Monday, August 9, 2010


If you have driven, or have ever been in a car, or walk around with your eyes open, you have probably seen all those election signs spread out all over your community. Chances are you have never heard of these names before. If you do recognize one, it’s only because you accidentally listened to your counties’ local radio station or NPR. What do these signs mean? It means election time is upon us! Hoorah! Election time means something for people who are 18 and over. Or at least it should. If you are under 18, it doesn't mean as much. It’s just a time when your parents seem more agitated and seem to yell at the TV more than they do when Jeopardy is on. Along with the thousands of signs that line every coverable inch of earth on the side of the road, there are those fun TV commercials which are paid for by the committees to elect John or Jane Doe. Because politicians aren't just men anymore, women have overcame the fact that they couldn't vote less than a hundred years ago, and now have run for president. The TV commercials are either two things; boring or funny. "My opponent supports punching puppies, and that just sickens me," says one politician about his competition. "Those puppies are taking our jobs, and they’re communist! Do you want to support someone who loves communist puppies? ," says the competition. Though communist puppies will surely not become an issue for many years, that’s basically how the mudslinging goes between candidates.

Mudslinging is a popular way to get you elected. All you have to do is paint the other person as being the worst human being in existence and you are all set! A republican and a democrat go back and forth about jobs, taxes, abortion, gay rights, gun control, and a number of other issues. Then you have that third party candidate that kind of knows they’re going to lose but wants to draw votes away from one party.
So what does election time mean to us? Does it mean change? Does it mean more of the same? We honestly don’t really know unless there is an incumbent running. We all hope for different things though. There aren't many times when both sides of the political spectrum decided to get someone elected. The exception is Washington’s, Monroe’s, and Eisenhower’s election as president of the United States. Washington had no competition. Monroe was voted in unanimously except for one vote just because they didn't want to put Monroe in the unanimously voted in area of presidents. Eisenhower was a war hero from World War II. Enough said. I may want change, while another person wants things to stay the same. What we can all agree on, is that the American public is never happy.

Elections bring another thing besides signs and commercials. They bring debates. This is where you get to see a little snippet of what that politician is about. Most of the time, the responses to questions will fit in to what their party wants. It is a proven fact that third parties just can’t win in our current political elections. The last time they came close was Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party. As a politician, you either spout what your party wants you to, or you go somewhere else. Are all Democrats and Republicans the same? No. Some republicans are more liberal than others and some democrats are more conservative than others. But they can’t go too rogue, as it’s called nowadays, or they alienate themselves from their party. Good example: John Tyler. You will hear more about him in a later blog. When a person becomes an elected official, they have to reach over the aisle just enough to get things done, but not topple completely over into the other side or withdrawal too much into their own side. That’s why it’s hard for a president to get anything done when congress is controlled by another party.

Anyway, I’m going on a tangent. You may be upset at a candidate for saying certain things, but in truth, they probably have to say those things, either to appease their party, or to reach out to a group that they need votes from. Abraham Lincoln, when in debates for president, pledged that he did not support the spread of slavery, but would not work to abolish slavery. Do you really think that Lincoln didn't want to get rid of slavery? Of course he probably did, but, when the country is on the brink of war and you say you’re going to work to get rid of a region’s way of life, then things get ugly. Lincoln had to find a way to get southern votes if he could and not cause any more unrest. Politically, he said one thing, and personally felt another way. Who is to say that politicians today disagree with some of the stances they have tied themselves to? Debates can be entertaining at times. If you want entertaining, check out the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy in the 1960 election. Nixon was getting over a sickness and make up was used to try and make him look better. It just made him look pastier and old compared to the good-looking JFK. For those that saw that debate on television, Nixon appeared tired and un-presidential, while Kennedy looked the youthful politician of the future. Television viewers found Kennedy to be the winner. Radio listeners thought Nixon won. So, appearance matters. Especially now since debates are watched mainly on the television. Things can unravel fast for a candidate. It doesn't matter what level you are at, getting up in front of a bunch of people and answering important social questions is nerve wracking. All it takes is a slip of the tongue and you've lost some of your constituents. Or maybe you paused too long after being asked a question. Or maybe you answered it as vaguely as possible and everybody knows it. Elections are won or lost here. If you've never watched a debate before, please do. They are incredibly boring sometimes, but at heart, they are what we are supposed to listening to the most. People vote a certain way for a variety of reasons. Whether if it’s on one issue only, or they just always vote one way, sometimes, people don’t really care what the candidates have to say. I think that’s a mistake. I think that no matter what party the candidate belongs to, they have the potential to be great, or a dismal failure. I personally vote either way in elections all time based on who I think is best for the job. It’s about competency, leadership skills, and the will to get things done. Issues of course to come into play, but in all honesty, many issues we take into consideration when voting are not addressed at all during that persons tenure.

Voting is a gamble. It’s our patriotic duty, but it’s a gamble. As a representative democracy, we the people choose who represents us. They make decisions based on what they think is good for the people. Unfortunately, it’s not always all people, and just some. We for the most part don’t really know that much about the politicians we elect. We hear a few personal preferences and party talk and then we make our decisions. That’s why I think it’s important that we all do our research. Not just vote for a person because they belong to the party you usually support, but vote for someone who has the integrity, the good character, and the passion to make our communities, our states, and our country a better place. Vote for someone that represents the people, and not just their party, not just the movers and shakers, and not just interest groups.
Our elections and their systems may be tedious, but it gives us the ability to voice our opinion. Some say that your vote does not matter, and they may be true because of how our system is set up, but it is our right to vote, and we have the freedom to do it, so we should take advantage of that right. Go out and vote! IT'S FUN!

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