2013 National Award I received from the National Association Secretaries of State for my voter outreach work as Assistant Communications Director at the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.
After working at the Minnesota State Capitol for over a decade, for leadership in both the Republican and Democratic parties, my Facebook friends are from all sectors of the political spectrum from hard right to far left. I have always enjoyed reading their wide variety of political views and concerns.
The chorus of fear for the future expressed on social media about the current candidates for president, whether it be Trump, Clinton or Sanders is alarming. It has become apparent that many people do not like the candidate choices and claim they will be voting for the lesser of two evils or not voting at all.
I would like to address several concerns. Yes, historically, there have been nastier presidential campaigns than this one….Lincoln’s comes to mind. Yes, there have been serial philanders in the White House before…Kennedy, FDR and LBJ would be examples.
Can our country survive with a weak president? Yes, at the end of World War I Woodrow Wilson had a debilitating stroke and our nation survived war and all. No, our civilization is not going to collapse this election cycle…we are more united and stronger than that as a nation. Will Trump, Clinton or Sanders be able to change our whole way of life single handily? Nope, our president is an elected official and not a dictator. Congress and the courts have reined in many a power hungry president in the past. The checks and balances in the Constitution actually do work. Our nation is not that fragile!
However the comments that concerned me the most were by political pundits who are always outspoken about their beliefs while devaluing other people’s opinions. The real my way or the highway type. Do not kid yourself their are plenty of these folks in both parties. The “I didn’t get the candidate of my choice so now I am not voting at all” or “I will write in a cartoon character’s name as my vote”, are not in any way, shape or form doing their civic duty.
I have very strong feelings about people who do not do their civic duty and cast a ballot in a free society. I would like to remind those who choose not to vote of the service and sacrifice of our veterans and civil rights leaders who bought and paid for that right to vote with blood and death.
Not voting is NEVER all right.
Very few choices in life are easy. Why should choosing a candidate for the highest office in the land be a simple choice? Or for any elected office for that matter. It should take some time and effort to learn about the candidates that you want to represent you before casting a vote. Casting a vote is the very minimum of involvement in government that every citizen owes their country.
So, where did Trump and Sanders come from? Well, they did not come from the stupid, uneducated, drunk or crazy, but from angry voters who have felt unrepresented for far too long. The public wants new faces, leadership and ideas.
Both political parties have become issue paralyzed. Their sole mission is to retain and expand their political power. All other issues pale in comparison. Compromise has become a dirty word and pragmatism has become extinct. Members of congress spend more time fundraising for reelection than in their districts working for constituents.
Whether it is a social, economic, healthcare, environment or a national security issue the public is sick to death of seeing the same elected officials being interviewed as they parrot tired old overly simplistic talking points over and over again, year after year, election after election. The beating of the political dead horses of old ideas, criticism without solutions, social agenda pushing, staged political theater, childish name calling and less than clever quips is then continued ad nausea m by mass media outlets that have a financial and philosophical stake in the game.
Voters no longer taken in by this foolishness. Today’s electorate is technologically savvy and use many online resources for information and fact checking. They don’t need “educating” from main stream media and certainly not from elected officials.
Personally, I do not think there is anything to fear from the 2016 presidential election. It has been an exciting election process so far that has energized millions of disenfranchised first time voters to turnout and attend a caucus or cast a ballot. As long a protests remain peaceful, they are a sign of a very healthy and vigorous democratic process. Historically, our nation has been in much worse straits and our voters have picked the right person to get us through hard and challenging times. As Lincoln used to say, we must have confidence in the people.
In closing I would like to address the seeming inability to have a polite political discussion in the public square–I blame this on texting. I believe that due to communicating through impersonal technology, we have lost our ability to be conversationalists. Being able to disagree and remain agreeable is a skill that would go a long way to strengthen personal relationships, increase meaningful dialog and heal our nation. It is a skill that would be well worth our time to relearn….just saying.