Reality Check: The Voter’s Choice

Election season continues. Far from being happy about having a say in how our country is governed, some folks are responding with frustration, confusion, and “Why bother voting?

Here are the main objections I’ve been hearing:
1. Politicians are all the same.
2. I don’t believe them.
3. I don’t like them.

While the objections are understandable, before you throw up your hands or tear up your ballot, try these perspectives.
Objection 1: Politicians are all the same.
There’s validity behind this confusion, because the parties do agree in some ways. Everyone wants healthy, productive citizens who are raising families and contributing to society. All envision improved opportunities, thriving businesses, and prosperous communities.

How about what’s not wanted? No party has the monopoly on caring. No one wants to see the vulnerable neglected, health care deteriorate, or our children needing to leave for work.

If the parties largely want the same results, are they the same? Not at all.

Differences include beliefs about how best to create jobs (through government intervention? or not?) About national debt (increase? or not?) About industrial growth (make it easier? or stricter regulations?) Environmental protection (more stringent rules? or not?) There are differences in attitudes toward unions, resource development, national security, illegal drugs, and more.

While the details can be mind-boggling, many of the “big picture” differences in the parties are not so much about what to achieve, but how to achieve it: through government? private sector? individual efforts? group efforts?

Objection 2: I don’t believe them.
A politician takes a risk whenever they communicate a clear, understandable position. They’ll potentially lose votes if people understand what they say and don’t agree.

If your goal is to get elected, how might you manage this problem? Muddy your message so it sounds like you agree with everyone.
What’s the problem? Well, no one can agree with everyone, because everyone doesn’t agree. It’s that simple.

Adding to the confusion is the reality that most proposals have an upside and a downside. Ideally, we would hear calm, rational discussion. Instead, one party discloses only the upsides of their proposals; their opponents respond with only the downsides, and exaggeration is thrown in for good measure.

There’s little wonder that people become cynical when they hear, “I will give you what you want; someone else will pay.” If it sounds unbelievable, then it probably is. May as well accept that.

Objection 3: I don’t like them.
It’s hard to find perfection in a politician. Of course, it’s hard to find perfection in anyone, including myself.

In many relationships, liking is important. For example, it’s helpful to like your spouse. Fortunately, a politician doesn’t have to be likeable to be effective.

Political and economic issues are complicated. You could devote all your time to studying them, but you probably have a life to lead.

Here are my conclusions: Voting matters. There are real differences in the direction of the parties. Keep the big picture in mind and do some research to find the party whose big-picture direction comes closest to what you believe is effective.

I don’t think that bowing out of the voting process is helpful. If you are planning to skip voting this time, please let me know why.

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