Knowing how to aim and what you are hunting for should count
By Jim Kempton
Election Day is upon us and the papers are full of local candidates positing their positions. The more primary questions—how we choose our candidates, how we protect our voting rights and why informed, responsible voting is critical to the process—are seldom even considered.
For instance, it’s often assumed that everyone who knows how to win an election also knows how to run a government. But think about it: when we are sick or injured we don’t call the most telegenic doctor who tells us exactly what we want to hear in a really eloquent way. Yet we frequently force our candidates to do just that.
As for the sacred act of casting a ballot, this election we hear from the governors of many states about making sure there is no voter fraud—even though in the last dozen national elections the amount of voter fraud nationwide does not even amount to one hundredth of one percent. By contrast making it harder to vote really gets my goat—since it’s usually the people already holding office that worry me most.
I think our concern should be about uncomplicated, expedient access to the polls where those in the power positions don’t have a chance to thwart the process. Because if anyone needs to be reminded about the importance of free, honest, open elections, just remember the words of Joseph Stalin: “Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything.”
Some cynics sneer that it’s pointless to vote; that idiots are always in the majority and so they are certain to win. But I think that is missing the point. In a way, there is no such thing as “not voting.” When you go to the polls, your vote counts. But by staying at home you simply double the effect of the “idiot” vote.
As for the perception that an informed citizenry is vital as the bulwark of a democracy, I always thought David Sedaris (the brilliant writer and humorist) got closest to the true description of uninformed voters: “To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. ‘Can I interest you in the chicken?’ she asks. ‘Or would you prefer the platter of dog bones with bits of broken glass in it?’ To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.”
So vote—but for everyone’s sake be knowledgeable about the issues and the candidates before you do.
Theodore Roosevelt (both a great campaigner and a great governor) once said: “A vote is like a rifle. It usefulness depends upon the character of the user.” Amen.
Jim Kempton is an Orange County writer and armchair political pundit who always wants to vote for the best candidate—the one that never seems to be on the ballot.