Patriotism and Democracy in Our Time

I have been seeing a lot lately about patriotism in America.  I have always found it ironic, what people see as being patriotic.  It seems that waving a flag is patriotic.  Sharing certain facebook posts are patriotic (others, not so much).  In parallel to this, many Americans despise our election season.  We love America, but hate the very idea of having to pay attention to those running the show. I wanted to get some real numbers, so I visited the Census Bureau, to get some. (Census 2014 Voting and Registration)  Here is the short of what I see on that site.  From what I can tell, with my novice eyes, about 65% of our population is registered to vote.  It also shows that roughly 19% are not registered. Why does that not add up? I believe because our total population are not all eligible.  Whether under 18, a felone, or not a citizen, I believe that should make up the rest.

What’s more, about 65% of the registered population voted, in the year taken for those statistics.  If we look at that based on the Total Citizen Population, it’s closer to 42% voter turn out.  How can we claim to be the greatest democracy in the world, when our citizens can’t be bothered to register, let alone show up and vote? I’m not just talking about Presidential elections, which get more media attention, as they are national news.  I’m talking even in local election years, where I believe turn out is even worse.  In this country, where it can take (at most) a couple of minutes to fill out a registration form, and about the same to cast a ballot, we have little excuse.  That’s not to say that we couldn’t improve on our democracy.  It should improve. That’s what makes our democracy great.  The room for improvement.

We can push for election day to be a national holiday, automatic voter registration (to no party affiliation) at 18, and open primaries. In the mean time, I just hope people really look at the records and resumes of all the candidates, and vote based on what is best for all people.  Being a patriotic citizen is about more than what helps yourself, but what will help us all.

Now we have people claiming that if Trump loses, it will be because the election is rigged.  To get this off the table, let’s all agree that SNL is not attempting to undermine the election.  SNL is a comedy show, which has a long history of satirizing those who think to make themselves the center of attention in our political system.  They don’t care what party you are with, just the great sound bites you offer up. Blaming others for repeating and even mocking things you say, is just poor sportsmanship. you know what they say, if you can’t take the heat…

But this is a serious allegation. It is serious to encourage people to sign up to be poll observers on election day, to make sure there is no election rigging.  It’s fine if they are there to ensure people get to vote, and that it does not matter who they vote for. If they are there to truly support every person’s private vote, then I am all for it.  If they are there to intimidate minority voters, or pressure people to vote for their candidate, I hope they are arrested for voter intimidation, which is against the law.

There is no basis for this claim, that there is any election “riggig”, other than the online and media-run polls.  They are showing Trump’s numbers going down.  I googled voter fraud stats and found this from Wapo: (Wapo 31 Cases of Voter Fraud).  They found 31 cases out of 1 Billion votes cast.  To put that into percentage, that is a 0.0000031% of voter fraud found. I’m not trying to make light of the threat of voter fraud, but I just don’t see it as some looming issue.  What I do see, is a candidate for President, who is not the least bit Presidential. He has never held office, even at the local level. He has not care nor concern for our Democracy, nor the consequences of slinging conspiracy theories at a crowd of uneducated and scared supporters.

It has always been respected by all Presidential candidates, that win or lose, Democracy will win, and we must respect that.  That is until now, when a person driven by ego became a major party candidate for President. His concern is not for the people, or our democracy.  It is for his own ego and his brand. It is beyond irresponsible to claim that if you lose, it means the election was rigged.  This is not a high school election. This is the democratic election in a country that is watched by the world as either the leader of an ideal of freedom, or a country that is reverting back to some sort of torches and pitchforks crowd, with a xenophobic view on the horizon.  It scares me that those seem to be our only options right now, because there is no litmus test for voting.  I’m not suggesting there should be, but it seems like a basic understanding of the difference between facts and beliefs or opinions should be at the heart of what we accept from our politicians.  It should be the basis for political debate, among candidates and voters.  An informed electorate, is what I am asking for.  Is that too much to ask?

Like it or not, we have a democracy (or more accurately a democratic republic), and with that will always come politicians and election cycles. Every year.  I really wish we would embrace it, so I could stop seeing all the cliche “can’t wait for the election to be over, so I can stop having to hear about it.” Sorry that living in a country with a lot of civil liberties is so inconvenient for you.

Personally, election night is my super bowl.  I will pop popcorn (organic, non-gmo of course).  I look up my registration months ahead of time, just to make sure my representatives haven’t changed because of re-redistricting.  It has happened before and can again.   I check who is running for re-election and who any candidates are running in opposition to them.  It can take at most 1 hour, since we have so much at our fingertips online.  If I can’t find enough info, I contact county level party committees.  eg. Xyz County [party] Committee. I then ask them to help me with any info on candidates running in my districts, and tell them which districts.  For this Presidential cycle, that will be US Senate in our state, and Congressional district, in our state, which I have ready for them.  In gubernatorial years (state/governor) you generally also have state senate and state assembly. Local years you have town/city councils, school boards.  In all years, you have the chance of ballot measures.

None of it is always going to be thrilling and exciting, but it is incredibly important to our Democracy, that we pay attention and participate. We have the elected officials and candidates that we have earned by the amount of attention we have (and have not) paid to this point. It will always be that way.

It’s a cop-out to say your vote doesn’t count. I worked at the Board of Elections. We oversee an election and report the votes. It is not in our interest to see anyone win, just the will of the voters. When results come out on election night, those are unofficial. They are unofficial, until after the election, when all votes are counted again in an audit. This is how we do the math twice, to verify the results. Then the results become official.  This is when absentee ballots are also counted, as in some races, the total count of those will not affect the results, even if they went 100% for any candidate in the race. That doesn’t mean absentee ballot voting doesn’t count. My first election, I voted by absentee ballot.  If a race is tight, your vote could decide the winner.  Whether by absentee or in person vote.  It always matters.  If every person stayed home, it would matter.  If every person voted it would matter.  It will always matters. Every vote cast, and every voter who omits their voice from the process, by not voting.

I never thought I would see the day that a candidate for US President would ever tell their supporters that if they don’t win, it’s because the election was rigged. Beyond having no basis in facts, it is having the exact direct result of encouraging those supporters to take matters into their own hands.  This is so dangerous that it has already netted an FBI arrest of people planning to attack a Muslim community, and others saying we need a coup or to cause civil unrest.  People will be hurt, and the sore loser doesn’t seem to care, since it won’t be him.  It’s the height of hubris and selfish complaining about losing at something he wasn’t qualified for in the first place.

We should demand better of a candidate for office, whether at the local or national level. We should demand better of ourselves and each other, when it comes to the attention we pay to our Democracy.

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