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2008

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Elections, Voters, Apathy, Politicians and Dante
Elizabeth Ross

“Consider yourselves lucky if you ever find that you are voting ‘for’ a presidential candidate even once in your lives.”

It was a parting shot from an instructor I’ve forgotten now, but at least one tidbit from undoubtedly hours of lectures stayed with me – and has unfortunately been proven true, so far. I remember thinking that my instructor was far too cynical and jaded to suggest such a thing, but in the years since, I have never voted “for” a president. It has always been either a “lesser of two evils” choice, or a “vote against the other candidate.”

This year has probably been the worst as far as this is concerned for me, because it is a little bit of both. I am decidedly against McCain giving us Bush-take-three for the next four years, but I have no love for Obama either. Honestly, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about any of the choices during the primary either. My kids, knowing that I write on politics at least a little and too young to understand that it’s impolite to ask who someone will vote for, keep mentioning the upcoming election. They seem to be waiting for my response to change to something more positive, since I typically just say that I’m not voting for another GOP candidate. It’s a slightly better reply than my mother’s contention that she will not vote at all.

My personal apathy toward this race isn’t far from my mother’s either, so I have few arguments for the act of voting to offer. There are very few people around me anymore who bother to ask my advice on the candidates this year, mostly because I’ve taken to saying that they should pick their favorite state quarters and start flipping. If I didn’t have an attitude problem to beat all before August, I definitely have one now.

I blame the attitude in part on the little side trip my fiancé and I took with our son on the way to the Maryland shore. We spent the first day of our vacation in our nation’s capital, wandering about the Mall. Like good little citizens, we stopped and took pictures at each of the monuments in turn – one of us always taking the time to search for the Park Service brochures for each one. The sun was out, there was a cool breeze sweeping through to keep us from getting too hot, and it was a lovely day. Our only problem – beyond discovering that the reflecting pool was overrun with geese – was that we were just about the only people speaking Standard American English. As natural born citizens of this country, we were the obvious minority in our own capital.

After we got home, I thought about that fact a little bit, and realized that shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. The majority of people I know who have been to D.C. have some business connection there, are educators, or have kids who have been in groups like the Scouts. There are very few people in our town who have gone there without one of the reasons listed above, and I’d wager that the majority of the people in our town have not gone to see the monuments in Washington. Also would wager that my town isn’t very different from most others in this country. We take far too much for granted, and there are far too many people in this country that will never even consider going to the capital in their lifetimes. Even more tragic, they probably will never read the writings that have been etched in stone in those monuments – will never read documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

And the people who hold or want to hold office in Washington know this – rely on this. I know I have crossed that imaginary line that separated me from that cynical instructor all those years ago, but I don’t feel like I have a blind spot anymore. I’m not saying that I have been granted the ability to see all and know all – just saying that I am not letting false hopes and wishful thinking blur my view. I understand that in order to survive in Washington, a politician has to pave the way to Dante’s Eighth Ring of Hell, either with corruption or hypocrisy. I will never vote “for” a president – my best hope is to minimize the damage every four years.