Decision Time

>> Saturday, September 6, 2014

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problem.
                        -Mahatma Gandhi

I won't say I've never dabbled in politics on this blog. It's my blog. It's a reflection of what's important to me, and, sometimes, that's politics. Not ashamed of it. However, I've mostly (and will likely continue) to advise people to walk the walk they want to see others take, to be the kind of person they'd like the world to be filled with.

My position has always been that if people want peace and tolerance, want to keep the right to decide their own faiths, fates, companions and families, they need to be the people who respect those rights for others. If people want to be respected as individuals and human beings, they need to extend that respect to other human beings of every color, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, profession, and religion. If you want war and discrimination, well, I don't know what to say to you. Chances are you aren't reading this blog under those circumstances and you're likely of a subset of human beings already disproportionately favored. I don't have much sympathy for you if you end up burnt by those preferences (as frequently happens in the long run), but I digress.

Although my first step in making the world better is to be a better person, there are sometimes times when we can do more than that. Where we need to do more than that. In some parts of the world, sometimes there are no options other than violence or at least protest. Sometimes risking your life to help others.

Fortunately, here in America (and many other parts of the world) we have another method: Voting. And the time for us to be voting is coming up quickly. 

Now, it's not exactly a news flash that most of the US populace is pretty darn disgusted with the current leadership in Washington, either with the individuals themselves or in the inability of the people we do like in Washington to get things done. Many of us express our disgust, then shrug and say, "There's nothing we can do about it." And that, my friends, is where you're wrong. Because, though our disappointing Supreme Court of the US seems to think it's perfectly reasonable for corporations to funnel untold fortunes into elections, we the people still do the deciding. They cannot buy our votes - they can only use their money to try to sway us.

We can swallow the blasts of contrasting mud-slinging, the sensationalist media, the name calling and finger pointing, frequently paid for by people who are only concerned for their bottom line (rather than the good of the country) - and thereby ensure the politicians who will sacrifice their constituents for the good of their sponsors stay in power - or we can do our own research, ask our own questions, and vote our own consciences. Which, if everyone did that, would render those billions in screaming ads and fundraising efforts completely moot.

Think everyone in the area you live with feels differently than you do so your vote is a complete waste? It will be if you don't vote. Too often, a tiny subset of the voting public makes the decisions the rest of us have to live with. You want that to change? Get out and vote, have your friends get out and vote, have your neighbors get out and vote. Even if you don't get the result you wanted, at least everyone will be making that decision, not just a noisy minority by default.

And that's what I urge you to do.

How do I vote?

First, make sure you're eligible to vote. If you haven't tried in a while, you can check if you're registered here: Can I Vote?

On that site, you can see if you're registered or get registered, find your polling places, the ID requirements and also the opportunities for absentee and early voting for your locale. It's brilliant. It's useful, so make use of it. 

What should I be looking for in deciding who to vote for (Issues)

Once you know how to vote where you are, prepare to vote intelligently. What do I mean by that?

Ask yourself three questions: 

What's best for me?
What's best for my country?
On a number of issues, what's the right thing to do?

In some cases, answers will vary on those three questions. In those cases, I urge you to give greater weight to the right thing to do (which, if it isn't the same answer as what's best for my country, might mean you want to rethink things. If you think the good of the country requires us to do things that aren't the right thing to do, something is probably off).

One other things you must do is evaluate what's important to you, what issues mean something to you that you think are important for your country and yourself. This is another place where you need to be particularly aware to consider this intelligently - if you're motivated by anger, hatred, greed, fear or other strong emotions, I urge you to stop, calm down, think it through. There are plenty of things to hate in the world, to fear in the world, but it's in the interest of those that run elections and the media to stir them up and manipulate us with hatred/fear/anger. If you're angry or fearful, look at it as objectively as you can. You're spun up, admittedly, but is that really the most pressing issue? Is hatred or fear of some group or situation more important than other issues facing us? Is that how you want to use your precious vote? If not, leaven your priorities accordingly.

I won't tell you what to vote - everyone should decide for themselves - but I urge you to vote with your minds and hearts unclouded by drummed-up hatred and fear. Know what you believe in and why. If the reason is you hate some subgroup of people, rethink it. We're all Americans and should be looking out for each other and be humane to everyone else. Hatred keeps America from working together right now.

Here are some important issues right now (Not complete and in no particular order - just how they came to me. Feel free to add your own)

Minimum Wage
Social Services (including health care, welfare, disability, unemployment, social security, etc)
Business regulation/bank regulation
Environment and Global Climate Change
Energy Policies including Renewable energy
Equal rights for women (Pay, respect and reproductive rights)
LGBT  and  Gay Marriage Rights
Foreign Policy (which has multiple facets)
Taxation (corporate and otherwise)
Outsourcing overseas and imports
Pollution and regulation
Gun regulation
Crime and punishment
Government Accountability
Big money/lobbying and effects on elected officials
Student loans
Religious freedom (freedom to believe as you choose or free from having to believe)
Addressing disparity between highest and lowest incomes.
Decriminalization of drug possession/legalization of marijuana

Some issues will be bigger ticket items than others in your mind. Prioritze them accordingly. Some might not matter to you at all, but, once you know what matters to you and what you want to happen, you can start looking at the candidates who seem most likely to pursue those issues that matter to you in a way that you can support.

Find out objective information on candidates

I wouldn't count on the mainstream media to provide objective information and partisan sites are even less useful (no matter which party you favor). I strongly recommend getting as objective information as you can and recommend: VoteSmart 

VoteSmart seems to have fairly extensive information on national, state and local candidates form all over the country, including their voting records, their stances on key issues, endorsements and history. It's a nice place to check out your issue list vs. what the candidates say they support and, more importantly (where available) what they actually voted for. Anyone can say, for instance, that they support women's rights, but if they voted against it time and time again, you ought to be skeptical. Find out what they voted for, what they believe in, (if they're incumbent or previously have held office) what they've actually done in the past.

I also urge you to explore state and local non-partison sites if you can to augment/compare/verify what you hear from any single source, including Votesmart. I also urge you, if there's a candidate you favor, that you look for press releases, speeches and other information on that candidate, go for what they've actually said and done if you can. If your candidate, when you hear him/her speak, is obviously a dumbass, inconsistent, pandering, or condescending, you might want to keep looking. Maybe there's a better fit.

You may not get what you want. But you can make a vote for the best possible candidate to fit your needs. If we take elections back and choose politicians that serve our purposes, rather than some nameless sponsor elsewhere, we have a chance to make this country back into what it was intended to be. For and by the people.

Last note

Once the elections are over and the dust has settled, it is still incumbent upon us to stay informed on what our representatives do in our name, and that we tell them what we want them to do on our behalf. We must remain diligent or we'll be as powerless in the future as so many of us feel today


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