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Voting Tomorrow

Voting Tomorrow

Let me first warn you that this post contains nothing whatsoever that’s exciting. 🙂 Well other than the three interviews I conducted with Energion authors about the election.

Tomorrow I will go to my polling place and cast my vote. I’m a traditionalist. I go to the polls on election day. I’m happy that there are other methods that help those who might have more difficulty going to the polls. The first election after I turned 18, I not only went to my polling place and voted, I was an official poll watcher for a political campaign (Reagan in 1976 for what it’s worth).

I believe in voting whenever it’s possible, and have a hard time understanding people who don’t show up for midterms or for local elections that don’t line up with presidential years. The president gets blamed for many things he couldn’t control (whichever president), and also gets credit for many things he could not control. Your school board members, council members, state representatives, and many others have a large amount of influence on your life. You should show up to vote.

I do understand a principled stand not to vote. What I do not understand is not showing up due to apathy. It’s worth going out of your way to do.

A few notes:

  1. I have not read a single social media post that influenced me on an issue.
  2. I have not seen a single political ad on TV that influenced me favorably with regard to the sponsor. I saw a number, even for people I will vote for tomorrow, that gave me second thoughts.
  3. I didn’t even read the vast majority of the direct mail. What I did read demonstrated that the mailouts haven’t improved.
  4. I found that most candidates had uninformative web sites. I appreciate those who had a good summary of experience and political positions. Neither “conservative” nor “liberal” attract me unless I see specifics. I have encountered nuts under every label.
  5. Actually discovering useful information about candidates took much, much more time than it will to vote. Much more.
  6. Most decisions between candidates were difficult, not because there is no difference. There definitely is a difference. Rather, the problem is that so many candidates have positions or have done things that I would normally say disqualify them for my vote. There are a few candidates that I will vote for with satisfaction. I don’t agree with them entirely.
  7. Character is now, and always has been, central to my voting decision.

I’m not going to share my vote. I don’t think that would actually have any more influence on me than yours would on me. I don’t think it should.

Oh, and I really dislike the way elections have been taken over by political consultants. Here’s a near future science fiction story I wrote about it in 2012.

A Few Notes on Civility

A Few Notes on Civility

I’m not even sure if civility is the right word here, but it will work. I’m talking about remaining courteous even while expressing vigorous opinions.

  1. Civility isn’t cowardice. Rather, it is choosing the most effective way to express one’s opinion. It may lead to civil disobedience, a situation in which one offers oneself in a stand against evil.
  2. Civility isn’t silence. It may involve limited words. It may be a simple “I disagree.”
  3. Civility isn’t a lack of conviction. It’s a way of expressing yourself that you think will connect.
  4. Civility isn’t weakness. The loudest voice is not necessarily the one with the greatest conviction.
  5. Civility isn’t a debt you owe to the other side. It is something you do for yourself and for your cause.
  6. Civility isn’t easy. I think we all know this.

The most important action is still your vote. The reduction in turnout for mid-term elections is an unfortunate comment on how people understand the process. Please study out your candidates for this coming election and be at the polls. The primary election in Florida is August 28, and the general election is November 6. We have a senate election, a gubernatorial election, and, of course, congressional. You can get information on the various ways to vote at the Department of State-Division of Elections site.

I registered to vote when I turned 18, and I’ve been to the polls for every election since that time. I simply cannot understand low turnout for local elections or in non-presidential years.

No, I Really Don’t

No, I Really Don’t

Vote?
Vote?

… have to vote for one of the major party candidates come November.

I’m going to take a break from not posting anything political. I haven’t stayed away from political posting because I think politics is bad and Christians shouldn’t be involved. I welcome the involvement of everyone in politics. For me, it is a matter of priorities. I choose to post about the gospel and about dialogue, especially but not exclusively among Christians. I’m still not going to tell you how I will vote, but rather about how I make the decision.

I have been registered as independent, not a member of either major party, for about 28 years. I honestly can’t remember (and have no records), whether it was 1986, 1988, or 1990 when I changed my registration from Republican to Independent, but it was one of those. The reason was that I could not accept being counted as a supporter of either of the major parties. I could say that my hope was to get the two parties removed from their privileged legal position. I do wish that, but “hope” is too strong a word. I have been told that I have given up much of my ability to influence the course of politics by this decision.

