The Internet and our personal and business computers will play a larger role in the upcoming election than ever before and that most likely is a bad thing because we tend not to be a fact-checking society. If it's written down it must be true so we forward the political emails we receive to everyone in our address book and they in turn do the same thing.
Couple that with a "throw the bums out" attitude that seems to be pervasive in this election cycle and it very well could be a recipe for disaster.
The most important prerequisite for a workable and effective democracy is an informed citizenry and it's sad to say we're anything but that. We live in a world of sound bytes aimed at provoking an emotional response from the people they're directed at who in turn will go to the polls and vote because of that response.
The people behind the sound bytes are very sophisticated in the way they deliver their messages. They put together focus groups to see what combination of words work most effectively. They hire psychologists and wordsmiths in order to use exactly the right words and combinations of word that will provoke that emotional response. The things we hear and read aren't spontaneous, off-the-cuff remarks; they're carefully constructed and thought out to get you to go do what they want you to do.
I've taken the position for a long time that low voter turnout is good and I think that especially holds true in the upcoming election because we tend not to be an informed electorate. We are more likely to vote on a single issue we know little about or for a personality we like rather than on substantive issues like what will be the impact on me, my community and my society if this person is elected.
Voting is one of the sacred rights we have as Americans and it should never be taken lightly. There is still time to educate ourselves on the issues and the candidates. There's still time to get an objective analysis about what a particular candidate stands for and what they will do or not do once they're elected, rather than the empty campaign promises they're making now. It takes a little time and a little effort and it's not as simple as forwarding a message containing half-truths or no-truths to all your friends and it's not as much fun as going to a rally with like-minded folks where you huff and puff until you blow the opposition's house down, often with rhetoric that has no basis in fact or truth other than it sounds good or it strikes an emotional chord.
I'm not writing this from an ideological perspective. There are good people and bad people on both sides of the aisle and there are misstatements and falsehoods being spread by people in both parties. But you and I have the opportunity and the ability to look past the literature, the promises, and the rhetoric and find out the truth about candidates' ideology and philosophy if we'll just take the time and make the effort.
But you have to want to know the truth in order to find it. If a sound byte confirms your pre-conceived notion about someone, chances are you won't look any further or dig any deeper because it tells you what you wanted to hear and it almost always plays to your emotions rather than your intellect.
So we often act on that particular cue because we don't want to be confused with the facts.
America has always been a centrist society and I suspect it still is. Like always, it's the people on the fringes of the far left and the far right that make all the noise but cooler heads tend to prevail when we go to the ballot box. Every off-year election cycle almost always shows gains for the party out of power and I suspect this year will be no different. The problem is, with a two-party system, we just keep going back and forth, because neither party seems to be doing what a majority of the people want. So after the people became disenchanted with George Bush and the Republicans, we elected Barack Obama and the Democrats and now we're poised to send a new group of Republicans with a few Tea-Partiers thrown in to see if they can get it right.
I suspect they can't.
We're responsible for every single person sitting in elective office in Washington, D.C. We hear people rant and rave about "the government" as if we could go have a cup of coffee with it but we can't. The government is composed of people we elected to bid the people's business but in this era of money, influence and big business, the voice of the people often goes unheard.
So before you go to the ballot box on Nov. 2, do all you can do to find out the facts about a particular candidate instead of the one-sided rhetoric you hear on radio and television and receive through email, Facebook or Twitter and then cast an informed vote rather than a herd vote. We always receive a sticker after we vote that says "I voted today." It's too bad they don't have one that says "I voted intelligently today."
Because the truth shall set you free.