By Jim Kempton
More than 150 years ago, American author Ambrose Bierce wrote a scathing but hilarious political satire titled The Devil’s Dictionary. In it, he defined the word “vote” as: “the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.”
Voters often buy right in: 2008 challenger was bringing hope and change and told us that what took 12 years to create would get fixed in four. Now we are being told by the new challenger that if we just elect him all the problems in the Middle East will go away and 12 million jobs will leap back automatically from China—because Beijing will be afraid of our tough new leader.
Thomas Jefferson was adamant that to have a republican form of democratic governance like America’s, we would need to have a well-informed, educated populace. Unfortunately, most voters have either already made up their minds or are paying practically no attention to anything but the TV ads. This does not bode well for us. As Winston Churchill once remarked, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
Happily, San Clemente’s political field is much better. We have a slew of smart, educated, moderate, dedicated candidates who have not stooped to the name-calling of the national campaigns. Of course local politics has its own divisive flavors—in our town’s case the name calling was their own; a disingenuous effort to put two Bob Bakers on the ballot didn’t fool anybody. As one of the silliest shenanigans in local history it was mercifully eliminated early.
Interestingly, city officials whose positions I disagree with most frequently are often the ones I most respect for their personal integrity and consistency. Sometimes making decisions best for San Clemente is better than one made out of political expediency. And just because a candidate charms you doesn’t mean he’s going to support every issue you want. These well-qualified contenders have positions on many matters that may or may not agree with yours. But you need to know what they think to decide. More importantly, you need to first know what you think.
So read up on the platforms and promises—and consider what it means for you, your community and our nation. Vote—but don’t assume the next President (incumbent or challenger) will turn the whole world around tomorrow. Likewise, just because you like a local candidate don’t assume he will make the decisions you prefer. You have to know the issues. Because when it comes to voting, the enemy isn’t conservatives. The enemy isn’t liberals. The enemy is ignorance.
Jim Kempton is an armchair political historian who describes himself as a middle of the road Demepublican. In this divisive, polarized era, that either makes him a communist or a fascist depending on your party preference.