I view politics as an intrusive necessity. Not that they are necessary for the world: I think we would do better with significantly less politics. However, recognizing that, at some level, it is what it is right now, I recognize that I have to make the best of it. For me, that manifests as keeping abreast of debates, and researching each candidate with some level of thoroughness before casting my vote, because I feel it is my obligation, not only as an American but as a Believer, to cast the best informed vote that I can.
Recently, ABC News ran this article discussing the recent surge in registering young voters at rock concerts, etc., and how America’s young voice is heard in a much larger way than it has been for some time. I think that’s outstanding, and I’ve always applauded efforts such as Rock the Vote. That being said, I think the controversial stance expressed in Stossel’s column that some voters are doing a better service by not voting is valid.
There’s something to be learned from Spider-Man philosophy here: “With great power comes great responsibility.” We have a great power as American citizens that comes with living in a democracy (if we truly do…a debate for another day). That power is the ability to collectively elect our leadership. That power, however, comes with the responsibility to be informed. I don’t mean simply checking out a candidate’s website. I mean we have a responsibility to carefully research all candidates, especially presidential ones, to determine where they stand, and how that matches with our worldview and value systems. That means going to multiple news sources, not just to stay up to date about the candidate’s present, but their past as well. It means researching their voting record, because that certainly can’t lie, and it means doing so by going to the original source. Votes of senators and representatives are matters of public record, and are available on the respective government websites (I included that link as an example). Again, there is some discipline involved in researching each item involved in that vote. If we aren’t willing to engage in that sort of discipline, then perhaps abstaining from voting is the better course of action.
Of course, abstaining from anything in our cultural mindset of entitlement isn’t well received, but that doesn’t make it less true. Neither is the act of disciplined research, but we must do so in order to delve beyond what popular media feeds us, because, while objective and unbiased reporting is a key ethical component of journalism, there is precious little of that practiced in the U.S. today.
So, by all means, vote. I think everyone should. But doing so, like academic endeavors, involves doing your homework. The difference is that, if you don’t, everyone gets a poor grade this time.