Primary election season is over. For now. Control of your television viewing has been returned to you. For now. Campaign signs blooming like unwanted weeds along all your routes of travel have been removed. For now. Other, more newsworthy events are being reported. For now.
So – looking back at the onslaught on our senses for all these months – what has been wrought for all the millions of dollars spent? With rare exception – not much. Not much at all. Do we feel pride for what we’ve just been through in exercising our democratic rights at the polls? Not much. Not much at all.
Given the obscene amounts of money spent, all the noise-making, all the charges and countercharges made, all the lies told about opposing candidates, all the time consumed making frivolous charges while allowing important issues to go without comment – what have we gained? All together now – “not much.”
Matter of fact, damned few of us cared enough to vote. In Idaho, about one-in-five registered voters made the trip. Even in Oregon – where you’re sent a ballot, given two weeks to think about your choices and return the form for free – less than half did so.
Pundits are now pawing through the crumpled ballots looking for trends – trying to find clues to what we’ll face at November’s general election – digging in the various Secretary of State’s computer files for statistical evidence of messages the minority of the electorate may have been sending. They won’t find much.
Since so many stayed away from the polls, there’s little meaningful “treasure” in the remnants of primary day. Except maybe this. Those of us who cared enough to show up seemed to be saying “Let’s just stay where we are – let’s not make any serious moves left or right.” Like all of us, I backed some winners and I some losers. That’s just politics. That’s just politics the way it’s supposed to be. Win some. Lose some.
There were a few messages sent. Idaho’s governor took a kick in the shins from many in his former constituency while hanging on to his office key. At least for now. An Idaho legislative candidate who wasn’t running said he wouldn’t serve if elected. He was. He likely will. Oregon Republicans opted to support a senatorial candidate who appears to have serious emotional and relationship issues. Several Northwest legislators found abrupt ends to long careers with voters finally saying “Enough already.”
Yes, there are some interesting stories to be had if reporters want to spend the time digging around. But with far less than half the voters showing up to have their say, will there be enough readers or watchers who give a damn to make their efforts rewarding?
But – for the few that still care – here’s the story to me. Our country’s in a helluva mess right now. Major problems on dozens of national and state issues. Millions of Americans being hurt – forgotten – homeless – sliding into debt for through no fault of their own. Our societal cloth is being torn in two with the rich getting richer and the rest of us losing ground every day. Our political system is fractured. We have a wholly ineffective congress successfully ignoring majority constituencies while ring-kissing the almighty dollar – read “campaign contribution.” Veterans promised support by a nation that needed them are now lost in bureaucratic wastelands seemingly inhabited by more numbers-cruncher gatekeepers than caring medical professionals. Serious infrastructure needs are being ignored in favor of meaningless political witch hunts wasting precious resources.
In the face of all that – and more – not one-in-two voters cared enough to vote in Oregon and Washington. In Idaho, just one-in-five! This isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s not “right” or “left.” It’s not philosophical or geographical or any other division. It’s a moral issue.
In a functioning democracy, the majority sets the course. So, when four out of five refuse to participate, what happens to that majority system we’ve chosen to operate under? What happens to that “functioning” part of the description?
Our political system is cancer-ridden with obscene amounts of money being used to subvert its normal operation. We’ve allowed government-haters to be elected, then fight to stay at the trough. Through inattention and/or refusal to participate, we’re suffering fools who shouldn’t be dogcatchers much less members of our national congress and too many state and local offices.
To those who’ve shown no willingness to accept responsibility for even the most basic right of citizenship – you’ve earned the contempt of those of us who have. Next time you’ve got something to bitch about, here’s some advice.
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