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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We Don't Vote For Presidents Anymore...

we vote for who we think will win.

I have tried to put this into words for the past several years, and I am getting closer to what I mean inside my brain, but words are difficult to use to describe the subtlety of my argument. But here goes...

Since Watergate, the media has come to believe they are in the business of making the news rather than reporting it. They did not reveal JFKs indiscretions, but began to wonder about LBJ during the Civil Rights Movement, then with Nixon, they cut loose.

This is not an argument of should the media do this or not. It is a simple statement of my take on a transition of the perceived purpose of the media.

Here is the crux of my argument: We do not vote for who we think will best serve the country as President -- we vote for who we think will win the presidency.

Let me try to explain. In my voting lifetime, beginning in 1980, I have witnessed a subtle shift in the thinking process of American citizens.

We are a nation that seeks to win.

The Olympics is representative of this fascination we have with winning. Which country won the Olympics? It depends on whose paper you read. Do you just count Gold Medals? Total Medals? Place a point value on the medals (3 for gold, 2 for silver, 1 for bronze) and add up the points?

Further, Americans who don't win personally, are quick to associate themselves with winners, as if this vicarious association will reflect the winning nature of the non-entrant. That is why we frequently see "fans" become numerous at the end of the season of winning teams, when there were open seats at the start. The "fair-weather fan" seeks to associate with those who are winning.

Now for the transfer to presidential elections. I am not convinced people vote for the person they believe has the best qualifications for the needs of the nation at a given time. [I not really convinced people know what the nation needs at most times - cynical, I know.] I believe, through the media, polls, and appearance (again Nixon vs. Kennedy - TV debate) people who do vote, frequently vote for the one they believe will be the winner, just to associate themselves with the one who won.

I seldom speak to people who know what the issues are, forget what the candidates believe about the issues. And this counts educators too. Education is not the only issue. NCLB, regardless of where one stands, is a relatively small issue in the context of the world today. And believe it or not, education is not always the answer to problems. I've met too many educated idiots, and you have too.

So when a student asks me, "Who are you going to vote for?" I tell them the truth. I haven't made up my mind yet. I don't know enough about where they stand on the issues, nor have I really prioritized the issues I think are important yet. That will come over the next 2 weeks. Is education part of the list? Yes, but not in the top 5 at this point. I'm more concerned about the banking situation, oil & alternative fuel, taxes, international affairs and economics, and our commitment to curtailing terrorism and protecting our country than I am about education right now.

And now for something that hit me today...Constitution Day

My classes watched a 20 minute, overview about the U.S. Constitution. In the video, a comment was made that led me to say to my classes, something like...
What make the United States great is the fact that we are not a country governed by people. We are governed by law. We are supposed to be equal under the law, and not have to worry about the whims or biases of a monarch, dictator, or royal family.
The president, by the Constitution, has very limited power. Yet, every four years, we look for which "rock star" we want to represent us. It has become a popularity contest. Perhaps we should remember the wise comments of Simon Wilder (Joe Pesci) in the movie With Honors: The Constitution limits the president to being nothing more than a servant of the people. He is, in essence, a bum and the only bliss he should be seeking is freedom and justice.



Direct Link
[If you have not seen this movie, why not?!]


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The views expressed here are my own and reflect only my opinion.
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