All right, Gang, get your pens and paper to take notes. There WILL be a quiz the first Tuesday in November, November 6, 2012.
For starters, if you are (or will be) 18 at the time of the election and there is no legal impediment (lack of citizenship, for instance or having a felony record. Robert Downey, Jr. cannot vote), there is no good, valid or acceptable reason for you to not participate at this most basic level of democracy. Here’s the hard news, Kids: if we don’t get off our asses and vote, we lose this here democracy. Those who DO exert themselves will have unchallenged authority to shape this country to suit themselves, whether you like it or not. If you don’t vote, you forfeit your right to bitch. I repeat myself from a Facebook status: there are people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt and various other parts of the world who have to walk for days to cast a vote (and they do it), who are threatened with mutilation or death for exercising this right and they still go cast their ballots. We Americans, who talk big about democracy and freedom cannot be bothered to say who we want for the Leader of the Free World if it’s raining or the poodle has impacted anal glands again or we think that since the neighbor’s view are the opposite of ours, the votes will cancel each other out so why bother (this is the dumbest fucking piece of faux logic. If you actually believe this, maybe you shouldn’t have the right). The ONLY wasted votes are the ones not cast. Remember 2000? Do you think maybe, just maybe, if more franchised Americans had gone to the polls, the Supreme Court wouldn’t have had the opportunity to choose our President for us? Just a thought and yes, the Supreme Court decided the election. Frankly, I don’t think we should let it happen again. It’s September. If you think you’re going to have trouble getting to the polls on November 6, GET AN ABSENTEE BALLOT. SIGN UP NOW. NOW, NOW, NOW.
You need to do some homework. Judging by the popularity of shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Honey You Gotta Be Fucking Kidding Me Child”, our brains are on hold so often, you’d think the entire nation was calling Customer Service at the cable company at all hours. Here are some simple rules:
1) What a politician looks like doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, is a hardline conservative Republican who stopped work on a tunnel that would have connected New York City and New Jersey because he believed it was a boondoggle (look it up, People. If you were my 7th graders at Shelburne Middle School, you’d be reaching for the dictionary by now or asking if we could include it next time we played Spelling Baseball). Yet, the first thing and only thing you hear is about him being fat. Mitt Romney’s looks have nothing to do with his ability to govern effectively. Neither do Barack Obama’s. These men have records as politicians. THAT’S what matters. By the way, William Howard Taft, the fattest President, was also the first to throw out the first baseball at a game. And after his Presidency, he was appointed to the Supreme Court.
2) Figure out what YOU believe. Seriously.
"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything."
What do you think about taxes? The healthcare reform? Would the economy benefit from taxes being cut or money being spent? How important is the question of marriage equality? On abortion, do you believe that a woman should be free to determine what happens with her body or is abortion something to be outlawed? You need to know where YOU stand on these issues so that you can accurately hear what the candidates are saying.
3) California is big on ballot propositions: everything from legalizing growing marijuana for personal use to same sex marriage to cigarette taxes. When you see the TV ads telling you to vote this way or that, you MUST MUST MUST MUST read the fine print at the end that tells you who paid for it. Like Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein (Watergate. 40 years ago. How old are you?) to “follow the money.” Yeah. A couple of years ago, there was a ballot initiative to raise the cigarette tax to fund cancer research. The airwaves were plastered with ads telling people to vote no. Want to take a wild guess who the biggest sponsors of those ads were? RJ Reynolds and Phillip Morris aka BIG TOBACCO. The phrase we learned in law school is “Whose ox is gored?” In this case, had the initiative passed (it didn’t), it was likely that tobacco sales in Cali would have taken a big hit. Oh and eating Oreos puts money into RJ Reynolds’ pocket (they own Nabisco. And Kraft. So that blue box of mac n cheese? Same as buying a pack of Camels. RJR isn’t big on health).
4) Anybody who promises you ANYTHING during a campaign should be prepared to provide details and plans to back it up WITHOUT being asked. Promises without details and how-to? Fuck ‘em: that’s an empty suit talking. Oh, and if someone claims to be running on his record, familiarize yourself with it. Make sure it’s something worth bragging about.
I have never voted a straight ticket in my life. In Vermont, for a while, we had a Republican Governor in Dick Snelling (voted for him) and Democratic Lt. Governor in Madeline Kunin (voted for her). People from outside the state would be flabbergasted and ask, “How does that work?” Quite well. We were more concerned with the individuals who would hold the office rather than party affiliation (my theories on party evolution are a whole other windy blog post). I have also voted third party, written in candidates and exercised my right to vote as I see fit. But I exercised my right.
By the way, I earned Mitt Romney’s irritation way back in 1994 when I refused to let him and his campaign workers put a bumper sticker on my car. True story. That space is reserved for the Red Sox and an “I’m Straight But Not Narrow” bumper sticker when I can find one. And AAA. No politicians.
Okay. That’s enough homework for now. We’re into the “official” Presidential campaign now, so you have a deadline. Let’s review: 1) Vote (register if necessary), 2) Figure out what’s important to you, 3) Research the candidates and 4) proceed accordingly.