Monday, August 4, 2014

The Obligation of the Engaged Voter

On Friday, I posted about efforts to address the corrosive effect big money is having on our politics.  I wanted to come back to a line from that piece that I didn't give proper explication, but is as the very root of this concern:

Why listen to an engaged voter now when the unengaged voters can be won over by a million-dollar ad blitz two weeks before the election?

If you're reading this, I'm going to presumptively consider you an "engaged voter".  You tend to know most of the people you're voting for, while making some "educated guesses" for Board of Education and some of the local offices.  You honor your right to vote and do it on a regular basis as the opportunity arises.  In between elections, you read about what your elected officials are doing and intend to keep them accountable for both their missteps and their successes.  You may have even contacted one of those elected leaders to comment about a matter in dispute or to express your concern about a matter that was not disputed, but should be.  You are the ideal that democracy rests upon.

The unengaged voter agrees that there is a general obligation to vote, but also has found that life can be distracting.  Politics are of no interest to them, off-putting, or both (the two combine for a reliable excuse to be apathetic).  They presume elections are for the top of the ticket and find lower ballot races "interesting", but not necessarily worth the time to vote.  Unless prompted to.  By ads.

Comparing those two, our gut instinct is that the engaged voter has a much greater influence on the actions of our government than the latter.  It's only fair, right?  They are paying attention and making themselves heard.  That's what democracy is about!

But the engaged voter is also a dangerous voter.  There is accountability in the engaged voter.  Promises are tracked, measured, and evaluated for completion.  The complex issues of governance are explicated and analyzed.  They go to the meetings.

Then comes election season.  Engaged voters, just by their very nature, will contribute to campaigns.  Some will give thousands of dollars, particularly if the issues they care about are being heard.  But they will compete against this.  And from the moment candidate petitions are filed until the day the final votes are counted, their influence on the process is steadily diluted.  

The engaged voter is offended by sign-waving, robocalls, and attack ads.  Not only because they are annoying, but because they are a blatant statement that "engagement doesn't matter".  Money rules in politics because it lets you get to the unengaged voters in great numbers and turn them out to vote.

And that puts the onus on you, engaged voter.  You, who are paying attention, have an obligation to do something to avoid being ruled by those who don't.  We have a systemic flaw that has diluted your voice, but it has not taken it away.  Despite everything I've said above, time and again our country has corrected it course when engaged, impassioned citizens step out of the ranks and act.

There are so many problems in this world, but there are also so many great things people like you are doing every day to fix them.  Might this be your time to act?

On a related note, we've set an ambitious goal for the campaign to raise $2,000 in grassroots donations by Friday.  So far, we're $225 closer to that goal.  Thank you to:

Chris DeHart
Frank Hecker
Theresa Paterson 

Have a great Monday doing what you love!