Politics Anyone?

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Primaries are done here in Florida, and my two favorite candidates did not move on to November’s general elections.  I suspected as much, but I was hoping that others would get on board after they got to know them and saw how hard they were working.  Don’t get me wrong, we had many qualified candidates running for various seats, but these two guys gave me a good feeling.  They were in it, heart and soul; no frills, no deals –just hard work.  

I am pretty passionate about politics, not necessarily politicizing all current events or as in nonstop mud-slinging campaigns, but I am a firm believer that every vote does count.  I often hear people say they don’t vote because they don’t believe in the process or politicians are all crooks.  It is sad that people don’t care enough to do the research or look beyond the headlines.  In some cases, it’s getting past the smoke and mirrors to see behind the Wizard’s curtain as Dorothy did the Land of Oz.  It irritates me when the same people are the first to complain about the schools, roads, and the water pollution for example.  I have known a few politicians personally who sincerely got decided to get involved in politics for the love of their communities.  These individuals stepped into the arena believing one voice; one vote could make a difference.  We have seen it in recent history in Congress and the Senate and elections around the country.

I can speak most about the man who was running for a congressional seat in my district in this recent election. He lives in my city. I didn’t know him before, but I saw firsthand how he managed the campaign, but more importantly, how he handled himself, and I was moved to support him.  Let’s call him Fred.  

Fred is an educated professional, a trained social worker, and an executive director of a large healthcare facility.  If I were to guess, I’d say he’s in his early forties and looks fine in his campaign photos.  Fred is an unassuming family man who moved to Florida about 20 years ago from the Midwest, looking for a better life for his family with the chance to enjoy a variety of outdoor sports.  He and his family have been active in a local church and through the years have been involved in a variety of volunteer projects like Habitat for Humanity.  

Fred decided to get into politics after sitting with families in financial crisis due to medical bills while dealing with terminal illness and end of life realities.   Before the big news about toxic algae and intensified red tide blooms, he was concerned about the ecological changes to Florida’s natural resources and talk in Washington about eliminating Environmental Protection Agency safeguards.  In short, Fred decided to enter politics because he wanted to be a voice, an agent for change.   He had no interested in becoming a “career politician,” he wanted to get in get things done and get back to his family and his career, his life’s mission of helping the less fortunate.

During the campaign, Fred worked hard.  His was a barebones, grassroots effort.  He took pride in not taking any money from donors with big pockets who would later come knocking on his door for favors.  For the most part, he supported his campaign from his own finances.  He rolled up his sleeves to make signs, and tee shirts.  He traveled around his district knocking on doors and holding town meetings to hear the concerns of his constituents.   So why would a nice, qualified guy like Fred not make it past the primaries?   The answer is complicated. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, both primary candidates were well qualified but this is the Twenty-first Century, and it takes a bit more than good old blood, sweat, and tears to win an election.   His opponent, let’s call him Doug, decided to run shortly after newly elected officials began their term in 2017.  Doug then had a six-month head start to get his team together and get his name out there to begin networking and making connections for fundraising efforts.  Doug’s training was in administration and finances.  He had his own company and was skilled in marketing and selling his agenda in social circles.  He had a more integrated web presence including a well-organized and attractive web page.  These things are critical in today’s elections because our society has become reliant on social media for answers and information.   

Doug will need more funds for an intense media campaign to include TV and print ads as he looks toward the general election in November.   His opponent is the incumbent and has personal resources as well as the backing of the NRA and ultra-conservative Political Action Committees which can represent business, labor and a variety of special interests.  This brings me to why I am in favor of campaign reform, especially when it comes to fundraising efforts.

We have seen time and again good candidates, backed by well-meaning grassroots operations, unable to move forward due to insufficient funds.   We have seen special interest groups pour money into campaigns in order to cash in on favors that will benefit a specific group by way of policy changes or government spending.  In 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled that political donations and spending is a form of promoting free speech protected under the First Amendment.  Since then the Federal Election Commission, which regulates campaign money, has repeatedly asked Congress to amend the law.  If you follow politics, you will notice how much of what can be called “dirty politics” is protected under this law. 

I think we need to get back to protecting the rights of our citizens so that anyone who has the ability and the passion can run for office and succeed.   In the meantime, I will back the candidates that support my beliefs.  I don’t believe in extremes of black and white.  I think reality is mostly shades of gray.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I believe that the United States of America is a great country. I believe that the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had the foresight to know that the future would change their reality but the upcoming generations would be entitled to the same “unalienable rights.”  

