For Americans, the possibility of being ruled by an oppressive dictator is so foreign that we no longer understand the importance of our role in a democracy, which is our ability to control our government with our vote. This right to vote makes us, as American citizens, some of the most powerful beings on earth. We enjoy the ability in a democracy to oust misrule without violence, to communicate our wishes directly to the highest levels of government, and through the initiative and referendum process, to make and remove laws we don’t like. All we have to do is cast our vote. If enough of us want change, then change happens.
There is a problem, however; voting is based on a cumulative effect, not on a charismatic individual’s powers. Nobody, not even Arnold Schwartzenegger, can avoid being voted out of office if enough citizens want him out. Unlike a Hollywood movie with swift action and simple, usually violent solutions, our vote is a slower but no less certain path leading to a hopefully happy ending.
It is unfortunate that people used to instant gratification can become disillusioned when election results disagree with our choice for an office. We start thinking that elections are a rigged game, that the outcome is determined months in advance and that voting is just an empty gesture. We begin to think that an election is no longer about voting for the candidate of our choice, but rather, voting for the candidate we dislike the least.
Or in the case of most local elections, we must choose between candidates we don’t know about, or we must decide whether to vote for or against confusing initiatives that we know about only from competing TV commercials. The better commercial is what is really being decided on.
This belief in the futility of voting is wrong and can sometimes cloud our understanding of this immensely powerful tool that we, as Americans wield. We need to understand and remember the power that our vote gives to us.
History has shown that our votes can be the most powerful force in the world. After all, the vote indirectly led to the invention of the atom bomb.
Politicians know this, and they know that it is good to have this much power. Like any crack addict, they will give everything they have to possess it.
Considering the amount of money candidates and parties spend on election campaigns, it’s surprising that any American would ever think that their vote doesn’t count. George Bush spent $367,228,801 for another term as our president. If someone, especially businessmen like George W. and company, is willing to invest that kind of cash in getting a job that only pays the relatively low amount of $400,000 per year, then it’s not the salary that gets his pulse thumping, it is the power that he gets if he can persuade us to give him another four years in the driver’s seat.
Any power that George W. or any other politician has is the power that we, as American citizens, allow them. They can’t buy elections, and they can’t rent them. The truth is, any American citizen, regardless of station in society, has a vote. We have our hands on the switch; if we throw it, George W. or any other power addict, is cut off from his fix.
What the voters can giveth, the voters can taketh away.