A long while ago I posted on my own blog evidence of the visceral hatred I have for those that cannot decide the most important issues of their lifetime. In that post I pointed out that the mushy middle may very well be the catalyst for the problems that we find ourselves in today. Indecision or lack of knowledge on any given issue by any of these rail sitters merely puts more pressure on government officials who are charged with doing the bidding of their constituents.
This becomes more apparent when looked at through the prism of this years election.
I forgot about this until I recently had a discussion with a friend who told me he was thinking about voting for Obama, until McCain picked Palin as a running mate. He does not like McCain, but thinks Palin is the answer. He thinks Obama may be a muslim, and does not seem to care about policy.
He has voted in every major election.
He is afraid we will be attacked again.
On the other hand I work with a gentleman that had until the last eight years regarded politics as something other people pay attention to. He didn't vote until eight years ago.
I have noticed when traveling through his work station that he was listening to the news on his satellite radio. Without question this is a full turnaround from those years ago, when he would be more involved with trivia questions on an oldies music station, than the speeches of both the Democratic, and Republican presidential nominee.
He voted Republican in the last two elections.
He is worried about the economy.
I can understand Agnosticrat's anger with so-called undecided voters but yet I find myself sympathizing with them, sometimes it would be nice to not feel so invested in whether one side wins an idealogical debate. I don't agree with the media fascination with them since I often wonder how many of them really vote. I also wonder how many of them vote based on anything more than an infantile "gut" reaction about who would be a good beer drinking pal or who's church attendance is most likely to inspire "morality" despite numerous examples of horribly crooked scoundrels who fooled a nation into seeing them as folksy and pious.
What scares me more aren't the people who may be seriously conflicted about which political party best represents them (for instance, a person who opposes the drug war but doesn't like the Republican theological wing, someone who is bothered by the idea that Democrats seemingly prefer Government solutions to private ones, or the person who wants government to help out people who need it in times of crisis but think life begins at conception and that abortion is murder) but it's the people who walk into the voting booth having no idea of who they support and end up just flipping a switch.
The fact that some people feel compelled to vote even when they seem to have no over-riding interest in the issues involved or a deep passion for who should win, makes me wonder why they don't just stay home. I don't care for the get out the vote messages that insist everyone HAS to go vote or the men who died at Normandy will have given their lives for naught. Some people just don't have a grasp of the issues or care much for what happens and therefore should be perfectly entitled to just "sit it out" if that is what they choose.
- Pol Watcher
Well that is kind of a pop answer isn't it?
Vote because someone died for you to have the ability to.
It really turns into a beast when you place lives as the cost of war as reason for anything. After all any responsibility we have as citizens, can and to some degree has been, sold through this kind of ultra-patriotism. From buying war bonds during previous wars, to joining the peace corps in the sixties, and voting. At some point the fact that people died for this right sounds like less of an ideology, than it does a slogan. Even the most ardent of patriots must admit that through over use, the phrase may have lost some of it's meaning. None the less it has till now shown itself to be a less than stellar call to action in getting the people to the polls
The answer in this case may not be brandishing the lives of those that fought so hard in the past, but must be (in my opinion) showing the voter that they are on the front lines in their own fight. That their own actions now, (rather than someone else's actions then) are the real meaning of patriotism. That they must fight for this democracy with ballots, and information every bit as hard as our forefathers did with muskets, and tanks.
In the early eighties there was a movement among minority activists to tell children that education was a legal right, but that they must demand it from the people in charge of teaching them. It taught the fact that they were being denied the right of an education through a system that seemed to expect apathy from both students, and parents alike.
It was successful.
Get out the vote, as far as I can see uses this to some extent in order to get people at the polling place, but with nothing more than a cursory knowledge of the facts concerning the candidates, (gathered most likely from television talking points), you will end up with at least one of the examples I pointed to before. Growing the will to learn more in depth what each candidate stands for, is the only way to beat the expectation of apathy from the system.
That expectation is that voters will be turned off when discussing anything more than lipstick on pigs, and who may be a secret Muslim. All of this in concert with those that would rather instill fears of a fixed system. That they all are crooks, and it is better to vote for the lesser of two evils, has got to have an effect on anyone may want to have more of a stake in the affairs of government, but have the idea that simply asking how, when, and where to get involved, may lead to derision.
Today I saw a talking head on television say that political forums in which each candidate answers questions separately is boring, and that voters can't wait until the melee brought on by the debates. It made me sick to my stomach to think there was someone that may have tuned in to one of the forums to hear what the candidates would have to say, but chose instead to watch a re-run on television, or almost anything but watch and listen to serious questions being put to the candidates.
I'm glad you brought up education, because I think the one thing I can point to most responsible for the failures of our elected leaders is the failure of our educational institutions. Simply, the American people have lost all capacity to have a rational debate based on a thorough understanding of history, rhetoric and philosophy of government. We have a mass media that has replaced culture, we have pop trivia which has replaced a thoughtful understanding of complex issues. Our political debates are sound byte shout-fests made to grab attention and ratings.
The most important thing I ever learned in school was a college course in which we discussed fallacious arguments. The ability to see through a bullshit argument that relies of absurd reduction, straw man tactics or other cheap debate stunts is something every single citizen of our democracy must have. Too many people fall for the emotional line of argument Agnosticrat mentions in which people base their vote on the worship practices (or lack thereof) of the candidate. How many people stupidly fall for a small snippet of dialogue chopped completely out of context to make it sound like someone said something they didn't say (this elementary school tactic is a favorite of simple minds)?
The American educational system is too often devoted to producing good workers for our factories instead of good citizens for our democracy. I happen to think if we concentrated on producing a citizenry capable of free thinking and rational discourse we'd not only have the democracy we desire but our economy would benefit as well.
As much as the founding generation freed this nation from the tyranny of a brutal monarch with muskets, it was also the product of the Enlightenment and the power of the pen in the hands of an educated class that respected the right of people to be capable of rational thought and to come to the right conclusions, to stay engaged in the ongoing argument that is the constantly evolving idea of the United Stated of America. Every ballot cast is another musket aimed at the heart of the forces of tyranny that potentially would tear asunder this nation conceived in liberty. However, an uninformed voter is just shooting wildly into the crowd while it takes some thought and consideration to aim the vote in the right direction.
- Pol Watcher