Posted by: susanideus | February 22, 2008

Debates, Denials, Debauchery, Debacles

As you can see by my title, I’ve developed some attitude about our political system this year.  Actually, the attitude isn’t new – it’s just reached a new high.  I vaguely remember a time when I found it all exciting and engaging, when it was new and fresh and when I felt like my vote mattered.Now I know there will be those quick to assure me that my vote does count, and to be sure, I will not give up or abdicate that privilege.  I will vote in both primary and general elections.  Yet somewhere along the way, I have begun to feel that while a privilege to me, the system has relegated a single vote to nothingness.  The system has decided that the popular vote, the accumulation of all the single votes like mine, is not important at all.  Instead, there are, in addition to voting, caucuses and committed delegates and uncommitted delegates and super delegates.  Are we the people no longer able enough or intelligent enough or committed enough or passionate enough or informed enough that our efforts to vote are so easily dismissed?  Grass roots efforts are mowed over by the political machinery.  For every candidate, there are volunteers at every level – precinct, local, county, state, national – who work long and hard to help their candidate win.  Even their efforts seem to me to be diminished by the way the system works.  Just getting people interested and out to vote is not enough these days.  Delegates are deemed more important and more powerful that the individual voter and the campaign workers.  The power to put a person in elected office no longer lies with the common people.

Of course, there are the campaigns and the candidates themselves.  This prolonged presidential primary campaign is well, prolonged…and overdone and just plain ridiculous.   These candidates for the highest office in the land speak of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets and wise spending and campaign reforms when all the while they expend countless millions of dollars just to get to the November ballot.  I wonder, if asked directly, if they would honestly choose the most important to them, a dollar or a heartfelt vote?  I think I know what they would say…

In defense of any candidate, I believe that they have to be courageous to even put themselves in the process.  Private lives become public, the past is put under a microscope, innuendo is reported as fact and the ludicrous becomes the norm.  The media issue is another subject for another time, but suffice it to say that there are those who would muck-rake through a saint’s life if it yielded a story – and not one of us, not one of the candidates, and I daresay not one of the press corps comes close to being a saint.  Yet daily, mud is served up like caviar.  Should we not consider the background, abilities, records and achievements of the candidates?  Should we not be interested in their ethics, their beliefs and their character?  Of course we should, but at this price?  Here again we the people are sold short.  If given the straightforward truth, could we not determine for ourselves how the candidates measure up?  Do we have to settle for hearing that the truth doesn’t make headlines or give substance for political ads and speeches?  I want to know about the person I choose to vote for, but I’d prefer to depend on my own research and my own conclusions.  I am that intelligent, that capable and that good a judge of character.  I can’t pretend that I do that for every candidate and every issue, but I do try.

And the debates.  Have we ever seen this many?  Debating in its truest form is not what is actually presented.  We all know that behind the scenes there are speech writers and campaign managers.  Even so, the debates could and should be an excellent platform for airing one’s views, one’s record of achievements, and one’s ideas/plans for governing.  They should be the place we have the opportunity to see the real person. However, when they disintegrate into petty character assassinations and a series of “he said, she said”, no one is well-served.  We don’t need more sound bytes, more mud-slinging, or more media circuses. To be fair, I would say we’ve had some of the good, as well as doses of the bad and the ugly in this election cycle.  Civility is not too much to ask of one who would lead a nation and be its top diplomat.

Maybe I’m too idealistic.  Maybe I’m not realistic.  Maybe time has passed me by.  Maybe the idea of “government of the people, by the people and for the people” has become passé.   Maybe…

Here’s what I’d love to see – untold millions of people, each going to the polls on Election Day, each casting his/her vote.  I want people to care enough to make the effort.  I want there to be a turnout unlike any ever seen.  I want the voice of the people to be heard so loudly and so clearly through more votes cast than ever could be imagined.  I want the message of the people to be so strong that no caucus, no delegate, no supper delegate would dare ignore it.  I want there to be a deafening roar.  We can do that.

For let us never forget this truth.  A vote is a privilege and a responsibility.  We are blessed with the freedom that allows us to vote in safety.  This blessing and this freedom have never come cheaply.  Let us honor those who have protected our freedom throughout our history.  To not vote, to not recognize the blessing we’ve been given is to dismiss and denigrate their efforts.  We cannot do that.  

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