J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who
writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident
of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
Out the Vote
Do the uninformed really need to go to the polls?...
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 10/8/04
As Election Day approaches, debates get debated and the political
ads become more misleading and obnoxious, we the people are increasingly
urged to exercise our civic duty and vote. Your choice of candidates
is less important, the candidates and their campaign workers
say, than the fact that you get out and vote.
They lie, of course. Your choice matters deeply to them and
if you are not voting for them they would just as soon you not
vote at all, although they would never say so, because election
campaigns are all about winning. With rare exceptions, they would
say or promise just about anything to keep from losing. Yet in
spite of what they say or promise, only about half of those eligible
to vote will do so in spite of sometimes extraordinary last minute
efforts to get live bodies, including the disinterested and even
the demented, to the polls.
It is sad, in a way,
that the other half of the voters can’t
be bothered to participate in the selection of the most powerful
chief of state on earth. I can understand some voter apathy when
it comes to selecting a lesser official from a list of obscure
candidates but it boggles my mind that our president may be elected
with the votes of only a quarter of those eligible to vote.
Nevertheless, I take
issue with the platitude that everyone should be urged to vote.
I believe that large numbers of those
so urged haven’t a clue about what they are voting for,
especially when it comes to the propositions. Many have not even
attempted to follow the issues or read about the candidates’ positions.
Why, then, should they be urged to vote? Doesn’t that dilute
the votes of the informed citizens who try to educate themselves
on the issues? Why not instead urge citizens to at least read
the voting materials first and then cast an informed vote. That
would be exercising a civic duty.
Of course the majority
of voters will vote the straight donkey or elephant ticket
regardless of the candidates. They would vote
for a radish if it appeared on their party’s slate. Their
minds were made up years ago. Their party’s positions become
their positions. It’s fun to argue with them but it’s
pointless, really. And then there are the single-issue people
who are polarized over issues like abortion, conservation and
animal rights. Or the anyone-but-Bush crowd. They are often so
focused on their cause that they haven’t time for other
issues like whom best to defend Americans from terrorism.
The undecided 15-20%
represents the real target now. Most of them are, hopefully,
still trying to sort out the issues. They
will be heavily influenced by the debates. Score one, therefore,
for my old shipmate of Swift Boat fame. A skilled debater and
star of the Yale debating team, John Kerry can, and famously
has, argued both sides of an issue. That’s what debaters
do. Kerry could argue with conviction and persuasion that the
earth is flat.
Mr. Bush, despite
being a product of the same privileged upbringing and preppie,
Ivy League education, is better at conversing than
debating. He is plain talking and occasionally blunt. His pronunciation
is often innovative. Applying some of the rules for judging debates—rules
dealing largely with style, delivery, force and persuasion –gives
Mr. Kerry a clear edge. It is important for voters who will make
their decision based upon the debates to understand that we are
not electing a secretary of state or an ambassador to Paris or
the UN but rather a chief executive of the nation and commander-in-chief
of the armed forces. We want someone who can lead effectively
under pressure, inspire confidence and who will surround himself
with the very best and brightest
To these undecided
voters I say read beyond the debates. Be far more concerned
with each candidate’s position and plans
for implementing them and less with how these things are expressed
or who looked most “presidential” during the debates.
To those who haven’t followed any of the issues up to now,
you still have time. To those who will not exercise their right
to vote, I say thanks. You make mine more important. CRO
2004 J. F. Kelly, Jr.