Last Tuesday was election day in Illinois. The voter turnout was abysmally low. It bothers me. Democracy only works when people exercise their obligation to participate.
Of course I understand the indifference. The candidates for the major offices were pretty unappealing and the negativity of campaign adds turns people off and away. And it was only a primary, right?
Watching the local ABC station had me chuckling. During the 6:00 news they were adamant about the fact that "Lost will be seen in its entirety and not interrupted by election news." As a Lost fan that was important to know. As a citizen I had to wonder about our societal priorities.
So, I watched Lost and then a bit of the election coverage. To be honest I just couldn't get excited about who won what where. That's sad. You see, I used to be a political junkie. Couldn't get enough. I used to love watching election coverage. I was a Government major in college for crying out loud. But now, just a few minutes is too much. My cynicism bothers me.
A few weeks ago the Massachusetts elected a Republican to take Ted Kennedy's vacated seat in the Senate. My take is that they turned their back on the Democrat who couldn't connect with the common person. They went with someone who seem to understand the real world of real people. Was it a turn to the right? Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. I just think Massachusetts voters were voting for someone 'real'. Political party was a mild consideration at best. They decided to move in the direction of the more 'authentic' person. And, yes, I also do believe that many voters were sending a message to the White House and Congress. That 'message' or lack of one will be what fuels what remains of the political fires in November. The skeptic in me believes that even if the Congress begins to tilt back to the right that the obstructionist nature of the current political landscape will still result in dangerous partisanship. Both Democrats and Republicans don't seem eager to craft win/win legislation born out of creative synergy. That spells continued trouble for America.
For certain, political campaigns are too long and too expensive. I think the British have it right. They call for an election and then 'boom' before you can get too bored they vote. Makes sense. I'd rather focus for a shorter period of time on making my voting decision. Let's face it. It really doesn't take 18 months to make up your mind does it?
In my world of political fantasy I'd like to limit campaigns to one thirty second ad and one sixty second ad. That's it. Say what you believe. You can't slam the other candidate. You have a two week window to air it and then let's vote. I'd also do away with sham debates. Candidates are drilled to divert attention away from any topic that causes discomfort. Shouldn't be allowed. Maybe there should be a designated 'stay on topic' judge at every debate. Whenever a candidate veers away from answering the question asked a buzzer goes off and his/her microphone is turned off.
Bottom line is that we've got a bit of a mess. Too many of us don't participate in the political process. Good people are a bit shy about throwing their hat into the ring. What happens in state capitals and in Washington is making cynics of us all.
Maybe if we all read a bit more so we really understand the complex issues before us, participated in civilized discussion about issues, encouraged good people to run for office, and asked God to replace our cynicism and anger with hope and involvement we'd all be better off.