Election Day is always an important day in the United States. Some years it seems to be more important than others or at least this is what the media and pundits tell us. We’ve had a uniquely smooth democracy in this country for most of our history. The orderly and peaceful transition of power is something our Founding Fathers aspired to, and we should be proud of. The only thing that is asked of us citizens is that we participate in the process and cast our votes.
Sadly, far too many of us don’t bother to vote in our elections, especially midterm elections. Many our ancestors literally died for our right to have our political freedoms and for some reason it often feels like as a general population we take this for granted. A well-functioning democracy requires the active participation of its citizenry. To be actively involved, one must take the time to become informed and make reasonable judgments as to who best represents their interests and is most qualified to fulfill the needs of their community, county, state, and country. Instead, it feels like many of us prefer to take a cynical view and criticize the process as a whole (including the candidates). There is even the silly notion that an environment of political impasse is in the best interest of the country.
The fact is that who you vote for matters. Equally important is why you vote for them. I’ve never understood people who vote straight party lines. There is no sound argument supporting the contention that one party has all the right ideas and best candidates. Our own brief history has consistently proven this to be untrue. Difference of opinion is a good thing and usually leads to better outcomes. A well-adjusted adult person is always willing to listen to new ideas, challenge their own conceits, and broaden (not just deepen) their perspective. Of course, everyone has grounding principles and fundamental beliefs which guide their opinions; however, not everything fits neatly into these categories. We also need to hold our candidates accountable for their results and test whether our own approach/philosophy is the best one given these results.
I understand that becoming an educated voter takes some work, but it has never been easier or more important. There are multiple media sources of information, numerous candidate forums, countless streams of literature and quite a few well-regarded non-partisan organizations who compile useful information. Here in Frederick, where I reside, there has been no shortage of opportunities to read and hear what the respective candidates think on current pressing issues. I encourage you to pay close attention to what an individual candidate values, how they define success, their record of standing up for what they believe in, how they articulate specific solutions to specific problems, their willingness to compromise and be open to new/different ideas, and why they believe they are the best person for the job given the alternatives.
Always remember, it is easy to be “anti” something especially when you don’t have the responsibility of power. What defines any given candidate or individual is what they are “pro” for and willing to do to make this happen. It’s easy to rail against the status quo and then do little to change things once in the office. It’s also easy to tell half-truths about your opposition and question their character. What’s more important is how you live your own values and beliefs; how you are building your own character. Leaders require followers and followers seek guidance and direction. When you vote today (and I hope you do) please make sure you are making an informed decision, carefully considering who you are supporting and the direction they want to take once in office. Don’t let others do your thinking for you or look for easy answers to tough questions. It takes minimal effort to pull a lever or check a box, but the consequences of these decisions are often significant and enduring.