Voter Responsibility

I haven’t posted a good rant in a while, so…

The “Brexit” vote has me thinking about voter responsibility. I honestly only knew about Brexit peripherally until about a week before the vote. I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to it for a couple of reasons: 1) I had no say, and 2) I didn’t really see that it was going to affect me much. A 20/20 hindsight look at the turmoil in the stock market and how that affects my 401(k) negates #2, but in reality, #1 was still valid. No matter how much concern I had placed on it, I wasn’t in a position to do anything about it. I can’t even name one British citizen I know that I could have gone up to and said, “Look here Old Chap, you need to do the right thing because this decision is going to affect the whole world!” Not that I even thought that. I had pretty much trusted those in the know to have factored either result into the markets and that the outcome would be a blip outside of Great Britain.

Back here at home, we’re going through our own Presidential election. Once again we’re being told that this is the the most important election in our lifetime. Somehow I doubt that, but I do agree that the two parties have factions that continue to draw them to the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum. To be clear, I used the caricature images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to the left intentionally… because that’s what they have both become at this point. Warped images of themselves molded by the process and the perceptions of others. This is scary and unproductive, but also the reality in which we live.

Which brings me to recent conversations with an acquaintance of mine. He’s in his 30’s and has never voted. He’s not particularly proud of this, but neither is he ashamed of it. I have given him considerable grief about this and have bemoaned the state of our school civics classes in the process! On the day after the Brexit vote, he asked me what it was and did that mean that Great Britain was no longer part of the United Nations. We had a brief discussion on the what Brexit was, the difference between the European Union and the United Nations and what this decision might mean to Great Britain, Europe and the world. I asked him if he was aware of Greece’s recent debt crisis and the EU’s forced austerity measures (he wasn’t), if he knew what  the Euro was (he did) and if he knew that Great Britain had refused to use the Euro (he didn’t). He did have some awareness of the influx of middle eastern refugees into Europe, but no specifics on the effects. I once again told him he should be more aware of world events.

So then this Monday morning I had to apologize to him. Over the weekend I read about a sharp spike in Google searches among Britons, THE DAY AFTER THE BREXIT VOTE, asking exactly what the EU is and what leaving it will do. Apparently a large number of Britons didn’t bother to educate themselves on a monumental decision their country was making until after the fact. Pretty hard for me to fault my American friend’s lack of knowledge on the subject…

And that brings me back to my core thought on voter responsibility. In the United States, as citizens we have a Right to vote. Unfortunately there are too many people for which that Right doesn’t translate into the implied obligation to be an informed, educated voter. There is no test to see if you are truly qualified to exercise that Right. There are a few ways that you can lose that Right, but for better or worse, being an uninformed imbecile isn’t one of them.

Whether you are a Clinton or Trump supporter, I am happy to discuss issues with you. I have issues with both candidates! But nothing makes my head want to explode like hearing, “I support Hillary because it’s time we had a woman President.” or “I support Hillary because Bill was a great President.” or “I support Trump because he’s an outsider.” or “I support Trump because he’s rich and can’t be bought.”  Even if I accept any of those suppositions as true, I don’t think any of them are actually qualifications for President of the United States. Only a little less frustrating are the litmus test people. Those range from straight ticket voters, voting party line because their family always has, to those that judge a candidate by which way they fall on a single issue such as abortion rights, gun rights or some other hot button issue.

The tendency among voters to concentrate on sound-bite issues has led us to a plethora of sound-bite politicians. It is rare to find politicians that are deep thinkers. Most of them are polished founts of double-speak. They work hard to get the sound-bite out while striving to say as little else of substance as possible. This tells us little about how they will interact in our system of government that is designed around compromise.

Despite what it might sound like, I don’t want there to be a test to qualify you to vote. I tend to agree with our founding father’s distrust of government and any such test could easily be perverted to disenfranchise people deemed undesirable by those in power. I would like to foster my idea of a responsible electorate though, where those that intend to vote actually spend a little time learning about current events, current issues, candidate’s positions and attending candidate debates and forums to really learn about who they want to represent them. Everyone else? Feel free to stay home…

Brexit image borrowed from www.pharmafile.com

Hillary/Donald Caricature Image borrowed from www.commondreams.org

Google Search image borrowed from www.bigthink.com

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