Ever picked up a plate at a buffet only to notice food particles from someone else’s meal are still there? I bet you put that plate down and got another one, right?
We all like to eat from a clean plate, but that means somebody has to do the dishes.
It’s the same with politics. I’ve heard time and again how people are disgusted by “dirty politics” and therefore want no part of the process. This extends especially to people of faith because our faith stresses the importance of doing the right thing in the right way – and politics seems, well, dirty.
Many people of faith have suggested that not voting is better than jumping into the mud. But I bet those same folks whine and complain when they think their taxes are too high, when they drive over potholes in the streets, when they think there aren’t enough police patrols in their neighborhoods, or when their schools undermine the traditional values parents teach their kids at home.
Everyone needs to learn that the laws you live under, the roads you drive on, the security and safety of your neighborhood and the quality of the schools your kids and grandkids attend are the result of someone else’s politics.
When I was governor of Arkansas and would speak to high school students, I began by asking those interested in politics and government to raise a hand. It was rare to see more than a couple of hands in the air. I then surprised them by telling them how glad I was they didn’t have an interest because – spoiler alert – politicians don’t care about what “the people” think. They care about what the voters think.
Only voters can hire politicians and only voters can fire them. If people don’t vote, they make it easy for politicians to get away with anything.
I’d go on to tell the students we were thinking of raising the driving age to 25, since most accidents involve drivers under age 25. That always resulted in audible reactions.
I then would say we planned to raise the drinking age to 30, which evoked even more audible reactions.
I then announced we were thinking about raising the age of dating to 30 unless accompanied by a parent. By this time, the crowd would be wide awake and on the brink of outright revolt.
To stop the impending riot I then reminded them that, by their own admission, they didn’t care about politics and government, so we politicians could do whatever we want. The one thing that would make us reconsider is if they became voters, because voters are the ones who hire us and the only ones with the power to fire us.
My intention was to drive home for these kids this fundamental principle of democracy: If you decide you aren’t going to engage in the process, you get what you deserve – and you might not like it. But you’ve forfeited the right to complain. Not voting is essentially saying you are fine with whatever the politicians do to you.
It didn’t take long for high school students to get it.
But do you?
You don’t have to like politics any more than you like doing dishes or eating your veggies. But you do dishes to control whether or not you eat off a clean plate, and you eat veggies to make sure your body gets the nutrition it needs. If the political process in this country makes you gag, the process still needs your involvement, and voting is the only way to get the body of our nation the nutrients it needs.
So commit to voting on Nov. 6 and take the extra step of being an informed voter. There are great resources available to voters such as this incredible tool from My Faith Votes, for which I serve as honorary national chairman. The tool compiles everything you need to know to vote in your state – sample ballots, candidate stances and endorsements, absentee voting information, polling locations and more.
We are days away from an incredibly important set of elections. You don’t have to like the process or even the people in the battle. But sit it out and you will get what the people who voted give you. If you don’t like some of the politicians, then vote to fire them.
I bet you want a clean plate. So please, step up and do the dishes!