Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Voting 101

It took a while, but I’ve been pilloried (on Facebook, go take a look) for my support of Phil Hare for Congress in the 17th District. I was surprised that I wasn’t burned in effigy at the pre-Homecoming tailgating by the College Republicans. We haven’t had a bonfire in a few years and it was a bit chilly. That might have been fun after all.

I take my voting obligation very seriously. Election Day is more than another Tuesday to me. It is the day that we go to the altar of Democracy and honor the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price to give us the chance to cast a ballot in a free and open society.

After having willingly served my country for several years, I believe it is important to take a look at the candidate's qualifications and make a determination based on that. Unlike people who blindly follow a party, I don't vote based solely on the "R" or "D" label. In my opinion, when you do vote the label and not the best candidate, you fail in your civic duty at election time.

For far too long, politicians of both parties have taken for granted their base voters. Democrats pander to liberals with Republicans doing the same the religious right. The middle gets ignored. This middle has three options. They can form a 3rd party (see Mr. Whitney polling 9-11% in the Governor's race), be co-opted by one party or just not care. The nation can neither survive nor thrive with a large chunk of the electorate just not caring.

Let’s use an analogy with which some of my readers will be familiar:

Rather than come to a consensus (or leave the issue alone), several (let’s call them Type A personality) SGA senators decided to play R vs. D with renaming New Hall. There were other senators (those who held no strong political opinions on the issue) who were shut out and ignored by these Type A senators hell-bent on getting their way. These senators represent the apathetic vast majority of the student body. That majority (the middle in this case) decided that SGA was more concerned with playing petty partisan politics than deciding issues. This led them to ignore SGA which, in turn, led to uncontested election at a time in the school’s growth where differing voices needed to be heard. Now, these senators are bitching and moaning about living in the mess they created.

To address the specific concern of my Facebook assailant: I live in Congressman Shimkus' district, so my support or lack of support is irrelevant to the election in the 17th CD. I would advise those interested in politics to take some upper level political science classes to get a better understanding of the political world. 122 is great, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

As you all know, politics interests me and I have looked at the race. I believe that Ms. Zinga lacks the experience and people skills needed to be an effective member of Congress. Mr. Hare, on the other hand, worked for Congressman Lane Evans for many years. Every time I needed help from Congressman Evans, I got it quickly and professionally. It is constituent support like Lane had that is crucial to the incumbent being returned to office over and over and the hallmark of an effective Congressman. Political scientists call this phenomenon "Member Incorporated".

My first obligation in the political realm is to my country. I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. That did not end when I took off the uniform. That is something I try to do every day of my life. We need to get past this belief that everyone in the opposite party is "evil" or a "bad guy". If we can not get past that, then we’re going to have problems that will be too large to contend with in a divisive and untrusting atmosphere.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, good call. Don't let the pundents get you down.

5:55 PM  

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