I grew up in Chile during the time of Pinochet, where ‘politics’ was a bad word, and ‘politicians’ were equivalent to ‘thugs’. Even after all these years and multiple iterations of democratically elected governments, people’s involvement in democracy is just limited to general elections every 5 years. Very little occurs in between.
You see, in my view, Chile is a place where the government does pretty much whatever it wants once it’s in power. This is equally valid for municipalities and small cities, where the people have no real ways to oppose the construction of a new mall, dam or a highway. Special interests and the powerful rules.
That’s probably one of the points that I value the most in US politics. When I was invited to relocate here back in 2000, I was amazed that people can actually have a voice in what occurs in their own neighborhoods. Even more amazing was the fact that just with enough signatures, you can put anything in the ballot, at least here in California. It doesn’t get more democratic than that.
That’s not to say the American system is perfect. Far from it. But at least it strives to keep getting better (at least in principle) with a “more perfect union”.
Voting was for me the number one reason why I became a citizen, and not just seat in the sidelines enjoying these freedoms with my green card (which is actually yellow). For that reason, it’s sort of depressing when I see people who was born here and doesn’t care about leveraging that right when given the chance.
Apathy is just a masked form of cynicism, which one can make a case that it’s well justified given the paralysis we see in Washington, DC. but that is forgetting that these mid-term elections also include a lot of local measures which may have a much more direct impact on our daily lives than what’s decided (or not) in DC. Your vote in a 30,000 people city will have statistically a much higher value than any national presidential election, and yet, those are the ones that attract all the action.
As a registered Independent, I take elections very seriously, and I invest significant amount of time researching each issue from both sides before making my mind.
My voting methodology is like this:
- Always vote absentee. It releases you from having to physically attend to the polling places and makes your more immune to last minute psychological pressure.
- Ignore political advertising of all kinds. TV or web ads, positive or negative. Ignore also printed signs. Particularly when they say nothing: “Vote Johnson. For a better future”. Really? why even spend money on something that doesn’t say anything.
- No sheepvoting. Ignore the “voting guides” from special interest groups.
- Spend time on reputable, fact checking sites.
- Research each candidate’s background and history. This may be more difficult for local elections, but don’t be discouraged. It’s particularly important to vote right on those.
- For school boards, prefer people from Academia, ideally with Ph.Ds, over other members of the community. This topic needs to be managed by people with cool heads and good background, preferably non-partisan. I particularly avoid voting for any person with a clear religious background (like Ministers and such) since that proves that their thinking can be influenced by non-factual sources.
- I’m a strong believer in term limits, so unless you have a really good reason to keep someone in a position of power for more than 6 years, always vote the incumbent out, if the background supports it.
- Never discard a candidate because it’s not the party of your preference. Always look at the person first.
I certainly hope everyone takes this responsibility seriously and get active and participate. We don’t need to agree on all issues, but at least, debate and get engaged.comments powered by Disqus