“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country” –Franklin D. Roosevelt
We have an election coming up that includes local, state and federal offices. My wife and I are in the Frederick County District 5. In the State of Maryland we are in the 4th electoral district and in the Federal system we are in District 8. While the district numbering can be confusing – I do believe it is important to have some knowledge of who is running at each level, even if you don’t know the districts. It is also important to understand each candidate’s positions on the issues. Just my thought, that when you vote for someone, you want to know where they stand on issues that are important to you.
In an ideal world we would all know each candidate and their position(s). This unfortunately does not exist. To begin with there are people who do not know who their current representatives are, much less the candidates. It might be understandable under some conditions that people don’t know who is running, but when they don’t know who their current representatives are, that is something bewildering to me. Why would people not know who is running their own government? As Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address, “That government of the people, by the people, for the people…” It’s our government so we should know who’s in charge, who’s responsible, and to whom do we send the complaints.
A possible reason why some people don’t know who their representatives are could be the political theater that we often see. Politicians often tell us why the other candidate, or person in office, is not fit for the position. Instead of telling us what they stand for, they just tell us how bad their opponent is. So what we often see and hear are opposing descriptions of two people; that if the descriptions were correct, neither one should be elected. It often seems that the political ads are just telling us why the other person is the worst choice. Under these circumstances, it is easy to understand why some people disengage from the political discourse.
This negative connotation of politics is part of our American subculture. As citizens we often have a national pastime of complaining about our government, including those elected to office. Of course our constitution not only allows us to complain, but from my perspective it encourages us to question our government. In the first amendment we have, “the freedom of speech”, “the right of the people to peaceably assembly” and the freedom “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.“ This seems evident that that the people who created and wrote the constitution believed that informed citizens have an obligation and a responsibility to oversee, or at least to be involved with, the government. So when we complain about our government, in a sense we are being patriotic and taking our constitutional responsibilities seriously. We could also be complaining about ourselves since we are responsible for who is elected.
Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th President took this responsibility of critiquing our government very seriously. He once said, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president… is morally treasonable to the American public.” Of course in his balanced approach he also said, “When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer, ‘Present’ or ‘Not Guilty.’ ” Criticizing our government seems natural and instinctive to us. Maybe that is why politicians often criticize not just their opponents, but also the government they manage. However, when they criticize the government they manage – are they not criticizing themselves?
The negative view of our government officials could also be a reason why many people don’t vote. They feel their vote does not matter and that is just one of their complaints about the elected officials. However, the people who vote would seem to have a more valid reason to complain. When one is engaged in the process, they have an involvement in the procedure that logically gives them a standing to complain. Not being involved by not voting would seem to be like Monday morning quarter backing. The number of people that do not vote is astounding. The last time over 60 percent of eligible voters voted was in 1968. In the 2016 election only 55 percent of the eligible voters voted.
Another large issue with not voting is that of dislike of the government itself. Significant segments of our population don’t like the government, they don’t trust the government, and they believe in a deep state. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the deep state is, “organizations such as military, police, or political groups that are said to work secretly in order to protect particular interests and to rule a country without being elected.” Other deep state theories believe that the ultra-rich around the world control all of the governments. Some even suggest that less than twelve people control the whole world. Individuals who believe in the deep state often express the view that voting doesn’t matter since the vote totals are manipulated to fit the deep state agenda. Of course, if that were to be true, there would be no reason to vote.
Possibly related to the deep state theories are various groups that profess to love the country and, at the same time, hate the government. Since the government is the people elected to run our country, loving one and hating the other does not seem logical. From my perspective, it would be like saying I love my marriage but not my wife. Having these conflicting beliefs should not prevent someone from voting. Contrary, you would think that it would be a motivating factor to vote.
This only suggests a few possibilities of why people don’t vote; however, if we take our citizenship seriously, we should vote. If you don’t like the government, the only way it will change is if you vote. Of course, there is no guarantee that your vote will affect change, but we can guarantee that any changes you want are less likely to occur if you don’t vote.
Be patriotic, criticize your government and your elected officials – and VOTE on November 6.