Every two years or so, sometime around April, you hear that the upcoming November election is “the most important election.”
But, surely this Tuesday’s vote is the most important.
But think of all the things we could be potentially be deciding upon: education funding, Medicaid expansion, clean air, supporting candidates who do or don’t support federal programs – the list goes on!
[pullquote]The practical reality is that politicians work for those who put them in office – voters.[/pullquote]Well, not “not important,” these issues matter – but to imply that this is the election that will forever decide these issues creates an unrealistic view of how our elections work and creates a jaded public, manifesting itself into the voter apathy we see today.
I am going to let you in on two secrets that most candidates don’t bother to tell you about “this” election…
This year’s election is the most important to them and, because of that, the most important election is (and always will be) the past three to five.
Now, please don’t confuse this with a pessimistic view toward voting and politics. This one piece of information is the single most powerful and effective weapon we the people have toward changing government and combating the ever present cynicism that the public holds toward elected officials.
We often hear that politicians should be working for us – that they are required to do the people’s work. In theory, this is the way our democracy should work, but the practical reality is that politicians work for those who put them in office – voters.
[pullquote]Voting isn’t a magic bullet, voting is much more important than that.[/pullquote]Though it almost seems too obvious, successful candidates have to support the ideas of voters in order to get them into office. Ideology is all well and good, but if the voters (not necessarily the public, mind you) disagree with the message, that candidate will not have the opportunity to do much of anything official within government.
So, how do successful candidates learn and craft messages that they feel will sync with voters? Simple, political parties and candidates pay attention to what voters have to say.
Many people don’t know that voting records are public information. No, people can’t see who you voted for, but they can see if you don’t vote at all, vote only in general elections during presidential years, vote every general election, or if you touch a ballot box every opportunity you get.
Here is another secret for you: the more often you vote, the more important you are to campaigns.
[pullquote]For us to say that politicians are truly listening to the will of the people, we all have to say that every election is important.[/pullquote]Every single person in a district is given a score based on many factors, including voting history. If you demonstrate that you participate in elections, candidates are far more likely to not only speak about issues you may find important, they are far more likely to speak to you about the issues you find important.
So, no, this election isn’t the most important. Voting isn’t a magic bullet, voting is much more important than that. What matters is that people make the commitment to pay attention and participate in this coming election and all the ones that follow.
For us to say that politicians are truly listening to the will of the people, we all have to say that every election is important. The attitude and message that voting is an urgent thing that you only have to do it one time needs to change.
Voting requires a bit of attention, and voting makes things run a whole lot smoother. Many say that the system is broken, but the beautiful thing about voting is that it repairs the system as it maintains it.
Educating yourself on topics is easier than you think and you probably already do it. Watch the news, glance at a newspaper, and care about the things you care about. Candidate research can be quick, just browse a few websites – hell, you can even pull out your phone at the ballot box and research there.
I won’t tell you that you have to vote because of the short term issue of the day. I will tell you to vote because if you, and everyone around you, and everyone around them continues to turn out to vote, it tells candidates that the pool of voters they have to concern themselves with is much larger than just the extreme voters on the left or the right.
Voting is the one time we the people hold all the power, hold all the chips, when we can reject norms and protect the things we believe in. Millions of dollars may be spent on a race, but, ultimately you are the one that pushes the button.
Push the button, push it every chance you get, and know why you make the choices you do.
I will see you at the ballot box on Tuesday.