In this day and age many of us believe that voting is an exercise in futility.
What is the value of one vote amongst millions? And who should we elect when it appears that all politicians are at best venal and completely out of touch with the concerns of the electorate, if not out-and-out liars? Ultimately, why bother?
Well, there are many and important reasons to stand up and be counted.
In the most recent elections, only 36% of the electorate bothered to vote. The winning party gained control of the last branch of government that was not in their control – the legislative. The judicial branch was already conservative, and the executive – after a most contentious election – fell to the GOP despite the fact that George W Bush received less votes then Al Gore.
With this more-than-dubious popular sanction and legitimacy, the GOP is instituting legislation that will severely affect the way our children and we will live in the future while embarking on a road to military interventionism that threatens our present.
NOT to vote in the face of these circumstances is an abdication. Abstention is, at worst an admission of not caring about your own present and future – and ultimately the surrendering of your right to influence how your society should be.
The right to vote – universal suffrage – was a right won through the shedding of much blood. Before the democratic concept became a reality, the immense majority of mankind was under the thumbs of autocrats, the aristocracy and the church. We were mere pawns in the game of life, without the possibility of redressing our grievances. We were little better than slaves, working for a pittance so that our social “betters” could live lives beyond the dreams of the wealthiest people of today.
Perhaps this reality, so often hidden by many of our politicians and teachers, can serve to motivate recalcitrant voters to go out and vote. The whole concept of democracy is an economic process and has been one throughout its history. Our forefathers fought for the vote in order to stop being economically exploited.
America’s Founding Fathers, a well-read bunch who knew their Plutarch and Polybius, understood the potential problems of a democracy. Democracy can degenerate into mob-rule, and voters can be swayed by demagoguery. Thus they created a system of checks and balances, designed to avoid these dangers.
Unfortunately, many of these checks and balances have been lost. Our history is one of demagogic manipulations, of propaganda designed to influence voters to vote in favor of vested interest. What was white is now black, and vice-versa.
Thus we consider our politicians as out-of-touch with the reality of the common Joe. Thus so many of us no longer bother to vote. “They’re all the same, what’s the difference?”
Well, our vote – and other forms of political activism – CAN make a difference. We MUST have a voice as to where our country will go. However, to know where we want to go, we must fully understand where we are and how we got here.
God and Timbuk willing, I hope that this blurb will serve as an introductory note for a series of essays that will give an historians’ view of how our body politic became what it is.
Meanwhile, it is in the hands of every citizen to demand a change in how our system is run. We MUST tell our government how we want them to govern us, and we MUST demand that they cease to manipulate us for the sakes of Big Business.
Write to your congressman, write to your senator, write to your local newspaper, and tell them to start to represent YOU and not Halliburton, Bechtel or Texaco. Vote for politicians that support campaign reform – and make sure to read the fine print of their reform ideas. Speak to your friends and ask them to do the same.
Next up – the first of a series of more in-depth essays, on the manipulation of the electorate.
Copyright 2003 “CMS”/Iconoclast. Published with the express authorization of the author. Further publication without the expressed authorization of the author is prohibited.