Monday, May 02, 2016

Before We Vote

When my home state of Indiana participates in the 2016 United States presidential primary tomorrow, I hope most voting Hoosiers will have taken the time to truly think about our country’s issues and the qualifications, abilities, and evident intentions of each remaining candidate.  

My fear, however, is that regardless of party affiliation (or none), too many voters will have latched on to media and campaign hype from either end of the political spectrum that, for whatever reason, most appeals to them merely on an emotional level.

Maybe a front runner is appealing, maybe an underdog is appealing, maybe a familiar face is appealing, maybe an "insider" or "outsider" is appealing, maybe one gender or age is appealing . . . But is that appeal also based on the candidate's stance on the issues and qualifications? 

I'm not saying emotional appeal should never be a factor in voting decisions. The hurts and disappointments of many Americans today can be traced to poor leadership (regardless of political party), and they are real. But voting needs thinkers, not merely reactors. And I confess, I have not always given my voting decisions enough thought throughout my adult life when my emotional reactions to candidates have run high.

The American political system has issues (you can list your own concerns here), although I would defend our basic system against most in the world, even with its flaws. And much of it is a dead-serious game; like playing chess, candidates, their campaigns, and their supporters make the calculated moves they think will lead to a win. And yes, a pre-voting discovery process is work that not every eligible voter is able to take up for one reason or another.

But that discovery process is part of our voting privilege best not ignored if we have a choice. Trying to find reliable, truthful, unbiased information amid pundit and campaign/party rhetoric before we grab hold of our right to cast a vote is important, no matter how insignificant we fear our single voice could be in the end. 

For most people, trying to engage me in political discussion (in person or online) would be a fruitless endeavor. Not only am I not an expert on politics or our government and how it works (or doesn't work), but I find deep political discussions both frustrating and too likely to offend. And I am certainly no New York Times or Washington Post political commentator. I can't even believe I'm writing this post.

No matter how difficult and fraught with problems our political process is, however, I do consider voting on both local and national levels a privilege not to be taken hostage by emotion at the expense of careful thought. I want to raise my hand with what knowledge I can glean alongside my inevitable emotional reactions.

Others, I know, will do a better job of examining every aspect of the political choices facing them than I ever will. But my responsibility is to do what I can to be informed before I vote, and I think that's every voter's responsibility too.

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