I exercised my Constitutional right (the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments) and voted in Ohio’s primary today. (The Democratic and Republican primaries both took place today. Which ballot I filled out is not the point – just that I did fill one out.)
“Who will be our next president?” I was asked this morning, before I voted.
“I have no idea,” I responded.
That’s why we vote.
Especially this year – an unusual year when the media and the political parties cannot tell us who the Democratic and Republican nominees are yet. Our votes actually matter this year.
The candidates – in both parties – give us a wide range of choices. This is how the process is supposed to work.
State and local issues
We vote on more than the presidential race, of course. Perhaps even more important, I saw candidates on the ballot for various judgeships, county and statewide races, and a local tax request from the city I live in.
These local and statewide candidates and issues will have a more immediate impact on my quality of life than the next president will. I’m convinced of this. Even though the local issues don’t get near the publicity the presidential candidates do.
Our local tax request is for roads, police and parks. Other municipalities seek ballot approval for residential or commercial zoning changes, fire departments, ambulance service, libraries, garbage collection, Sunday liquor sales and/or government general operating expenses.
Local school board races and taxes weren’t on today’s ballot, but we certainly do get to vote on those at other times of the year.
These issues are vital to our daily lives, and they require money. How much are we willing to pay for them? Who do we trust to lead our government and local courts?
Since a majority of us do not vote, a small fraction of U.S. citizens decides how this country functions, locally and nationally. When more of us get involved, our government runs more effectively. That’s what a democracy is: rule by majority. But a majority has to vote for that to happen.
The U.S. Constitution, however, provides certain rights for each citizen, whether or not we vote. The First Amendment, for example, states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
While giving individuals the right to worship, speak, write, assemble and petition as they desire, this Amendment implies respect for other people. There are ways to do these things without rioting, or worse.
If I have the freedom to worship as I please, so do you. If I have the freedom to speak my mind on an issue, so do you. We do not have to agree. But we MUST respect each other, or the process breaks down.
When we assemble, we do so peaceably, according to the Amendment. When we seek redress of our grievances, we respect the outcome – win or lose. That, again, is why we must vote – so that the people we elect to redress our grievances respect us as citizens.
This is the cause of the deep divide in the United States today. It’s all about “me,” and not “we.” We do not understand (or do not care) that our actions, all of them, affect others.
The Fourth Amendment talks about unreasonable searches and seizures. The Sixth Amendment talks about a speedy and public trial. The Fourteen Amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” These amendments also give certain rights to individuals.
All of us have the right to get involved politically, as much or as little as we desire. All of us should vote. Some of us might run for public office. (With the sharp criticism and downright hatred we see out there, why would you want to? Today’s public servants have bigger hearts and thicker skins than we realize.)
“We” must include all of us. We must respect our differences.
Religion and politics
Religion is not a democracy; Western religions, in particular, are monotheistic, which means people worship one God. The Christian God wants the best for us; if we read the Bible closely, we will see this. But Christianity, like other religions, is not a democracy.
Tension arises when Christians try to take over the political process. It doesn’t work; indeed, it cannot work.
But Christian principles can work in “secular” society. Respect for authority, respect for other people and respect for oneself are all themes in the Bible. All of these themes are desperately needed in American society today.
So, I voted today. As an American. With principles that might be Christian, but that I think should apply to all of society as well.
That doesn’t mean I’m trying to impose Christianity on you. If you choose to worship another way, or not at all, that’s your right. But many of the principles I try to live by should apply to you as well. Respect. Caring for our neighbors. Providing proper police, fire and ambulance support. (If we didn’t break so many laws, perhaps we would not need so many police officers.) Electing a president who has the best interests of the country as a whole in his/her heart – not just your group, but the interests of all of us.
Other elections are coming up this year. School elections. The general election in November. Perhaps others.
Let’s get involved. All of us. And when each election is over, we must live with the results.
Moving to Canada is an idea for quitters. My way or the highway is not the American way. If you don’t like the results, work to change it for the next time.
In the meantime, even if we don’t like the results, we must live with them. That’s the way the United States thrives.