Saturday, August 4, 2012

We Vote For Them

The United States of America was founded on the idea that, given the opportunity, the citizenry of that nation could -- through elected representation -- govern itself in accordance with the doctrine of unity and mutual interest. So it was that an electoral system was devised to ensure that every person who was a United States citizen could vote and that their vote would count equally across all the States. A larger State could not necessarily monopolize the election of a President by turning out all its voters, and thus overriding the votes of smaller states. It presumed that anyone wishing to be elected President, would have to show each State that they carried that State's best interests -- and those of the nation as a whole -- to heart.

The idea of One Person, One Vote and all it implies, is pertinent now more than ever, with a modern Presidential election awash in 'soft money,' as rich benefactors with hidden agendas and secret motives look to manipulate public opinion by pouring money into so-called "social welfare" organizations and having them run advertising seeking to paint the current President in the most unflattering light possible in the name of "saving" America. "Saving America" is a code for saving the current system, whereby the wealthiest elite benefit at every turn by the sweat and tears of those "beneath" them without having to care about their welfare.

No matter what this tiny fraction of American society thinks it can accomplish by flooding the election with its money, at the end of the day, it can only buy so much. True, it may have bought patronage from some local and state legislators, in the form of means to suppress the turnout at the polls through execrable "voter identification" laws, though they are always subject to appeal to Federal power. It may have bought hours and hours of radio play and TV commercial time, reams of newspaper advertising, and blocks Internet traffic in which to pour half-truth, innuendo, and outright lies couched as fact, but people are under no obligation to listen, read, or pay attention to any of it. At the end of the day, the one thing they cannot do, under any circumstances -- is use the money directly to do the one thing that would have the greatest impact: buy actual votes.

For if we are to be serious about it, the only way to really influence an election to any great degree, is to pay people to vote for your candidate. But, of course, not only is that patently illegal, it is folly to believe that not one of those so bribed would be able to keep their mouth shut about it. As we have seen, with the era of social media, when a figure crosses a line that they did not see but we as Americans always knew was there, they are exposed to a virulent counter-reaction which leads to the loss of that they so rightfully believe is theirs. Were any scion of wealth to attempt the transparent and buy votes, it would spell the death-knell of corporate "free speech" in elections and bring a tidal wave of condemnation akin to the march of the villagers waving torches and pitchforks as they seek the destruction of the monster in their midst.

It comes down to this: we hold our own counsel and we hold our right to our vote. It is not a light burden, this decision. Many cannot bring themselves to do it. They sit on the sidelines, content to leave the decision to others, some convinced they can't take the chance on voting for the "wrong person," others refusing to "waste" a vote on the "lesser of two evils." It is actually harder to avoid voting than it is to simply accept that it is your responsibility, because to do so means that you do not believe in your fellow American. Now, for some, it easy for them to look at other Americans as impediments, free-loaders, or to dismiss their plight by fobbing off all the responsibility for it on them, as if each American operates as an independent island, connected by no bridge to any other, which is simply fallacious. We are the "United" States of America, and were so from the very beginning, when disparate groups of Colonists came together to fight for and support a worthy cause: their independence from a foreign power and gaining the right to govern themselves.

Our vote is not just a vote for ourselves; it is a vote for each and every other American. We may certainly decide that a candidate holds for us the key to our happiness, our personal wealth, our future, but that cannot be enough of a consideration. When we vote, we vote for our friends, our neighbors, our local business owners, our civil employees, our military personnel, and every American of every stripe. Our vote does not just influence us, but influences everything that happens to every other person, known or unknown to us. We may like what a candidate says or does -- and in the end, it is what they say and do, not what their proxies say about them, that should matter -- but we should keep in mind what effect those policies will have on people who are not us.

Voting is our responsibility and like so many such responsibilities, taking it seriously is paramount. The only vote truly wasted is the vote not cast. But before we so willingly commit that vote to permanence, let us take a moment to look beyond our own interests, at the broader spectrum that will be influenced by our vote. Let us ask ourselves if what is best for us is truly what is best for others. While we may not suffer the ill effects of a poor choice of candidate, so many others may. We are part of a larger collective, an integral whole, that owes its existence and gains its power from all of us. When we vote, we vote for us all... it pays for us to consider that before we step behind the curtain.

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