Op/Ed By Michael Vaughn
Many people have said Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and I can agree with that. It is a time when people are in a relatively good mood, and when the idea of doing things for others takes center stage.
In a take-away from that theme, I believe another powerful time of the year is also almost upon us. That is election season!
Contrary to popular belief, we live in a democracy, by the purest sense of the word (one man, one vote). We live in what is called a republic (we say this every time we “pledge allegiance to the flag … and to the Republic for which it stands”), which refers to a society in which we vote for someone who represents our interests, and someone who essentially casts our votes.
We have a representative style of government, which would work well, if everyone in the system did their part, and the electorate (we, the people) would cast our votes for the candidates who would properly represent us.
However, where the system has broken down is when the electorate has given their votes to the highest bidder, or has been apathetic, and just not voted at all. This may also happen when the candidates have decided they no longer want to listen to the electorate, and, have instead, placed their own ambitions, or the ambitions of large donors, into the forefront of their agendas.
When this happens, government representatives can no longer truly represent the will of the people.
That’s why the first Tuesday in November, each year, is our opportunity to try and “get it right.”
And, politicians know this, even though, the longer they stay in office, they may not like it.
Usually, we see them working “hard” to get our votes. They promise everything they think we want to hear, and many of us believe them, without ever asking the hard questions, like, “How does that represent me?” or, “How will we pay for that?” Or, “What did they do with the promises they made last time?”
Politicians have gotten really good at avoiding those questions, by using a lot of words which may not have any substance, and, indeed, by not answering the questions which have been asked of them.
However, regardless of the candidates’ ambitions, or the “goody bag” of promises they have made to us; in our nation, they still need to be elected.
That is where you and I come in, and may have tremendous power.
As a result, we must recognize we have the power to keep someone in office, as well as the power to remove them from office, simply by casting our votes! But, we need to make sure we use our power wisely, each year, in November.
We should not give that power to the highest bidder; we should not sit at home watching television when it is time to use that power; and we should not use our power based on our emotions. We should take this power very seriously, and become informed voters who will be ready to hold each candidate accountable for their actions.
There had been a time when politicians clamored for the African-American vote. They knew that, without African-Americans’ votes, they would probably would not have been elected to office.
Isn’t it interesting that, today, if we look at the plight of African-Americans in our country, we do not see the results of all those votes we have given to politicians, year after year?
There is still high crime in our communities, there are still a large number of African-Americans in poverty, and there are still large numbers of African-American students getting a sub-standard education.
Consequently, I would say the people African-Americans have elected to office have been doing a horrible job.
However, they have received no incentive to change, because most African-Americans still give them their votes, year after year. In fact, they’ve given politicians so many votes, the candidates have come to take them for granted, and don’t even work hard anymore in order to receive them.
As the election season falls upon us, let’s take our power seriously; remove the emotion, study the candidates, and give our votes to those who will represent us in the way we want to be represented. And, yes, let’s be sure to hold them accountable!
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