I received a voter pamphlet in the mail today. It wasn’t for anything huge, mostly school board and water commission stuff. But, as most of you know, the political machine for national candidates is already in full swing. Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and a host of others have already declared their presidential candidacy for 2016. It seems that the election process in this country is never ending. Someone is always campaigning for the next election, no matter how far off it is.
This local election, though, brought something to light that I think is problematic in all politics here in America. I’m the type of voter who reads everything in the pamphlet. They printed it and sent it to me using my tax money, so I might as well get my use out of it. But I read every single word in regard to a bill or a candidate before voting, all of the “for” and “against” arguments and all of the endorsements, everything. Prior to today, I felt like that was a good way to stay informed and to get a better sense of the candidates than the political attack ads run on TV.
I opened the pamphlet and began reading up on the candidates. And then I noticed something that I’d never noticed before. It looked something like this:
I had never noticed that little text at the bottom of the page before. And it was underneath each candidate. Here it is close up:
Oh? Is that so? Well, then why the fuck do I bother reading these? Apparently anyone who runs can pay to have whatever the hell they wanted printed, and nobody is going to check to make sure any of it’s true. I could run for office here and just completely make up my education, job history, and other qualifications–just totally pull them out of thin air–and nobody would ever know.
And that got me thinking about the national elections. Just like the printed ads in the pamphlet, political candidates will do anything to get elected. They’ll make promises, pledges, whatever. Those are empty promises most of the time, just like the words on the page of the pamphlet apparently.
All of those presidential debates, congressional townhall meetings, they’re all worthless. It’s simply a chance for candidates to pay you lip service. No politician can do even a quarter of the things they promise, because in the real world there are a multitude of factors in play that make it impossible.
But that’s what people get elected on, isn’t it? What they’re going to do. It’s all about what they can do for you in the future. Well, considering that they can promise whatever they want, how are you supposed to pick a candidate? Well, there’s a simple solution: look at what they’ve already done.
Ignore the promises and rhetoric. It’s meaningless, literally. But if there’s an incumbent in the race, you can certainly take a look at their voting record. That’s really the only measure you have at whether this person is representing your interests. And there’s a lovely site that I recommend every single person in America take a look at come election season:
Using that site, you can see how every single member of congress voted on any particular bill. If they voted how you wanted them to, keep ’em in office. if they didn’t, elect the other guy or girl. Simple as that.
But what if the election is between two novices with no prior political experience? Well in that case it’s kind of a crap shoot, isn’t it? The political process is largely trial and error, for better or for worse. You pick the person who you think will do the best job (although what you’d base this on anymore is anyone’s guess. You may as well flip a coin with all the propaganda and rhetoric out there) and then when it’s time for the next election take a look at their voting record. Did they adequately represent you and your interests? If yes, keep ’em and if not throw ’em to the curb.
But I would urge people to run off the TVs, close the magazine articles, change the radio station, and avoid the stump speeches. They don’t tell you anything. Try actually participating in your democracy and actually look at how your representative votes on your behalf.