I had hoped–before writing this editorial–that we might know who our next U.S. president would be. Not so. I hope we know, however, as you read this today.
Upon reflection, we should all ponder a number of things connected to the presidential election snafu:
- The nature of the ballots in Florida. The broken voting machines in New York. The mail-in ballots in Oregon. The recounts-by hand or by machine. The "chads". It is a wake-up call of sorts that our assortment of methods for counting and reporting votes needs a fresh look at standardization–and soon–before the next national election!
- Second, the Electoral College. Though an historic relic of sorts, some suggest that it still means that all major candidates for president will travel to most, if not all, states to campaign. If the College and process did not exist, and the popular vote alone elected a candidate, many areas and even states would not have their interests heard. A relevant and perhaps real concern. A thorough and thoughtful congressional review is necessary, but this time with a real example and outcome to ponder.
We should also consider some other things not necessarily connected to this particular presidential election:
- No matter what might happen, the system in place in our country is like no other and has survived the tests of time–so far. If however, our election outcome had happened in some countries, there might have been a violent solution rather than a peaceful one. Reuben Abati of Nigeria's Guardian commented that "If Bush were a Nigerian, and his opponent had already conceded victory…I tell you, there would have been bloodshed on the streets. What is on display is the beauty of American democracy, and the centrality of due process and the rule of law." However our situation is resolved–there'll be a lot of unhappy people, but they'll abide by whatever the decision is.
- It's also a perfect lesson in voter apathy for those who find some flimsy excuse not to vote. "I didn't have time." "My vote won't matter." "I'm going to cancel your vote anyway." "I don't like any candidates so why bother?" I've heard comments like that, and I'm sure you have, too. And yet we now find that the next president–considered by most people to be the most powerful person on earth–might have been elected to that post by only a handful of popular votes. We witnessed the same scenario locally with our county board elections. The risk we run is captured by American author and editor, George Jean Nathan who said, "Bad officials are elected by good people who do not vote."
There's a lesson here for all of us.
Every presidential election in history has been accompanied by elections for all sorts of state and local offices. While the office of U.S. president may be the most powerful one on earth, it may not have nearly the impact on our day-to-day lives, as do the people elected to most state and local offices. For that reason alone, we should study those candidates' voting records and/or platforms, and vote for the one we most want.
Yet we don't. Shame on us! I'm willing to say that those who don't vote deserve whatever they get-but their apathy also impact and dilutes the effect of those who actually took the interest and trouble to cast a ballot. U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower clearly foresaw a threat to our future when he said, "Our American heritage is threatened as much by our own indifference as it is by the most unscrupulous office or by the most powerful foreign threat. The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter."
Those of us who are in business–especially smaller businesses–owe it to ourselves to stay politically involved–between elections and during elections. The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce has been very active in interviewing candidates for local office, scouring their records and then recommending to its members those candidates who are most likely to support business. Yet they don't stop there. They stay involved year-round, whether there's an election or not.
An active involvement in the Chamber or other political activities is important, but not more so than understanding the issues, casting your personal vote and holding the elected official accountable for his or her performance and record.
This great country of ours cannot and will not continue to be a "government of the people, by the people and for the people" if we don't participate-i.e. vote. It is now proven that my vote–and yours–does matter. IBI