The 2004 presidential election looms before us, only 11 months away. As of late November, PollingReport.com reported that President Bush,s approval rating, although climbing, hovers around 55%. This mid-fifties approval rating, one year before the election proves that our nation remains just as divided as it was three years ago in the 2000 presidential election. Three years ago, Florida was won by 537 votes and provided the margin of victory in the Electoral College for President Bush. Likewise, Minnesota went Democratic in that election by 57,900 votes, a 2% margin, and has since elected a
Republican senator and governor. Consider the new balance of Republicans and Democrats in Minnesota. The land of 10,000 has a complete Republican-Democrat balance in its number of US Senators. (1GOP, 1DFL) and Representatives (4 GOP, 4DFL). Minnesota may very well be the state to overtake Florida as the closest race in ‘04’. Thus in a nation that is split nearly 50-50 in opinion polls, one state could swing the ‘04’ election to Bush or his democratic rival. This means that the number of St. Thomas students who vote could provide the margin of victory for either candidate in the state of Minnesota.
One could argue that pegging Minnesota as the state to decide next year’s elections is a bit far-fetched, but there are many other reasons to go out and express your point of view by voting next November. A few hundred votes by ordinary citizens could determine the answers to major questions such as: should the government cut taxes or increase them, keep abortion legal or try to ban it, spend more or less on our national defense, try to privatize social security or leave it as the failing system that it is today, etc. In a democracy, we have the awesome power to elect the politicians who make these world-changing decisions. Thus the student body of St. Thomas potentially has the power to indirectly change what history books say 50 years from now.
Although some students realize the importance of voting, most college students care very little about the election right now. Who would blame them? There are so many better things to do than watch a tow hour democratic presidential debate. Furthermore, those who do decide to watch the debate will never get those two hours of life back, trust me. The average college voter will most likely become interested just a few weeks before the actual election. Because of the great power you possess as an eligible voter, it is vital to be informed about the issues important to you before selecting the candidate of your choice.
Unfortunately, the specific information voters desire about candidates is often hard to find. Newspapers are often biased and may not cover the issues you are concerned about. Listening to the candidates themselves is often confusing, as many of them seem to change their positions on issues daily. Take Democratic presidential candidate, Wesley Clark. In 2001 he campaigned for Bush in Arkansas, and in 2002 he ran for president against him. On Thursday he supports the war in Iraq and on Friday he decides the Iraqi Liberation was a mistake. (Maybe we should just put Saddam back if it was a mistake.) Wesley Clark does not even know where Wesley Clark stands on the issue, so how are we supposed to?
The best way to find the accurate information you need is to go to www.vote-smart.org. There you can find out about any candidates, Democrats or Republicans. The site details their background, voting records, and issue positions. Vote Smart is also due to have a major update very soon and may even detail Wesley’s metronome of issue positions. Check out the Vote Smart website and you can finally be informed about any candidate you choose to vote for.
Voting is not only the best way to express yourself politically, but a privilege we are given by our government. All too many citizens in other countries such as pre-war Iraq or North Korea never got the chance to vote. Americans are fortunate enough to live in a democratic republic where each citizen has the right to express his or her views without fear of persecution. So, inform yourself about issues and candidates (you still have months to do so) and never take your rights for granted.