Vote for people, not for parties

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 27, 2014

Even at a young age I started recognizing differences between political parties, and by my high school graduation, I knew who I wanted to represent me and my interpretations of the Constitution. As a teen, I based this decision on simple observations of persons and systems that I sought to mimic as pathways to my own successes. As soon as I could, I registered and then waited for that special Tuesday in November as I had the weeks prior to Dec. 25 as a child. Believing I had all the information I needed, I stepped into the booth, closed the curtains and voted for “my president.”
I suppose my problem at the time was my definition of “the trickle-down effect.” This is the belief that if you choose the right party, everything else will fall into place from the presidency down to the local dog catcher. (No offense, local dog catcher). Back then I was oblivious to the fact that voting isn’t really a privilege; it’s a responsibility, and as such, it requires study, thought and judgment before making a decision.
Think of this for a moment: “By the people, for the people.” Our rights as U.S. citizens allow us to place persons into a field of debate to make arguments based on our wishes and concerns and not necessarily that of their own. “One man, one vote” might lead a person to think one vote doesn’t mean a whole lot. “Why waste the time to vote? They’ll just run things as they see fit anyway.”

Thought processes like these lead to wasted votes or not voting at all. If we believe the largest issues that concern us revolve primarily around Washington, perhaps we should rethink “the trickle-down effect” and change our thoughts to trickle up. Our government works most efficiently when the smaller entities are more successful. Smaller governmental capacities can prove to have the largest impact on issues like economy and growth, poverty, unemployment and material resources. If a person’s interest lies solely with the president and party or the party only, local elected seats can potentially be filled with under qualified or conflicting individuals who can spark a downward spiral in an already troubled local economy.
If you’re a person who votes a straight ticket, who chooses individuals for “what” they are rather than “who” they are, or one who does not feel the need to learn the ins and outs of the candidates, then you forfeit the right to question their agenda. Candidates expect this type of “blind” voting. They depend on it. Republicans know a certain percentage of the wealthy, the aggressively religious and pro-life supporters will give their acceptance. Minorities and those who are pro-choice lean to the Democratic side. Libertarians hope for those remaining statists seeking another option.
But if you believe your specific political party always has your best interests in mind, then the possibility of disappointment will grow exponentially.

Think of this. As a Republican running against President Obama, would Abraham Lincoln have won the 2008 election? After all, President Lincoln was a member of the Republican Party. Although this is a hypothetical example, it does reflect on the challenges voters face. Do we vote for the first black president with limited political experience, or research the candidates’ credentials to find which would best represent our needs?
For some citizens, the sun rises and falls for their views on politics while their eyes stay foolishly locked in one direction only. It’s their way or the highway and any outside objectivity is out of the question. Often, these types of people are the very ones who run for office, primarily because they feel as if they have a solution to current issues that hinder progress and growth when in fact, they create more hostile, deeper issues. As voters, will we ever be completely content with our elected officials? I’d say there’s a better chance of Barry Bonds making it into the Hall of Fame. But it can be a better system if we put more responsibility upon ourselves, as voters, to go that extra mile by educating ourselves through investigation and study, learning who the candidates are and how the system, the Constitution, really works. Then all of the effort will not be in vain.
Read the Constitution, then, read it again. Investigate the differences between the political parties and their doctrines. And no matter what, remember the true concept of the phrase “one man, one vote.” If you still believe one vote does not make a difference, then maybe you should look into the margin of victory in past runoffs. The results are shocking.
Todd Thompson lives in Granite Quarry.

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