On Voting

I voted this morning as I am sure my readers have done. Now it’s up to the gods of chance to see whether we have elected the right person to run this country for the next four years. It is customary during the days leading up to the vote to urge everyone to “get out and vote.” This has become a commonplace and it is one of the embarrassments this country must admit to that many who are qualified to do so do not vote. But the real issue is not voting itself. The real issue is to cast an informed vote, though we hesitate to talk about that. It is not the vote per se that matters, it is the time and trouble that people should take before they decide to cast their very important vote — in any election.

Years ago when Richard Nixon was running against John Kennedy for the presidency my mother, a lifetime Republican, decided to vote for Kennedy because she had watched the debates and thought Nixon “looked like a thug.” Well, as it turned out he was. But Kennedy wasn’t much better as it turned out, either, and his successor Lyndon Johnson turned out to be an even better president than either Nixon or Kennedy — in that he actually got things done. And yet he looked a bit like a thug as well. And he spoke with a thick Texas accent that put me off. But, then, it really matters not what the person looked like, or sounds like, whether he had five o-clock shadow (as Nixon did in the debates) or walks with a hitch in his giddy-up. What matters is whether that person is qualified to get the job done.

Which brings me to the most recent election which was a debacle by any standards one chooses to employ. It was. assuredly, a popularity contest, in the worst sense of that term — I hate Trump; I can’t stand Hillary. And so it went. It was a vote about personalities and character (less of the latter and more of the former) and not about the issues at all. And yet the issues are what will determine whether this country moves ahead or ends up in a mess. The issues are pressing; the personalities of the candidates didn’t matter in the least.

All of which makes me, once again, raise the issue of the failure of our school system, the fact that so many who do actually vote do so for all the wrong reasons. The standards in our schools, at all levels, have dropped and we have busily “dumbed-down” the standards and demand less and less of our young people in the hope that they will stay in school and like their teachers. I have blogged about this many times and I am sure many readers are sick and tired of the mantra, but there’s no getting around the fact that a better informed citizenry would demand that the candidates stand and deliver, that they address the issues and stand ready to defend their positions on the complex issues that face all of us. They would also demand it of the media which likes to turn every event into a circus as long as it guarantees them high ratings.

There are many reason for the unpopularity of both of the candidates. Neither seems to have been liked very much, though Trump’s followers were blind to his faults in their determination to get him elected. But this devotion was just that, blind. And the fact that the man fooled so many people for so long stands as an indictment of all of us because it should never have happened. To be sure, there were subconscious motives at work: Trump struck an ugly chord in a great many people that most of us were totally unaware was there. But we should have been aware if we listened more closely to one another and watched with a critical eye instead of turning away toward our own personal reasons for preferring his opponent. Again, the election should have been about issues and ideas, political choices made in the light of information and awareness of positions taken in the past and promised in the future. But it was not. It was about people and their peculiarities, whether they were cheaters or liars, whether they were the kind of people we might want to invite to dinner. That’s not how it should be. Ever. But until we realize that our educational system is the one (and only) way out of the impasse we are in at present, that is the way it will be from now on.

We must save the planet. Clearly. And we should make every effort possible to restore the middle class and avoid war. But we must also educate our young or we will have a crippled democracy that cannot function as a government of, by and for the people. It will always be about money and power and about the personalities of those who pull the strings that are put in place for them by the monied interests.