With that in mind, I intend to volunteer for the candidates of my choice to represent me.  I will continue to encourage everyone to make informed decisions, to look beyond the headlines. Please don’t pass on misinformation just because the heading caught your eye. If something sounds outrageous, go beyond the headlines, look it up in different sites or publications.  Mostly I challenge people to cross over and listen respectfully with an open mind to what “the other side” has to say.   Not trolling for argument’s sake, but to really understand.  You’ll find that the average person on either side wants similar basic things.  Don’t buy into the fear and hysteria LOOK It Up and then share what you’ve learned. 

And there you have it my friend, my political spiel.   On to November! 

Voting- A to Z challenge letter V

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I was struggling with whether or not to use today’s letter “V” to broach the subject of Voting. Elections or anything remotely in the political arena puts me over the edge. It’s definitely an area that I tend to “self-censor” for the benefit of those around me. I noticed a couple of folks did use the word for the AtoZ challenge and so having participated in a rather animated meeting the other night; I decided to jump in and talk about Voting.

Full disclosure – sometimes I want to shake people who show such apathy towards the election process. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s sad to me that people don’t realize what a privilege it is to live in a country where each citizen is entitled to one vote – to have a say in how the country is run and how funds are dispersed for services. Voting does matter!

Originally it was only white, male landowners who were able to vote on the laws of the land. Through centuries of strife and struggles women, Native Americans, former slaves and other foreign-born were granted the all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. This privilege was not handed to us but earned with blood, sweat, and tears -literally. If we the people don’t use our power to have a voice, the elected officials can take it upon themselves to make decisions based on what they think is the best interest of their constituents. We have seen referendums and laws shot down or put away because there hasn’t been enough interest from the general public. We have seen others put in place before anyone could appreciate the detrimental impact on the nation.

Don’t get me wrong; I get it. I happen to like this stuff, and yet I too get tired of the rhetoric. I like the research, the arguments, and hearing the candidates’ plans to make things better. I like studying the ins and outs of new proposals. I don’t listen to just one side. To know my choices, I research both viewpoints as much as can. I have voted for a candidate based on past performance regardless of party affiliation. I have become quite active and passionate about some issues, but there are times when even I’ve had enough and want it over. I think in our era of social media and cable networks, all the input can be overwhelming.

What I hear most from people is that it doesn’t matter because “they” are all the same. “They” are just out for their self-interests, out for the money. Despite what we have seen recently, I can tell you “they” are not all the same. Some have sought office with genuine intention to serve rightfully but then lose their vision fighting the uphill battle caught up in the bureaucracy. I have also seen men and women in office fight for their constituents as if they were fighting for their own family members. I do believe we play a role in not letting our representatives get complacent or stagnant. They need our feedback, our letters, our phone calls and our attendance at town meetings to help them have the pulse on what is going on back home.

I can sit here and tell you that one party is better than another but I ask you instead to love your country enough to take a stand for democracy and vote. Be responsible. I can’t stress enough to look beyond the headlines and the talking points in political ads. Knowledge takes away the fear factor. Don’t just “share” trash on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Research what you are reposting – especially if it sounds absurd or preposterous –even if it is sympathetic to your beliefs. Let’s not have a repeat of false information spread throughout the web as we’ve had in recent years. There are plenty of sites where you can do a quick fact check. Here are a few to get you started: Fact Checker, Politifact, Snopes, The Sunlight Foundation.  There are others but these have been widely recognized to use neutral language to prevent even an appearance of bias.

In closing, I ask you to check your local voting lists. Make sure you are still on the list, and all your vital information is current. Maybe you were dropped for not voting. If you need to register, you can do it online at https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote.
Know your candidates and ballot issues. If you can’t make a meeting with candidates, go to their website to get the details of their platform. If they have been in public service before, you can research their voting record at such sites as https://votesmart.org/; https://www.headcount.org/issues-and-candidates/; https://www.usa.gov/voter-research.
There will be plenty of information online and in handouts all over your city as we get closer to November.

Don’t take for granted what our service men and women have fought for around the world. Don’t just wave your flag on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July – make it count in November. We are part of an already great nation but WE THE PEOPLE need to step-it-up. We can do this!

The Red, White and Blue