Other essays on this theme

Essay: "Presidential Elections"

by Donald Dickinson
Presidential Election

Democracy isn't just about voting. It's about more participation in the process and the understanding of the issues. To some voting is the bottom line of democracy.

In the 19th century, John Stuart Mills worried that the secret ballot, then just emerging would encourage voters to choose the politician who most pandered to their private interests, rather than voting on behalf of the public good.

Mills' worries were based on the premise that they would not vote if ballots weren't secret. Cynicism builds, rates of voting drop, and some say this is good-who wants misinformed voters choosing on the basis of the last ad they saw - or their friends directives?

Some means must be conveyed to voters that this is a crucial moment in their lives. That they are relinquishing ultimate coercive power to representatives that may affect not only them, but billions.

This is a critical year in the history of the United States and the world, when the recklessness of our own government, counter not only our national security but the well-being of mankind. Thomas Paine's stirring words in 1776 are now pertinent:

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

When Jefferson initiated the principle of separation of church and state for the United States, he never intended that we should not apply spiritual values to public life. He was insisting that no one person (not even the president) should be empowered to speak to God for everyone. There are indeed people who in this world have committed evil actions and the perpetrators must be held accountable. However, there is no group of people whom we can label as "evil doers" deserving of being bombed or tortured. We must realize our own human tendency to make others into Bad Guys so that we can feel that we are the Good. Americans too can become torturers. Depending on the combination of circumstances (including the current documented pattern of encouraging torture by governmental higher-ups), we all share the human capacity to commit torture and humiliation against innocent detainees even if only through voting those in power.

My concern arises from our responsibility to change what we see is wrong with our representatives when that need arises. It is not at all a matter of Republican or Democrat, nor of the increasingly meaning-less labels "conservative" or "liberal". It is about preservation of the American principles of "equal justice under the Law" and the Bill of Rights.

Should immorality in our country be defined by a singer exposing her breast at the Super Bowl, or by a president lying about weapons of mass destruction in order to start a war for the sake of his friend's massive war profiteering and extremist ideologies?

In 1816, Jefferson wrote of his concern, "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the Laws of our country." Now that such corporations write the laws, their vigilance will indeed be required to restore the objective rule of law.

I hope as citizens of the United States we exercise our right to vote this November in what may be the most important election in American history. But even if we change our current corrupt administration, we need an open, long-term national dialogue with our representatives.

The present administration has spread fear throughout America. This is the real threat to the United States. The truth is, there is no such thing as absolute security. We must go to the polls in November and exercise the right to change those in power.

The election of 2000 shocked the nation into realizing we have a serious problem with running elections. But beyond the Florida election flaws are other questions, like how to reclaim our elections from well-heeled special interests and ensure all voices are heard.