Here it is — roughly fourteen months until the next election and things are beginning to heat up. Already, the candidates are starting to make promises. It’s been said that the only thing less likely to come true than a campaign promise is a wish upon a star. I consider that a base canard. I’ve had much better luck with star-wishing than I ever have with campaign promises. Mind you, I am not trashing politicians. I’m sure that many, if not most, of them make their promises with the full intention of keeping faith with their constituents and following through on their promises. However, once they’re in office, the politicians find that the reality of compromise (which is part of all political processes) stands squarely in their way. Each and every one of the other politicians elected to this term have their own promises to try to keep. A way must be thrashed out among the myriad of promises; some of them conflicting, some in direct opposition; so that as many people as possible get at least something of what they want.
Understand, also, that I’m not trashing politics or the political system either. Yes, they can be frustrating, but talking things out to come to an acceptable end is a good thing. When people stop talking, they usually start fighting. This is true of the playground, the international scene, and every level in between — all that changes is that the rules and tools get progressively more dangerous. Politics is a way of keeping the dialogue going and the fighting delayed, so it’s a good thing. But, because of politics, some of the promises that people make while running for office are just not going to happen. There are some promises being made right now by some presidential candidates that can’t be enacted by any president — you’d have to get elected king, dictator-for-life, or First Tiger to pull them off. It is the reality of compromise. Everybody can NOT get everything they wanted, TOGETHER.
This type of thing being the case, it is understandable why so many people get so frustrated with general elections. I’ve heard many variations of the theme, “My vote doesn’t count — why bother to vote at all,” some from my own family members, and it is a tragedy. In essence, people who feel this way are disenfranchising themselves — giving up rights that people have died to keep for them for over two hundred years. Our form of government demands, if it is to work correctly, that ordinary citizens take an active part in it. That means it is not enough for us to just take the word of our elected lawmakers that they are about our business. We have to check on what they’re doing in our names. The good news here is that the internet has made it easier to do this. Web sites like https://www.govtrack.us/ and http://congress.org make it possible to keep up with our elected senators and representatives at the national level. The web site http://ncleg.net/ does the same thing for us with our state senators and representatives. If you’re not totally sure who represents you in the various levels of government, you can find out on these sites. Information about local elections is also available on the internet, but it’s a little more difficult to dig out as there aren’t as many sites where you can find all the candidates grouped together. It’s important that we make this effort because these local elections will have more day-to-day impact of our lives than most of the national elections. The judges who get elected locally are likely to have a bigger effect on you if you end up in front of one than the national president. My wife and I have taken to printing out the ballot for our voting district as soon as they are available on line and researching each name on the ballot. We decide who we think will best represent our beliefs and interests (and boy, can that generate a lot of inter-marital dialogue), mark them on the ballot, and take them to the polling place when we go. It’s a little extra work, but it beats flipping coins.
It’s important that each of us take part in the U.S. political process. Whatever our political preferences and leanings happen to be, if we don’t take steps to be an informed populace, we have betrayed our own government and all of its citizens. Each of us owe it to ourselves and to those who come after us to take an active part. We’ve got time — fourteen months or so and counting down. Listen. Investigate. Learn. Decide. Vote. It’s a good feeling to walk away from the voting booth knowing that you’ve actually made the best choice you could and that you haven’t participated in the sabotage of the American government. If you’re looking to effect actual change, however, you might want to go with the wishing on a star. Couldn’t hurt.
~ Kurt Hendrix
Originally published in the Wingate UMC newsletter for September 2015.
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