I have been told that I have given up much of my ability to influence the course of politics by this decision. I’m told by the same people that my one “vote” in changing my party affiliation is no sufficient to be meaningful. I find that oddly contradictory.

Each presidential election I have been told that I need to vote for one or the other of the major candidates, because one of them would become president (or holder of some other office), and indeed this is right. In all the elections in which I have voted, one of the major party candidates has won. In most cases, I voted for one or the other of them, though I have voted for other candidates on occasion.

And you know what? One of the major candidates won, no matter what I did. That was expected. I probably had an impact on that by taking away my vote from whichever major party candidate I would have voted for had I not voted third party or independent. In each case, I fully accepted that result.

The reason for all this is that I don’t belong to any of the political tribes into which we seem to be divided. I would never pledge to support the nominee, whoever that is, in either major party. I cannot call myself a conservative, a liberal, or even a libertarian, though I have some affinities for positions held by each.

Let me illustrate.

I am strongly opposed to foreign military intervention in almost all circumstances. I think that trying to occupy other countries and do “nation building” is especially unproductive—no, make that destructive—because for some reason other countries are not as enthusiastic about being made into the nation we think they should be as we are about “building” their nation. There simply aren’t enough troops out there to occupy all the countries where terrorists might hide and be overlooked by the local government.

At the same time, I favor a strong national defense, with the emphasis on intelligence, special operations, and technology, especially developing new technology to detect and deal with 21st-century threats.

I am fundamentally a capitalist, not pro-business, but capitalist. That means I oppose subsidies, corporate bailouts, protectionism, and governmental barriers to entry, such as most licensing laws.

At the same time, I believe in a safety net. The problem with our existing welfare system is not that it gives too much money to people who need it, but rather that it is so complex and unwieldy that it requires a good lawyer to sort out the requirements and an army of bureaucrats to manage it. And I do mean by this that we should not have children starving, we should not have people depending on the emergency room for their medical care, and we shouldn’t have people involuntarily in the street. Of course, there will always be some that we cannot reach, but those that can, should be helped.

I am very conservative in my lifestyle and in my personal ethics and morals.

I am libertarian about what choices others should be allowed to make.

I could go on and on and doubtless bore you to death. Every candidate will, if elected, do things that I consider wrong. When I vote, it’s not a matter of finding a candidate that agrees with me, but of choosing which wrong things I think should take place.

I don’t find this very surprising. That’s politics. I often have the same problem in church. That’s how living as a community, even a fractured community, works. What I refuse to do is tie myself to any party, and I wish more people would do so as well.

Don’t become disengaged, but at the same time don’t feel that you have to support everything because you support something, or nothing, because you can’t support everything. (I put that sentence in there to test your parsing ability!)

I will vote. After I vote, things will happen that I don’t like. That’s also part of living in community.

But I may vote for someone that has no chance of winning. Friends will tell me I threw away my vote. Some of them will think I hurt one major candidate, some the other. Then during the term of office to follow they’ll explain to me that one shouldn’t support any of the minor parties because they didn’t get enough votes.

Well, they got mine.

(Clipart source: Openclipart.org)

Please Vote in the Midterm Elections

Please Vote in the Midterm Elections

This is written to my American readers. Please go out and vote int he midterm elections tomorrow. I say this irrespective of your political views.

There are a number of groups who are more likely to vote in presidential elections and then ignore the “less important” midterm and local elections. But that is not the way the system works. In casual discussions of politics we often tend to blame or applaud the current president for the things of which we disapprove or approve. Often, however, the president is not the one who is making the relevant policies. Many policies are made at the local level.

For example, I will vote tomorrow to renew two different local sales tax options. Those impact my daily life because, combined, they raise my sales tax level from 6% (the state rate) to 7.5% (the rate in my county of residence). Voting in a presidential year won’t impact that result. Voting tomorrow will.

