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The right to complain is a good reason to vote

Essay by Martha Quillen

Politics – November 1994 – Colorado Central Magazine

It’s November, so the subject of my letter should be easily derived. What I’m supposed to say is, “Vote.” Yet it doesn’t seem that simple.

As usual, this ballot pits Democrats I can’t stand against Republicans I detest.

Although some candidates do appeal to me, in every case they’re running against each other.

And in two of this year’s races, I still haven’t decided between candidates I view as wholly unpredictable who are running against candidates I see as completely unpredictable.

As for endorsements–woe be it for me to tell you who to vote for. Over the years, I haven’t supported enough winning candidates to know how well my chosen representatives would perform. I voted for Ford over Carter, and for Ed Clark over both Reagan and Carter.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t have voted for Clark if he’d had even a slim chance of winning. But when both candidates unnerve me, third parties do seem to offer that tempting “none of the above” choice.

Also it should be remembered that the Republicans were originally a third party–so it’s not beyond belief that a new party could make history in this era of polarization. The trick would be to change the dialogue. Yes, family values are important, and yes, the rights of minorities are important, too. But somewhere along the way, our major parties have gotten more interested in assigning blame than in rectifying problems.

Undoubtedly, economic changes have contributed more to the plight of the disintegrating family than sexual libertines ever will. Today, Johnny can’t support his family of four by working at the mill. The mill’s closed, and Susie has to work. Those are the facts, and they need to be addressed–whether we like them or not.

But instead, the Democrats claim Johnny should have used a condom, or the Republicans insist Susie should now stay home. Thus, it would seem that almost any party could build a better platform. And actually, George Bush came very close to doing that with his “thousand points of light.”

Yeah, I can’t believe I’m saying anything positive about George Bush, either. And no, I didn’t vote for him, and never would have, but… People liked the idea of resolving their own problems, in their own communities. And some problems, such as illiteracy and a need for cheaper day-care, probably can be greatly minimized by volunteer efforts.

George, however, never followed through, and we need direction. Where should we start? Would a Non-readers Anonymous Chapter help? Or would a public radio tutoring plan be more effective?

Maybe, if we’re lucky, a third party just might come along with some new ideas–that won’t cost a fortune or degenerate into a blame game.

Unfortunately, the only third party that has actually shown much promise in recent years, did so by suporting a meglomanic billionaire who wanted to be king–so maybe we’re better off, at least temporarily, where we are.

Well, that takes care of my non-endorsements for candidates. As for amendments, I suspect that it’s a good time to vote no on all new amendments, except for those amendments that rescind previous amendments–since at this point in history new amendments generally cost a fortune in legal fees.

And when it comes to this years’ sin tax, I personally believe churches rather than governments should define our sins–since governments ordinarily designate drugs, alcohol, and tobacco as more sinful than greed, avarice, and vainglory.

Admittedly, avarice is not easily measured, and thereby taxed, but one suspects a society lacking avarice would be damned close to heaven–whereas a society without alcohol is merely Saudi Arabia.

Now, back to my original message. In spite of my musings, and inability to offer any clear endorsements, I urge everyone to vote. After all, senior citizens have a better turn out at the polls than people in their twenties, and senior citizens also have a health-care plan. It may not be a perfect health-care plan, but it is a plan, and seniors also get discounts on campgrounds and parks, and they’re one of the richest voting blocs in America.

So who can say? Maybe if we all voted–we’d all be doing so well. It’s worth a try.

Besides, a truly representative government is reliant upon the voters–so if you don’t vote, you shouldn’t complain. Voters, on the other hand, have earned the right to grumble and criticize all they want–which just may be the most compelling reason to get out there on or before November 8 to cast your vote.

–Martha Quillen