As Americans, we are blessed to be living in the richest country in the history of the world. Undeniably, one of the key reasons for our prosperity is our many freedoms – notably, the liberty to vote for our leaders.
And in my experience, all it takes to exercise this freedom is to get up 40 minutes early on a Tuesday morning, get to a local polling place, maybe stand in a line for a bit*… and make a decision that will directly impact the budget, policies and personalities who will direct government for at least two years. What a country! Our representative democracy is a unique and powerful system, the first of its kind you could say – only existing today thanks to the blood and sacrifice of America’s finest.
In light of this, it always shocks me when I run into people who proclaim, even proudly: “I don’t vote.” Really? So you’re part of those 40% of American citizens who banter and complain about political leaders or parties or “the system” like everyone else, but can’t take 40 minutes to do the one thing you can do constructively to make a difference? Unbelievable.
Now I know cynicism stops many people from voting. I’ve felt that too. Having moved from Texas to Washington, DC in the past year, it’s actually been heartening to find many talented, visionary people working in politics… but even more discouraging to see their good ideas trampled by the Big Government parade.
True, both political parties are responsible for those spending increases, those new programs, those supposedly “good” things that only serve to part you with more of your hard-earned money. Now that I’m more aware of who’s calling the shots here in DC, I know that I know that I know we are all better off if you choose where your money is spent** – including what charities, places of worship, and good causes to support.
Putting a politician in charge of spending your money presents a scenario which has compromised the best of intentions. It means that some CEO came to Mr. Congressman and made a convincing case as to how to best send your money “back to our hometown.” Unfortunately, that CEO’s small-business competitor did not have the funds to come to Washington.
So the smaller company lost, it missed getting the advantage, and perhaps even shut its doors. Maybe a few dozen jobs were lost… which adds up when you think about 9,499 back room deals (earmarks) that were made in Congress just last year. What happens in Washington, DC really does impact America’s heartland.
This culture of earmarks, or “corporate welfare” as some call it, is not easy to change. But it’s possible. The current political climate has led some of America’s brightest minds in business, community outreach, medicine, the clergy, and even rocket science to seek voters’ support to represent them in Washington. These men and women know how to read a profit-and-loss statement, how to balance a checkbook… how to innovate when an organization has lost it way. Most of our current lawmakers don’t have the first clue about these basics.
I am inspired by many new leaders seeking office. It’s why I am spending my Saturdays lately walking door-to-door, talking to Virginians about who will be on the ballot. It’s why I am listening closely to what candidates are saying about the big issues of our time, from the national debt to the rise of China.
And it’s why I will get up 40 minutes early on Tuesday, November 2. What a great privilege paid for by the bravery of past generations – that in itself makes my vote count.
*Of course, American citizens must be registered to vote. Not sure if you’re registered? Go to the helpful website CanIVote.org for state-specific info.
**There is a small, Constitutionally-limited role for government to play. George Washington was perhaps the first patriot to realize that taxes are necessary for our freedoms to exist. Yet currently government is bloated beyond anything resembling the Constitution.