Vote: It's your responsibility
By SHEILA STOLL
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000
We are on the verge of electing a new president. I just wish I could feel that either one of these guys is new. I also wish I could work up some enthusiasm for "compassionate conservatism" or "lock boxes," both of which are intended to guarantee my security in my rapidly declining years.
Both these guys are younger than some of my sweaters, but they want me to believe that they know what's best for people of my advanced age. George W. Bush hopes that young folks are more clever than they probably are: He wants them to invest some of their own Social Security in the stock market to build a nest egg for their golden years. I think that means that if they're not all that smart, or if (gasp) the stock market doesn't do well, the government won't be responsible for their youthful stupidity. It's consistent. He doesn't seem to bear much responsibility for his youthful follies.
Al Gore loves this "lock box" approach to Social Security. Lock it up and throw away the key. So what if the burgeoning bureaucracy makes it impossible to open that box when it's your turn?
Both know what it is to be old and not rich. (Yeah, right!) I'm trying to picture Bush standing in line at the Social Security office trying to explain that his youthful investments in dot-com IPOs that went bust weren't his fault. Can you see an aging Gore ripping out what's left of his hair because the regulations governing his Social Security are so complex and inaccessible that he needs a lawyer to fill out all the forms? (Try to imagine he can't afford one.)
Do any of us believe that either of these guys will ever depend on that monthly check?
They have different ideas about what it will take to save the planet and its population. I see Bush sending cases of 30 SPF sunscreen to southern Chileans to protect them from the hole in the ozone layer. (That also doubles as foreign policy if Colin Powell agrees.) I see Gore recounting how he founded the Sierra Club along with John Muir.
Our republic was founded on the notion that an informed, free population will elect people smart enough and honest enough to do what's right. One of our biggest problems is that not enough of us exercise that right. As a nation, we view political campaigns as entertainment.
I know it's hard to take these guys seriously, but there are other offices and issues to be decided in every election. A lot of people with specific local or social agendas hope we all will just keep wiping away the tears of laughter and not vote at all. If most of us stay home, only zealots will go to the polls: They get to cast all the deciding votes.
I'm talking responsibility here. The fact is you get what you allow to happen. I'm assuming that, since you're reading this, you've already read the rest of the paper. You know who's running for what locally and in the state. You've read the initiatives and propositions. You've probably also read the irate letters to the editor. Maybe you even wrote one of them.
You're informed, and you do have responsibility for the outcome. (People in Yugoslavia have taken their responsibilities seriously, and they didn't get to be entertained by TV debates.) There is every chance that if we ignore this responsibility, this right, a time will come when we have to fight for itagain.
I always vote, so I can stand here on my soapbox and act superior. I'm a political junkie from way, way back. My mother and I were both delegates to national conventions, for different parties, 30 years apart, so I come by it naturally.
I like both the vice presidential candidates better than either of the presidential candidates.
The right to vote about anything meaningful can be preserved only if people, folks like you and me, make the effort to be heard. The longer we stay out of the process, the more the process will be corrupted. The institutions will be corrupted, and our right to control our lives and destinies will disappear.
I'll be watching election night. My keenest interest will be in how many of us participate. You have a vote. Use it or lose it.
- Write to Sheila Stoll at PMB 309, 7404 E Chaparral Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.
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