Mayor’s Message: What responsibilities do we have as voters?

With the presidential election now about five months away, the political rhetoric has begun to ramp up. As citizens and voters what are our responsibilities?

First and foremost, we need to be well informed about the issues. I happened to tune to the Howard Stern show on XM radio the other day. It was a replay of a broadcast they did four years ago. They were out on the street interviewing inner city folks about who they were supporting for president. The interviewer was asking people if they were okay with Obama’s selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate. They were also attributing John McCain’s positions to Obama on choice, gay marriage, etc. They all confirmed their intention to vote for Obama. While this prank was pulled on Obama supporters, I have no doubt that the result would have been the same with McCain supporters.

Most of us are not paying attention. The real destruction of our democracy will come from an uninformed electorate, not from a terrorist attack. The reason our founding fathers supported public education is because they were well aware that an uneducated public couldn’t be trusted with the responsibility of electing our federal government. In fact, they distrusted the electorate so much that they established the Electoral College to prevent the general population from directly electing the president.

They recognized that the public was susceptible to having their votes influenced by slick politicians who would tell them what they wanted to hear and not act in the best interests of the country when they were elected. If we look around at the political landscape today, it makes those guys look pretty smart.

As we decide on whom to vote for this year we need to stay focused on the issues, not the distractions. With misguided Supreme Court decisions like Citizen’s United, there will be billions of dollars spent on trying to distract us from the issues. If we fall for that trap we will be doing exactly what the founding fathers predicted. There are so many serious issues to consider, the economy, foreign policy, healthcare, government intervention in our private lives, etc. The worst thing you can do is be distracted by the sideshow noise.

I am disgusted when I read the crap about the President hates America, he wasn’t born here, hiring lip readers to figure out what comments Michelle is making to her husband, etc. I am equally disgusted when I read the nonsense that Romney destroys companies, lets his dog ride on the roof of the car, etc. All this is a way to keep you from making your decision based on the issues.

As a starting point, accept the premise that both Obama and Romney are patriotic Americans who love our country. Don’t listen to the whispers, “He’s not one of us…” or he’s “too rich and doesn’t get it….”. Find the issues that are important to you and do the research. The Internet is an amazing source of information. Take the time to educate yourself. It’s your responsibility as a citizen.

Jon Shevelew