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Get involved in process or risk being part of problem

Larry French • Apr 14, 2014 at 2:00 PM

It’s been said that people who don’t vote choose those who win elections. Now while this may sound like a contradiction in terms, or a stretch of the imagination, it actually happens. Of course, we need to look at this scenario hypothetically to understand it.The name used herein has no direct reference to any person, living or dead. About 16 years ago, your next-door neighbor, Wilfred Q. Pudifatt, decided he’d run for county commissioner. You weren’t particularly fond of Pudifatt, you made comments about his inabilities, and because you didn’t vote, he was elected. Four years later, Pudifatt ran for county mayor. Same comments, same scenarios, same results. Four years later, he ran for the U.S. House of Representative seat from your district, and again, he won the election. Not satisfied with serving in the House, two years later he ran for the U.S. Senate and defeated the incumbent. Suddenly (although 16 years can’t be construed as sudden), you find out Pudifatt is the Republican (or Democratic if you prefer) nominee for president, and the first thing you say is, “Who in the world would vote for that *!@#)*&? And, how did he become my party’s nominee for president?” Guess what? You’re responsible for this disaster by failing to vote. Had you voted, and voted against Pudifatt many years ago — along with the other voters from your district — perhaps that would have ended his quest of political ladder climbing and he’d still be your next door neighbor. Perhaps. By disregarding your civic duty (your constitutional right), however, suddenly (there’s that word again), the man who “used to be” your next door neighbor, the one you weren’t particularly fond of, could become the next President of the United States. All because you didn’t vote. Hypothetically speaking that is. Now while all this sounds rather bizarre and somewhat far-fetched, think about the following, which is not hypothetical. Recently, I conducted a poll among 75 21- to 45-year-olds, and found that only 52 percent voted in the last election. Among the excuses given by the remaining 48 percent for not voting: “My vote wouldn’t make any difference.” Or, “Why bother, I’d only be voting for the lessor of two evils.” And, the most dangerous of all excuses, “My parents never voted, weren’t interested in politics, so why should I be?” There were, of course, several other lame excuses, but these were the ones repeated most often. In looking at those excuses, it’s not difficult to see how this all plays out come election time. If one vote doesn’t make any difference, and you add up all those “one votes,” suddenly you have hundreds, thousands and possibly tens-of-thousands of votes, and you come to the realization (too late, of course) that by not voting, you’ve helped to elect that person.Then there is “the lesser of two evils” excuse. OK. Why vote and vote for the lesser? Because you would have accomplished one thing: not electing the eviler of the two. Finally, there’s the domino effect/excuse folks. Those individuals are usually the ones who scream the loudest and longest when it comes to their elected officials, when in fact, they have no say in the matter. They lost their right to complain by failing to vote. In other words, they became the problem by not becoming part of the process, just as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were part of the problem. Ignorance, when it comes to voting, is not an excuse. According to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary, “vote” is a “noun,” and by definition is, “The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” While Bierce’s definition is certainly sarcastic, let’s change the noun to “nonvoter,” and see what it yields. A nonvoter is one who fails to use that instrument and symbol for his continuing freedom (won by patriots), and in so doing has made a complete fool of himself by not contributing to his country, thereby helping to choose someone who was probably not qualified to be elected in the first place. Then again, perhaps the nonvoter has also failed to remember those countries around the globe that don’t allow free elections. Those places where the people’s voices are silenced. However, they’re not considered nonvoters because they are suppressed by their governments. Early voting begins Wednesday, and Election Day primaries are May 6. Election Day for state and county general primaries is Aug. 7, and Nov. 4 is state and federal general Election Day. Get out, vote and let your voices be heard, be they Democrat, Republican, independent or Libertarian. Don’t continue to be part of the problem, but rather, become involved in the political process and earn your right to complain. Power to the People! Larry French lives in Butler. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of Opinion Journalists and teaches composition and literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. You may reach him at FrenchL@etsu.edu.

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