I know, I know... This is a food blog and I promise not to make this a habit. However, we have a big day coming up and I do think it's worth spending a few moments reflecting on our duties as Americans to help choose our leaders and the way in which we go about making those choices. I'm not going to try to push any specific candidates or issues on you. I honestly respect everyone's individual beliefs, whether I share them or not.
What deeply concerns me about this election season is some of the pervasive misconceptions I've seen from potential voters on social media that are changing the way in which we think about voting in America. I thought I'd address a few of these items below. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read through them and think about them as you go to the polls next week.
1) I'm unhappy with the status quo, so I'm just going to vote for 'the other guy.' He/she can't be any worse..."
I've heard a lot of this lately and it outright scares the crap out of me--not because I love all the incumbents, but because it ignores a few very important factors.
First, most officials are in office for a term of 4 years. If you factor in the time spent getting used to the job and the time spent campaigning for re-election at the end of their term, they really only get a good solid 2 to 2.5 years of actual time to do work. In an era where it took many years (some say 8-10) to get to the unpleasant situation we're in now, it's unrealistic to think that any politician can undo all of that in so little time. No candidate has a magic wand. What we should be asking ourselves is, "What is the progress this person has made on my behalf in the last 2-3 years and is the other candidate likely to have done it any better given the same amount of time, circumstances, and resources?"
Second, elections are about voting FOR something...not AGAINST it. If you're going to vote for the other guy, please take the time to get to know him or her and really weigh whether you're making a better choice. If he checks-off more cons than pro's on your list or worse yet, isn't in-line with your moral or social values, you're probably doing yourself a disservice voting for that person.
2) "Both choices suck, so I might as well not vote at all."
Wrong! You've heard the cliche, "Silence is a form of consent," right? It's true. If you don't vote at all, you're leaving the decision up to those who do.
So what if you don't like the two main party candidates that you have to choose from? Well, most people don't realize that you can still do a write-in vote in this country. Put bluntly, it's better to vote and cast a write-in ballot for Mickey Mouse than to not vote for anyone at all. At least you're taking ballots away from the candidates you don't want instead of giving one of them a leg-up.
3) "My presidential candidate says he'll repeal/pass the ________ law."
Any presidential candidate who says he's going to repeal or pass a law clearly didn't pay attention in high school social studies class. In this country, Congress passes laws, not the President. All the President can do is say, "This is what I'd like Congress to do," and then play negotiator to try and convince them it's a good idea. There is the little matter of veto power if he doesn't like what comes out of Congress, but they also have the power to override the veto if they want it bad enough.
Of course, I'm referring specifically to the healthcare law, here. It shouldn't be called "Obamacare." It should be called "Congresscare" and if you don't like something in it, you really should be looking at voting-out your Senators or Congressmen, since they're the ones that designed and passed it in the first place and they're the only ones who can really change it.
4) "Congress doesn't get anything done."
I hate to say anything that looks like I'm supportive of the two-party system (I'm not...it's just an unfortunate piece of our government), but this one is our own damned fault as voters and illustrates how point #1 (above) can bite you in the butt.
When the current President (a democrat) was elected, he had a democratic majority in both the House and the Senate. As a fellow democrat, this gave him the persuasive edge (see #3) to get Congress to help him accomplish the agenda he promised us. When we weren't getting results fast enough for our liking after 2 years, we voted just enough Congressmen out of their seats to give us a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. Since one can't pass a law without the other, you essentially have sibling-like bickering and nothing gets done anymore. One just stalls the other.
The moral of the story is that if you want the President to have the tools he needs to get the job done, he has to have the support of both houses of Congress--or at least a majority vote on the issues (the proverbial "crossing the aisle" that nobody seems to do). So once again, hold your Senators and Representatives responsible for their actions and if they say no, vote their butts out of office.
5) "The candidate is going to create jobs!"
This one should be a no-brainer but the political posturing has gotten to everyone. It seems that all of the candidates have us convinced that they can walk-into work on day one and create a bunch of jobs out of thin air. I've yet to figure out how.
I'm no economist, but common sense tells me that companies are only going to hire if more people buy their products or services. People will only buy stuff if they have solid employment and rising wages. See a paradox? Me too. It doesn't mean it can't be done, but it does mean it can't be done overnight (or in 2-3 years). Creating jobs is just something that needs to take time. I know we don't want to hear it. But there you go.
Some believe there are ways of stimulating job growth, whether it's lowering taxes, increasing exports, handing out cash, the government spending money to hire people itself, etc. Maybe some of those solutions do help a little, but given the current economic conditions, we're probably talking about emptying a swimming pool with a coffee mug. Persistence, time, and hard work are really all that's going to help get us back where we were.
6) "We're worse-off now than we were before ______ took office."
I'm going to try really hard here to not take sides, but the simple fact is that we were on a downward slide (on economics, jobs, all kinds of factors) when most of the current politicians took office 4 years ago. By simple logic (or laws of physics), we would have continued going downward until something happened to stop and reverse that downward motion. Then, the climb upwards would have begun again.
If you bluntly compare where we were at the last election to where we are now purely by subtracting the numbers, sure, we're probably worse-off because we went down further after the election. However, according to most sources, we've gone from "going down" to "going up", which is arguably a better direction. We may just have not had enough time yet to get from our lowest point back to our highest point.
My point? Where we were then and where we are now are not the important factors. The important factor is what direction are we going in now and did your favored politician have anything to do with getting us there? Will he continue to push us in the right direction?