Far away from the shores of American soil are hundreds of millions of people who desire the suffrage that is the right of every citizen of the United States 18 years of age and above. Though many of us who migrate to America come to enjoy the greater freedom and opportunities this nation offers, at the backs of many of our minds is the prize of suffrage, being able to one day exercise the right to vote someone into or out of office. It’s a great feeling either way. And when that day finally comes, and we take the oath as new Americans, we begin to perch like birds of prey, just lurking for the next round of local or national elections.
Some so-called democracies around the world exist mostly in name. That’s because many barriers to the ballot box make it impractical for their citizens to actually vote. I’m not relating some kind of abstract thought here. I used to live in one such democracy, where voting was a daring and dangerous thing to do.
Here are some of the ballot barriers that some of used to face. A large number of the citizens cannot read or write. Lack of roads or bad road conditions make it hard for people to travel to polling places. Minimal means of communication (radio and television) left most of the population in the dark about the politics that affected their lives. The stark division between “civilized” (city) people and “country” people all but leave the “country” (the majority of the population) out of the national discussion.
Even for those literate enough and interested enough to vote, it often takes courage to go vote on elections day. there may be partisan gangs (often soldiers and police officers) who intimate voters. Sometimes people are beaten or even killed. As if that were not more than enough, the party in charge or the party that controls the guns always has one last trick in the hat: rig the vote, burn ballot boxes, or simply ignore the results of the elections and claim victory or cling on to power. Or the
There was a time in the not so distant past when Kentucky was a bellwether state in Presidential elections. Its ideologically heterogeneous constituency selected the winner in every Presidential election between 1964 and 2004. Kentucky voters were receptive to Southern Democrats Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. However, when a Southern Democrat did not top the ticket, Kentuckians voted Republican.
Kentucky has seen its share of electoral thrillers, like in 1952, when Dwight D. Eisenhower edged out Democrat Adlai Stevenson by just 700 votes in the state, and in 1992, when Bill Clinton eked out a victory by less than 1%. The state was so important that Bill Clinton made an appearance the night before the election in Lexington, Kentucky.
Since then, the Blue Grass state has shifted to the Republican Party in Presidential elections, and because of this is no longer seriously contested. Presidential candidates see no reason to visit to the state, choosing instead to spend the preponderance of their time in just 15 showdown states. Kentuckians are relegated to the electoral sidelines, watching on television as Presidential candidates cultivate support in swing states.
Adding insult to injury, Kentuckians can look over the Brent Spence Bridge to an electoral wonderland, arguably the most hotly contested state in the union, Ohio. No Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the Buckeye State. In 2004, John Kerry would have been elected President had less than 60,000 votes in Ohio switched. Barack Obama has already visited Ohio more than 20 times since becoming President. Ohio voters are treated like kings, while Kentucky voters are treated as serfs. Kentucky political parties will likely abandon any effort to wage an electoral effort in Kentucky. Instead, they will transport volunteers over the border to solidify support in Ohio.
Fortunately, there is a way to make every vote in Kentucky commensurate with
I am constantly amazed at the media play given to the youth movement in American politics. It is presented as if there is a revolution of sorts. Well I was once part of a youth movement in 1980 when John Anderson was an independent candidate for US President. The college campuses were full of students like myself who felt the energy of something new. More recently in Minnesota, young voters were given much credit/blame for electing a pro wrestler Governor. Despite this never-ending “news” story, nothing really changes. The motivation for the younger voter is simply different than for the over-thirty crowd.
What I do not understand is why candidates do such a poor job reaching these voters. We have long mastered the ability to target advertising to specific demographics. Don’t try to sell children’s toys during a football game. So why not apply such simple logic to the young voters?
In my specialty field of radio, it is easy to create messages that appeal to the angry, disenfranchised and revolutionary spirit that lives in many young adults. Seeking to find self and success while dealing with the financial challenges of life fuels a lot of strong emotions and opinions. One of the many great features of radio is the ease of reaching the demographic in most markets. The stations that attract the younger voter are obvious, but the design of your political commercial needs to be equally obvious.