There are many excuses for not voting in these less exciting elections. For example:

  1. My vote doesn’t really count. I already know who is going to win the congressional race (or any other example). Margins are important. Narrow margins make politicians listen more closely less their narrow margin disappear at the next election. If politicians know you, or the majority of some group you belong to, will stay away from the polls, they can ignore you. For example, young people are often cited as staying home from the polls, and more so in non-presidential year elections. Young people, your politicians can, will, and in fact do ignore you because they know they can get by with it.
  2. The direction is set from the top. It shouldn’t be. Change it!
  3. I’m too busy. Really? I don’t believe you. It doesn’t take that long. Remember that the lines are shorter in an off-year.
  4. There’s no difference between the candidates. This is generally quite false. I often find it hard to make a choice, though I manage it in the end. The reason is that it’s hard to balance agreements and disagreements. What happens when one candidate supports economic policies I prefer, but would vote for social policies I abhor and vice-versa. It’s not that the candidates are the same; that believe is usually the result of failing to actually study the candidates. Rather, it’s the result of the fact that none of us are likely to agree on everything. What’s more important? Don’t be lazy? Think about it and make a decision!

I think that’s enough. If you have true convictions that you should not vote, make that decision. Be aware, however, that even that decision has an impact on the results. But don’t stay home because you just can’t get up the energy to contribute.

Voting in Local Elections

Voting in Local Elections

voting 082614I voted yesterday in the Florida primary. Despite being registered as independent (I oppose recognition of specific political parties by the government) I had one local election in which I was eligible to vote. So I did. I always do. I also like to actually go to a polling place on election day in order to cast my ballot.

It was kind of humorous. I encountered seven poll workers and no other voters, even though it was approaching lunch time. The counter on the ballot reader said 51 people had voted in the precinct, and that they projected 94. I don’t know how accurate that projection is.

This is an unfortunate situation in our democratic political system. (Yes, I know the difference between a “republic” and a “democracy,” a distinction that is overdrawn by many. This is a representative democracy.)  The major focus we have is on federal elections and especially on presidential elections. Then we complain about congress, or about local issues, without realizing that we are enabling incompetent government at the local level. So few people take part in the local elections and, unfortunately, even less seem to know much about them. In fact, information is hard to come by. The one election in which I was eligible to vote this time was for a circuit court judge, and it was, as usual, difficult to get reliable and useful information about the candidates.

American who care about the things that are happening in this country need to get involved in local politics. Learn what’s going on. Vote intelligently for school board, city council, and county level offices. You have only influenced the future course of the country in a very limited way if you vote in the presidential election.

 

Primary and Local Voting (Ramblings)

Primary and Local Voting (Ramblings)

I headed out to the polls today to vote in the primary. Since I’m registered independent, it was a short ballot, but nonetheless an important one.

One of the things that bothers me in the discussion of politics is the extremely limited discussion of local campaigns and issues. The information available is always limited, and very few people seem to want to discuss it. My wife and I scour the web and then we each report our results to the other. But we both find the lack of information annoying.

When the issues are only local, the turnout is also generally fairly low. Yet a great deal of the things that impact our lives are decided by these local bodies chosen by a tiny minority of the voters, many of whom are poorly informed.

It was interesting to note that the local elections here got pretty dirty as well. We had a candidate for county commission in our district who had a DUI on his record from when he’d been quite young, and someone mailed out flyers to make sure we were all aware of it. Our race for Public Defender got pretty tense as well, with accusations and counter-accusations. Why on earth is a public defender elected in any case?

As I approached the polling place, there was a forest of signs.

Lots of political signs

Is there some purpose to all these signs? Are people supposedly still making up there minds at this point? I suppose they are. And if they make up their minds based on these signs or the waving people at the polling place, could that be regarded as an informed vote?

Some people speak and act as though the only important issue is the election of the president. But our constitutional system doesn’t give the president absolute power. What about congress?

All our votes are important. The performace of our current government is the result of a Democratic president a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic (but not filibuster proof) Senate. When you go to the polls you need to consider the performance of all those elements.

I hope the people of this country will give serious consideration to their votes for people at all levels of government.

 

Is Tomorrow a Down Payment on the Dream?

Is Tomorrow a Down Payment on the Dream?

