalizer tech geeks say it is. Be prepared to factually explain your voting record, why you didn’t vote for popular legislation, why you voted for something that seems only beneficial to the political elite; then be able to point then toward an independent website, pamphlet, election issues guide showing line by line what was in the legislation, so they can see what you explained for themselves. By the way pamphlets and election issues guides complied by public advocacy groups or similar should be in every mailbox, in every door in order for people to get quick facts without having to chase down facts all over the internet. Baring these things would be voters will continue to assume their voice doesn’t matter, ones lacking political understanding will gain none, no matter how hard they look, and voting numbers will remain stagnant

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