Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's a Vote, Not a Message...

A favorite topic of the news media in the months leading up to November's midterm elections is the anti-incumbent, anti-Democrat spirit that appears to be sweeping the country. Voters' displeasure with the majority party as well as with many incumbent lawmakers has resulted in significantly tight races in states once considered safe, and the Democrats are expected to lose control of the House and perhaps even the Senate. (All of this despite the fact that many of the country's problems started during the previous Republican administration.)

While this is certainly frustrating given all that the Obama administration and Congress actually have accomplished in the last two years, what angers me the most is that many voters aren't as interested in voting for a particular candidate as they are interested in "sending a message."

One place this is occurring is West Virginia, where the current governor, Democrat Joe Manchin, is seeking the Senate seat recently held by the late Robert Byrd. Manchin is a tremendously popular governor; his approval rating is around 70 percent. His opponent, millionaire heir John Raese, has advocated the elimination of the minimum wage, his wife is registered to vote in Palm Beach, FL, and he likes joking that "I earned my money the old-fashioned way: I inherited it."

Any other year, Manchin would be able to start practicing his victory speech. Raese has run for statewide office before and only mustered 30 percent of the vote. But because voters feel duty-bound to send a message, the Manchin/Raese battle is too close to call. A West Virginia resident explains the problem in the simplest terms: "There's not much wrong with [Manchin]. It's just that he's a Democrat."

There are still countries in this world where people cannot vote, and even more where their votes either don't count or are manipulated to achieve the desired result. And yet here we are, using our votes not to support a candidate or position, but to "send a message." Is this what our ancestors fought, marched and died for?

If you want to vote for a candidate, please vote for whomever you choose. But if you don't even understand the issues or know who the candidates are and are simply voting against an entire party, why bother? Is this the message we want to send to the next generation of voters?

It's a vote. If you want to send a message, write a letter. Send an email. Protest. But don't circumvent progress out of spite.

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