On Meet the Press on Sunday Tavis Smiley made a comment that stuck with me. I have to extract this from a longer statement, and you can find the whole thing here. He said:

… I think, though, it’s important to state that Obama’s election is a down payment on King’s dream, it is not the fulfillment of King’s dream, and that’s a crucial, I think, and critical distinction we have to make. A significant down payment to be sure, and King would certainly be celebrating this moment. But the closest thing in King’s lifetime to this Obama moment was the election of the first black mayor of a major American city, Carl Stokes in Cleveland. King went to Cleveland and, if I can paraphrase it this way, talked about this notion of black faces in high places. And while that’s something to celebrate, there is work to be done and we have got to keep the focus on the issues. And where Mr. Obama is concerned, while black America and all of America will certainly celebrate this, because King is, again, not just a black leader, he’s the best of what America is all about. …

Now Mr. Smiley makes a good point. Election of the first African-American president is not the end of the story in terms of equal rights in America. There will be much more to be done. One of the benefits I see in having Barack Obama as president is that the very fact of his being in office will start many discussions and help change perceptions. He is not so much the sign of the end of a process but rather a milestone showing how far we have come and how far we have to go.

But there is a problem with the whole “payment” and “down-payment” type of language with reference to what has gone on. I’m not talking about the validity of any claims for reparations. I’m talking about the way we think about equal rights and freedom for everyone. It’s practically a cliche to say that if one person isn’t free, then nobody is free. But I don’t believe we often think about how true that is.

In doing injustice to one group of our citizens, we also injure ourselves. It is tragic for any group to be oppressed, but what about the insanity of oppressors? One of the things that the bus protest in Montgomery managed to communicate to some remarkably thick headed people was that the African-American community was part of the same economy, and that by oppressing that part of the community the opportunities of everyone were limited.

The south didn’t lose the civil war because they were morally wrong, though they certainly were–they lost because they did not have the economy to handle such a war. One reason was that a slave economy was really not all that efficient.

I would regard slavery as immoral even if it was not also quite insane, but there is a certain disgusting pathos about people who are oppressing someone else while at the same time making their own lives worse than they might be otherwise. Perhaps there is a reason why white-supremacy rallies do not appear to be attended by the best and the brightest!

Now there are certainly some people who can prosper in such an economy, but overall and in the long term such things tend to fail, and to fail in a spectacular manner.

As a Christian I believe we do owe one another allegiance, and that we do have a duty to help free the oppressed, to care for the poor and needy. I think there is a moral duty to do such things not because they are good for me, but because they are good. At the same time, I think God has so ordered the universe that it seems that I can do good for myself by doing good for others, that I will live in a richer and better society if I am willing to sacrifice for others and fight for their rights.

Ultimately, the greatest good that can come from this election is not in the person we elected, or in specific milestones in our progress, but in the changes in the way we think about freedom, and in a determination to pursue freedom and justice for everyone. The down-payment was paid much more when each person made his or her decision about the election, and decided to vote based on the content of the candidate’s character and the good of the country, rather than on the color of that candidate’s skin.

(Note that, as I wrote before [see Yes, Race Influences my Vote], I believe there was a value in electing an African-American president of the United States. I put that under “good of the country.” Were the content of his character not appropriate, however, the value of that symbolism would be inadequate to drive my vote.)

Now some people did vote purely or mostly on the basis of race, at least as indicated by the polls. Some cast their vote out of hatred. But I believe that the majority went out a voted their conscience, and that was the down-payment–not the inauguration of the particular person who was elected.

We have much further to go in terms of equal treatment of all people. One example of the type of insanity I described is the discharge of much needed linguists from the military simply because they are gay or lesbian. In a time when we have a documented need for more linguists, we have released some of them because of a sexual preference. There is an unmeasured and unmeasurable claim that morale will suffer that is allowed to overcome a demonstrable need. That’s insanity, in my view. We need to change it.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” means that qualified people who want to serve their country are not permitted to do so. At the same time the country is denied their services. That’s insanity and it needs to stop.

Our attitudes towards race and toward all other forms of discrimination–all discrimination that is based on irrelevant factors is not only immoral in itself, it is insane. In allowing freedom to be withdrawn from others, we cultivate oppression for ourselves.

