Saturday, March 1, 2014

Voting, your responsibility and mine

March 1, 2014

I attended a meeting earlier in the week, sponsored by people involved in the local Democratic Party, most of whom I have known for years.  The topic to be discussed was:  Income Equality and the Importance of a Living Wage.  There were three speakers; one, a retired Pastor who had spent many years in the Appalachians, whose ministry was concerned with caring for people in need and most of us who have studied American history are aware of the fact that most of those people - if they could even find a job, were asked to support a growing family with little more than a minimum wage.  The other two speakers were engaged in Union activities, one involved with home care, sanitation and public employees and the other, involved in college campus workers.

All three spoke well of their efforts and the attendees were invited to respond.  Then, the fun began.

One of the problems with meetings like this, if the activity is not well plannedt in advance, chaos is the probable result.  A dozen people rose to offer their opinion, but without specific guidance, we were offered  twelve different opinions of close to twelve different situations.  The only real positive result of the meeting was the general opinion, it was a good meeting and we needed to have more like it.

In my opinion, the case for an increase in the minimum - or living wage, was lost in the confusion.

That saddens me as we do need an intelligent discourse on the subject.  As it is, our nation is divided; the Democrats demanding an increase and the Republican staunchly opposed to it.  Thus we are led to believe, nothing will be accomplished.

We seem to forget that there was a day when every citizen was encouraged to exercise his or her most solemn duty - that is, to vote, in every election.   As a child, growing up in Michigan in a farming area, I vividly recall my family and all of our neighbors stopping what they were doing to go and vote even when that often meant standing in line at the polling office.  I joined the Air Force at age 17 and so it was that I was not even eligible to vote until I was 21 and I had to wait two years to vote in a national election.  And I have never missed an opportunity in the years that followed, regardless of the issues.

In 1955, a good friend encouraged me to get involved in the Senatorial race in Georgia, where two candidates were widely known throughout the area.  My natural response was to support the incumbent, Walter George, and was chosen to become part of the statewide organization, Collegians for George. It was great fun, attending speeches, applauding loudly and encouraging the folks who were not seated to be sure and support the candidate who had spent a life time supporting them.  It was exciting.

Then another friend offered to take me to a Talmadge rally, George's opponent.  I had heard a lot about him as his father had been a controversial Governor of Georgia and so I was curious to hear what he was saying.  After the speech, one of his aides sought me out and told me that Talmadge wanted me to ride back to Atlanta with him.  I must say, I was overwhelmed, considering the fact that I was a "Yankee" in the eyes of many, so I was curious as well.  We were not out of town before I knew that he knew a lot about me and he wanted me to do something for him.  There are 159 counties in the State of Georgia and he wanted me to pick up reports from a number of those counties.  Could I do it?  I would be paid well for my efforts - and I was.  He told me he intended that the campaign would carry the vote in every one of those counties.  And he did.

I learned a lot about politics in those days, starting with the fact you do not offer to run for an elected office if you do not have the resources.  Of course, that meant money and if you did not have it or could not raise it, you were not a viable candidate.   (That also meant, if the voter does not know where the candidate has raised the money - and campaigns take a lot of money, then he or she is not worthy of your vote.)  Next, you need an organization of dedicated people.  By dedicated, it should mean that as a prime supporter. your family, friends and neighbors will all be voting for your candidate.  Then, you need a map of every square mile of your district and a marker that will eventually indicate that every house in that district has been contacted and you know, precisely, how they intend to vote.  Finally, if you do not know whether or not you will be elected, two weeks before the election, you can get your
concession speech ready.

Many people tend to believe that elections have a "romantic" flavor, they are exciting, challenging and suspenseful.  They are none of these things.  Essentially, they are hard work by many people and if they really know what they are doing, they are prepared to lose.

That was yesteryear in practice.  Today, they rely on huge sums of money to support a candidate and those involved in the campaign are not really involved.  They are asked to phone people they do not know and somehow, the campaign managers believe they are making an effort.  To be realistic, the only effort involves spending lots of money and, in the process, the voters who care are left out.

It is not democracy.  At best, it is dollarocracy.

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