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Deceitful politicians undermine the election process

Robert Houk • Jul 15, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Several campaigns for local races are at last showing some life now that we are closing in on early voting for the Aug. 7 election. Beginning Friday, we Tennesseans can mark ballots in county general elections and in Republican primaries for state and federal offices.

What? You say you didn’t know there was an election going on? I would have thought all the campaign signs, all the political pamphlets mailed to our homes and all the political advertisements on TV and in this newspaper would have clued you in. Frankly, if you truly don’t know there is an election going on, and who is running for what, maybe you should stay home on election day.

That was what a friend of mine used to tell folks who blissfully ignored politics and elections. While people like me fussed to voting slackers that it was their civic duty as Americans to vote, my buddy told them it was also their right as a citizen of this country to avoid the voting booth if they so wish.

Of course, my friend also had his own agenda in imparting his advice. He believed that his vote and that of others who were informed and engaged in the political process could carry more weight — particularly in state and local elections. He also believed having uninformed, or (even worse) misinformed voters deciding key races could be detrimental to the process.

I’ve heard clergy talk about the “Easter only” or “Christmas only” congregants who only show up to church during one or both of those holidays. There is something similar to that in the political process — “president only.” These are folks who only go to the polls every four years (or even longer) to vote for president of these United States.

“President-only” voters would never think of marking a ballot for County Commission, city Board of Education or state Legislature — three offices that perhaps have a greater daily impact on our lives than president — but by goodness they are determined to decide who sits in the Oval Office. Why are folks so content to stay home on Election Day instead of going to the polls to help determine the outcome of races involving men and women who have the power to raise their property and sales taxes?

Many Americans think politicians never tell the truth. They believe politicians will say just about anything just to get elected. Perhaps that explains the extraordinary low approval rating of Congress. It’s interesting to note, however, many of those same people who give Congress a thumbs down will tell you that their own congressman is doing a good job.

During this campaign season, we will get a good dose of career politicians who will say anything and do just about anything to get re-elected. They will pay for robo calls and push polls that suggest their opponents have voted for tax increases when they have not.

It’s no wonder some politicians are held in such low esteem these days. Mudslinging is not something new, but it has become strategy No. 1 for too many campaigns. That’s a shame, and it may be why so many good citizens prefer to stay home on Election Day.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@johnsoncitypress.com. Like him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JCPressRobertHouk. Follow him at Twitter.com/houkRobert.

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