Information, Laziness, and Voting

Information, Laziness, and Voting

News stories this morning pointed out that Romney outspent Huckabee 6 to 1 in Iowa, yet in the end it wasn’t enough for a win. It’s interesting that the expectation is that spending is equal to votes. It’s unfortunate that it’s often quite true.

Voters frequently complain about the behavior of candidates–too many sound bites, too many negative ads, too much fluff, too few hard proposals. It’s good for voters to be concerned. But the bottom line is that the candidates are going to do what works, that is what gets them elected. If negative ads didn’t work, candidates wouldn’t be using them so much. Now there certainly are times when there is a backlash because of excessively negative ads, or too many of them. But to a large extent, the mud sticks.

There is also a perfectly good place for the negative in a campaign. If a candidate has lied or broken promises before, it should be known. A negative ad can point this out. But there is also a great deal of room for spin, and 30-60 second ads don’t leave much room for nuances. Take the issue of Governor Huckabee and the number of prisoners whose sentences he commuted while governor. How a governor uses the power to pardon people or commute sentences is surely a valid subject for discussion when that candidate seeks re-election or runs for another office. I see no problem with an opponent pointing out such behavior in an ad.

But then there is the issue of context. Numbers don’t always mean what they appear to mean on the surface. Were there more opportunities for pardons or commutations? What reasoning was used? Can you point to specific cases of particular bad judgment? All of those are valid questions. Unfortunately, cynical voters tend to just focus on whether the ad was negative or positive.

Since I am not a Republican (I’m registered independent), I only took a brief look at this issue, but based on that I suspect this issue would end up fairly neutral for me. In other words, I’d disagree with some of what he did, but I wouldn’t regard it as abuse. Were I a Republican voter in an upcoming primary, however, I’d be digging much deeper in order to either confirm that early impression or not. Should he be the Republican nominee, you can be sure I will know.

I am angered by vague positive ads. Everybody’s in favor of “change.” Yet I’m reminded of this scene in C. S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

“But that would be putting the clock back,” gasped the Governor. “Have you no idea of progress, of development?”
“I have seen them both in an egg,” said Caspian. We call it Going bad in Narnia. This trade must stop.”

Match the “time for a change” ads with the “make our country great again” ads, which generally don’t give one any hint of just what greatness consists of and how it is that we will attain that greatness. But you play these ads enough times with patriotic music and a flag waving in the background, and people who have no idea what the candidate stands for remember his name in favorable terms. Our problem is that we are not reading, listening, and viewing critically.

The fact is, however, that we as voters really have no excuse not to get the information we need. I have been searching for information on the candidates’ positions on health care, in preparation for my next post in my series “What I want for election day . . .” Now for some candidates there is very little information there, but that in itself is significant information. The Association of Health Care Journalists reported that of the 14 candidates who were in the race when I first read the page, nine had released a health care proposal and only three had responded to a series of questions from the association. (Two candidates have dropped out of the race since I extracted that information.)

Obviously candidates have no obligation to respond to a questionnaire from any particular organization, but it does give an indication of the interest level. The site also provides one with an easy way to access information from the candidates themselves through their web sites. Now I haven’t finished my own research, and I’m not vouching for the accuracy of their list–I’m just using it for illustration.

My question is how many voters will actually read these health care proposals and ask how they would work? I congratulate candidates on putting out proposals that one can evaluate. But if the voters just respond to ads that announce things like “I’m in favor of health care for all” or “I believe we must preserve complete choice in American health care,” they won’t really know what is likely to happen should their candidate have his or her way. Not every proposal will accomplish what it claims it will.

There is simply no reason why money should be so influential. We have the means to spread information on every candidate for very little money, and if the voters took the time to seek out the information, instead of waiting for 30 second spots which by nature cannot truly inform, then the money would have much less influence.

I don’t think that candidate spending, (big money, or whatever you wish to call it), lobbyists, or the mainstream media can be blamed for a misinformed electorate. I think the only reason for the electorate as a whole to be misinformed is that not enough voters wish to be adequately and accurately informed. The information is available if you seek it out. If you’re going to vote, I can think of no adequate excuse for you to enter that voter booth uninformed.