You do not need to resort to profanity to reach the younger voter., nor do you need to load the commercial full of current catch phrases. This demographic is not stupid, just younger. When you were twenty-three how did you react when treated anything less than an adult? What you need is the insight of a political copy writing professional who has the requisite experience required to reach this generation of voters.
Will it make a difference? In some elections, it is difference between victory and defeat. If you are a candidate seeking office for
True Leadership in American Politics Requires Informed Voters
I have always been a political junkie. I mean, I love keeping abreast of both the local and national political scene. It intrigues me how citizens like you and I can rise to positions of power in local, state, and federally elected offices. Currently, we are witnessing a historic national democratic primary, facilitated by two popular candidates. On one hand, you have Illinois state senator Barack Obama who enjoys an almost rock star appeal. On the other hand, you have New York state senator Hillary Clinton who is using all of her power and influence to try to reclaim the White House. Now, I would agree that to the average political junkie like me (republican, democrat, or independent), this primary season is entertaining to say the least. Nevertheless I question, does the attainment of political office in today’s political atmosphere inspire leadership in our elected officials? Some may answer yes, citing former mayor of New York City, Rudolph Guliani’s handling of 9/11 as proof that American politicians are leaders. However, I’m not so easily convinced.
I am not so quick to agree with such arguments because even though American politicians have been using the term leadership in their campaigns since forever, I don’t think that we the American people require our elected officials to be true leaders. And when I say true leaders, I mean those that govern based on sound thinking, courage, vision, compassion, and don’t bow to the pressures of doing or saying whatever is necessary to be elected. For ever American politician that one can cite as having these qualities, there is another that displays the opposite. If this is the case, how can American voters decide on who to vote for in elections and shift the political conversation from simply elected officials to true elected leaders?
This question is hard to answer for the average American voter as political campaigns are loaded with high-priced consultants, pollsters, and spin doctors, all aimed to confuse you but still garner your vote. Every political season, American voters are bombarded with flyers, phone calls, advertisements, and pundits telling us either who we should vote for, or what issues should matter most to us. With this constant diet of propaganda, it is no wonder that so many Americans are disenfranchised with the political process and don’t vote on Election Day. However, the problem with this approach is that when we don’t vote, we are turning over our collective voice to the small percentage (relative to the total American population) that do vote. This means that any given candidate can get elected and claim to be a leader, simply by appealing to his/her party’s base (core voting group), leaving those that did not vote out in the cold if their views don’t coincide with the newly elected politician’s.
So, how do we demonstrate our collective voice and force our elected officials to govern as true leaders so that we get a political system that energizes the American public to participate? Well first off, you have to become an informed citizen. Informed in regards to:
How the political system works (the roles of the three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive) How laws are created and passed What the local, state, and federal election issues are, and how they can potentially impact you Which candidates are running for which offices, and their corresponding platforms
In order to achieve all of this, that’s right, you have to research and read. I can’t stress this enough. Doing your own research more than any other means of processing information, will remove your ignorance and disenfranchisement pertaining to our political process.
After learning about the political process, issues, candidates, and their platforms, you should observe the candidates in debates. Determine what you like and dislike about their responses, alliances, posture, appearance, etc. Listen to the political pundits as well, but not so they can determine for you, who to vote for, but for them to add to your wealth of information regarding the candidates and the issues at play. They may have access to information that you may not.
Also, try and discuss your political views in situations where you feel it is safe to exchange ideas without persecution or judgment so that you can get different perspectives regarding a given candidate or issue as it relates to other citizens that may not necessarily share your views because of a difference in background. But do be clear that this may be difficult for some to do because politics can be a testy subject to discuss if the environment is not supportive of open and diverse points of view.
Finally, vote!!!!!!! Vote for the issues or candidates that best serve you and your constituents’ purposes. Our elected officials can be true leaders if those that are voting make informed choices. Only then can the politicians that are put in office be expected to lead. Think about this as you evaluate those running for office in your hometown, state, and national offices this coming November.
After years of self-inquiry and discovery, coupled with significant academic research in the field of leadership development, Dr. Barrett, Ph.D., M.S. is now ready to teach individuals and organizations what it takes to become a leader utilizing an inside-out approach.
George Carlin brings TRUTH to the masses using comedy. Rest in Peace George. Video Rating: 4 / 5