As I went to check my email this morning, a headline on MSN caught my attention, “Dirty tricks increase as Election Day nears.” I’ve been following voter suppression stories for more than a month and couldn’t be more angry about the legalized disenfranchisement that is happening in states all across the nation. This story isn’t about legalized disenfranchisement, though. Instead, it focuses on illegal, misleading or downright false fliers, pamphlets, and phone calls that people are receiving days before the election. From threats about police being at the polls to arrest people with parking tickets to lies about when the election will happen, people who don’t believe in real democracy are out in force this year.
While the relevance of any particular rumor can be debated all day long, there’s no doubt that some of the rumors flying around about our presidential tickets are playing a huge role in people’s perception of the candidates. Because of that, the rumors are the first thing that we need to get straight in order to be informed voters and to speak with our neighbors in an informed manner. When we spread rumors, no matter which candidate we’re talking about and even if it helps us bring someone over to our way of thinking, we aren’t behaving like the adults we are and certainly not in the best interest of the country that we all love enough to feel so passionately about. On top of that, as soon as someone reads the truth about the rumor, we’re more likely to get folks to vote the opposite way we’d hoped because if you can’t believe one thing, why should you believe another?
Several columnists, bloggers, and analysts have said that eventually the presidential campaign will get back to the issues. I hope so because frankly, I’m sick to death of personal attacks not only between candidates, but between friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, and even between spouses. There is no doubt that this is the most emotionally charged presidential election of my (relatively short) lifetime—and with good reason. Still, it’s frustrating to have to sift through thousands of web sites, news articles, blog comments, and goodness forbid, even YouTube, to figure out where the candidates actually stand on the issues. I admit that I’m guilty as anybody of getting too emotionally involved. But that doesn’t change the fact that this election is about issues first and foremost. It’s time to turn to those. There isn’t much time left before we will all (I hope) be placing our votes. We have a responsibility to do this based on knowledge of all the issues—not just the one we care most about.
Yesterday was my birthday. Yay me. I made it through another year and there are things I’m proud of in that year. I am one of the lucky Americans that still has a job. No health insurance. But I have a job and that’s something. We’ve been able to pay off some horrendous credit debt that developed because we were living in a red state (more on that another time–and for what it’s worth, I’ve lived in fanatical blue states, too and find them just as disagreeable). Our children haven’t had any major catastrophes, thank goodness. Only two of them have health insurance and their health insurance ties us down and does everything possible to keep us in the system (more on that another time). I appreciated all of the well wishes of family and friends. I’ve never been one to actually make a wish when I blew out the birthday candle. But this year, as I follow all of the news coming from both sides, dig into my own research on both candidates–their positions, their histories, their ideas–I find myself becoming almost frantic. And I ask myself: What were YOU doing during the 2000 election? The 2004 election?