by Priscilla Pendergast
We are just a year away from the 2016 presidential election and much to the surprise of just about everyone the buzz is decidedly not about the political dynasty candidates like Bush and Clinton but instead on a guy named Trump.
While conventional wisdom says that nothing clears a room faster than a discussion of sex, religion, or politics, Trump has pretty much taken on all the hot button issues and at full blast. And while he speaks loudly and clearly about things that make other politicians and the media cringe, he is definitely not emptying out the room.
People are flocking to him because Trump has tapped into Americans’ discontent. He is the only believeable voice crying out in the wilderness of “talking points” and “sound bytes.”
How else to explain the immense appeal of a man who doesn’t look like the media’s idea of the perfect candidate (tall, photogenic, great hairdo)? And who doesn’t speak like most politicians do: in the measured tones of someone trying to talk a jumper off a bridge – trying to be “Everyman” while not really committing to anything. Whatever else happens before the 2016 elections, Trump has made it clear that ducking the hot button issues will not work.
But even before we get to 2016, we have coming up to what are commonly called the off-year elections. The odd-year elections are “odd” in more ways than one. They are usually marked by low voter turnout, or more accurately even lower voter turnout than usual.
For some reason people just assume that when there is no presidential race being contested, there is nothing important at stake. Yet in 2013 Bill DeBlasio became New York’s 109th mayor with only about one-quarter of registered voters making their voices heard.
So at risk of clearing the room, I must ask why you vote the way you do if you do all? If you don’t like Common Core, why do you keep sending the same candidates back to the state and federal legislatures? If you are worried about keeping a roof over your head due to rising taxes, why sit home saying “my one vote won’t count” while the same politicos go back to your Village or Town Boards or County Legislatures to mortgage your and your childrens’ future even more?
If Obamacare has given you health insurance that costs more and covers less, why do incumbents enjoy a nearly 100% chance of going back to their elected position where they can still happily ignore the voters they are supposed to be representing?
Do you think that all those politicians who made all those decisions and more, that are adverse to your well-being, were only elected in the even years? There is something at stake in every election, whether you vote or not.
This country was founded on a contract we made with our government and our elected officials. Representative government was largely unheard of when entered into our experiment in self-governance – a government of, by and for the people.
It was presumed by kings that “the little people” were too stupid to have a say in government. Even the media conspires to keep people thinking that “others” know better than us what we need.
Notice how the media constantly refer to our elected officials as “lawmakers” rather than representatives? They make it sound as though we are beholden to the government, that our elected officials rule rather than represent us. Nothing should be further than the truth. But when you don’t vote or throw away your vote, that is precisely what happens.
Still thinking of sitting out the “odd-year” elections? Let me quote someone I never thought I’d agree with, Bill Maher:
Freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that ‘Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,’ as if that makes someone cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable.
So how do you make your one vote count? First, vote. As they say, vote early, vote often (but not, as the scoundrels would have it, in the same election). If nothing else, vote so that you can teach your children that voting is important (believe me, they do not learn this in school and Common Core will make it impossible for them to learn this).
Second, if you aren’t sure about who would best represent you, ask questions. If you and your neighbors are now spending more time discussing where you would move to if you could, then host a neighborhood “meet the candidate” get-together. This is where the candidates can listen to your concerns and explain how they feel on the issues. And if they aren’t willing to meet with you that should tell you something.
But don’t give up. People appear to put more effort into researching the best cell phone plan than they do in researching the best candidates. Freedom is not free, and it is not easy.
Third, stop thinking “it doesn’t matter, they are all alike.” There are plenty of good people out there who want to get involved in government because they are unhappy about how government serves itself. Look for the uncommon candidate — the one who is not a career politician.
Someone who’s built a business, no matter how big or how small, knows better than anyone the struggles to create jobs, establish budgets, and live within those budgets. If you are worried about keeping a roof over your head, you don’t need starry-eyed dreamers with glib speeches.
No one should represent you for more than two election cycles. Anything longer than that is unhealthy. Bring in new blood. New blood means new eyes offering fresh ideas. New blood means that the backroom deals and alliances that often corrupt even the most well-meaning politicians can’t take hold and over-rule good governance.
Finally, stop looking at the Rs and the Ds. John Kennedy said it best “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
 New York: Voter Turnout Appears To Be Record Low, New York Times, November 6, 2013 (accessed October 6, 2015). “Turnout in Tuesday’s election for New York City mayor appeared to have set a record low of 24 percent of registered voters. With absentee, emergency and affidavit ballots still to be tallied, the percentage and the number of votes – barely over one million of the 4.3 million registered voters in New York City – was the lowest since at least the mid-20th century.”
 According to ThisNation.com, http://www.thisnation.com/question/016.html (accessed October 6, 2015). “In November of 2004, 401 of the 435 sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives sought reelection. Of those 401, all but five were reelected. In other words, incumbents seeking reelection to the House had a better than 99% success rate. In the U.S. Senate, only one incumbent seeking reelection was defeated. Twenty-five of twenty-six (96%) were reelected.”
 From When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism, Bill Maher, New Millenium Press (2002). BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2015. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/billmaher440731.html, accessed October 6, 2015.
 John F. Kennedy. Speech at Loyola College Alumni Banquet, Baltimore, Maryland, 18 February, 1958, “Loyola College Alumni Banquet, Baltimore, Maryland, 18 February 1958” folder, Senate Files, box 899, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/JFK-Quotations.aspx, accessed October 6, 2015.