Did you watch the presidential debates? I watched all four of them, and while I'm not going to dive into personal politics here, I would like to take a moment to encourage each and every one of you to take the time and effort to vote on November 7. I've heard a lot of excuses over the past several months from people who aren't paying very close attention, and I'm here to say that it's time to step up and do your part to shape the future of your country, state, county, and city.
Excuse #1: I'm Just Not into Politics
Politics are about us—the citizens. They're about how we're governed and how the affairs of the state relate to the everyday inhabitant. I bet you really just don't like being told what you should believe, either by your political party or by what you see in the news, because you don't feel like you have all the information. And I bet that you still comment and complain about recent legislation or the performance of an elected official after all the ballots have been turned in.
Rebuttal #1: Arm Yourself with Information
If you really don't like being told what to do, then make the effort to learn all you can about the subjects that matter most. Look at the facts, look at the bipartisan or independent studies, and talk to the people you respect the most about the issues that confuse you or have you on the fence. Learn to have adult conversations about the hot topics and respectfully exchange opinion, ask questions, and listen. Don't take one candidate's word for it—seek out the truth behind what they say and use your powers of discernment to come to your own conclusion. And once the election is said and done, you have the right to feel confident about your complaints knowing full well that you cast your vote.
Excuse #2: I'm Tired of the Rhetoric
Politicians are trying to win over as many hearts and minds as possible during a campaign. Yes, the nature of the game is a bit sleazy. Every candidate and platform has their stump speech, and they will do anything they can to blur the party lines and wrap their arm around you to bring you into the fold. It can be very frustrating, and I understand wanting to avoid it altogether, but doing so makes you an uninformed voter.
Rebuttal #2: Calibrate Your Bullshit Detector
Something just doesn't sound right. You see that twinkle in a candidate's eye. You feel like they're pandering to the audience. They just look like they're trying to sell you a used car. There are plenty of ways to tune a critical eye toward a speech or a debate or even a campaign postcard. Filter out the sensationalist television commercials and news articles designed to get you all up in arms. Focus on the issues and the official campaign statements, and listen to the calm, collected words of the candidates isolated from attacks of character and history. Re-watch the debates if you didn't get a chance. Focus on how the candidates answer (or dodge) the questions, then ask yourself why. Read the full text of your ballot measures, and if you're having a hard time understanding the legislative language, you probably know someone who can help translate.
Excuse #3: I Don't Feel Like I Can Make a Difference
Super PACs, lobbyists, and special interest groups. How can we truly get anything accomplished when there is so much money exchanging hands and activism being conducted behind closed doors and with corporate interest? What does one person's vote matter in the grand scheme of things? This election isn't really a big deal—the issues aren't as pressing as they were four years ago.
The 2008 election saw the highest voter turnout in 40 years (60–70% of eligible voters, depending on the poll), and projections for this year from various polling agencies are warning that turnout could actually be lower than the last two elections. Is it because we're not on the brink of financial meltdown? This election matters just as much as every other election.
Rebuttal #3: Don't Let Them Win
Yes, parts of our system are broken or failing, but that doesn't make your vote any less powerful. What we decide on the federal, state, and local levels next month will shape our lives beyond just the next two, four, or six years. If you don't vote, the super PACs, the lobbyists, and the special interest groups win. We're not on the brink of a major recession, but we're working hard to climb out of one and strengthen the economy. We may have ended one conflict overseas, but there are plenty more to be addressed in the coming years. There is still so much to be done!
The Ambidextrous Vote
Once you receive your voter pamphlet (or in the case of Oregon, your mail-in ballot), consider the issues and the candidates with both your heart and your ambidextrous mind to make a decision. When it comes to ballot measures, imagine yourself in the shoes of those who would be affected by the legislation the most. Property tax increase? You may not own a home, but what if you did? Would you be willing to pay the proposed bond? Constitutional amendment? Is it worth altering your state's constitution to allow or prohibit something specific?
However you decide to vote, turn your ballot in with confidence knowing that you've done your civic duty, contributed to the electoral process, and put an action behind your words in an effort to better your community.