This is the week we have all dreamed of for about six months now. The elections are over and most of us could not be more relieved. Well, I guess unless you are a printing service, voice over actor, U.S. Postal executive, TV ad salesman or political pundit. I don’t know about you but I have never been so happy to get less mail and watch toilet paper commercials in my life.
It seems like each election cycle the ads get less and less civil. Elections now have become more about finding dirt on your opponent or telling us about how bad his or her decisions are and not about where you stand on the issues or what you will do if elected. Let me stop right now to let you know that I am not pointing the finger at any one candidate because all of them are guilty. Interest in civic duty and elections are at an all time low and many people are turned off by candidate’s actions. I suspect it is a reflection of our society in general but it in any case it is unacceptable.
Can we break this downward spiral of nastiness and mudslinging? It all starts with us as voters; it is our responsibility to push for more accountability from elected officials and candidates alike. We are the ones who have said we don’t have time for anything more than 30 second sound bites and slick flyers. Reading and investigating where candidates stand take too much of the time we don’t have. That, my friends, needs to change.
Becoming informed voters is one of our greatest civic duties and, in fact, it may be the most important. We need to start following our elected officials actions whether they are in D.C., Topeka or our county seat. It may be hard to know where they stand on issues during a campaign but it should be much clearer when they are on the job. If their stands on issues are not clear then you may have your answer for the next election.
If their stand is different than yours take time to correspond with them and find out why. Tell them your view point and back it up. If they choose to differ then you have every reason to look for another candidate who more closely follows your viewpoint. Don’t just confine this to one issue either; make sure you look at their whole body of work. Are they working to represent the values and ideas of the majority of the voters in your area?
I know this is all Civics 101 and we learned it back in grade school. Somehow I think we have all forgotten what we were taught. Remember how excited you were the first time you got to vote? OK, maybe everyone is not the political nerd I am, but our right to vote is one of the most important rights we have. Are we valuing it and treating it with the same reverence we should? Are our candidates treating us with the same respect and reverence they should? In either case I suspect the answer is no and we need to go back to elementary school civics to change it.
That is why this short period between elections (and it is getting shorter all the time) is so critical. We need to make sure our elected officials know we are watching and that we care. If we don’t agree with them we need to start looking for a candidate who best matches our values and beliefs and work to get them elected. That is when we can demand more from the campaigns of our candidates.
As informed, educated citizens who have been part of the process year round, we can demand more information and less negative ads. We can find out where our candidates stand and have civil debates among ourselves about the direction our great nation should be headed. Our candidates could debate each other talking about the issues while we listen thoughtfully. That would be a far cry from the sharp attacks on each other, while the crowd yells down the other side, that we saw in debates this year.
I know a certain amount of this has happened in every election since Washington but I am sure it is getting worse each election cycle. That is why I am asking, really pleading, with each of you as fellow voters and citizens to ask for a change, demand better. Then maybe an election year won’t be something we dread with relief coming the first Wednesday in November.