For the past 236 years, men and women have been sacrificing their lives, so that we Americans can enjoy the benefits of a free society. Patriots fought bravely for our right to assemble, to pursue religious beliefs, to bear arms and to vote. Today, we hear stories of people worldwide who are voting for the first time, usually in countries that have overthrown a dictatorship.
Sadly, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we take the right to vote for granted. We might vote, if we think it is an interesting race. We might vote, if it is not too much of an inconvenience. We might vote, if we happen to remember that it is Election Day.
This is inexcusable! Why do so many Americans consider election races too boring, too bothersome or not worth remembering at all? The cynical view is, perhaps it is for the best. People this disengaged would surely not be informed voters. They couldn’t be troubled to study the issues and determine candidates’ views. So if they were to show up at the polls, their votes would reflect media-fed bias. Ironically, these same nonvoters are quick to complain about “irresponsible” elected officials.
Last week, incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar and his challenger, Indiana Treasurer of State Richard Mourdock, squared off in the only debate scheduled for the primary season. The members of IBA’s Government Relations Team and I were glued to our television sets to witness this event, and we were in text communication with each other and with Mr. Mourdock shortly afterward.
The next day, I asked more than 30 people if they had watched the debate. Some were bankers, some were businesspeople, some were members of my staff—all have a vested interest in the upcoming election. Out of this pool of professionals, only two had seen part of the televised debate, and one had listened on the radio. I was astonished. Cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of the Pogo comic strip, said it best: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” This epithet, originally a jab at McCarthyism circa 1953, still rings true today.
A democratic form of government needs active participants in order to work. We who enjoy freedom are obliged to those who died for it. In order for us to pass on this legacy to our children and their children, we must be today’s caretakers. So please be informed. Study the issues. Study the candidates. And vote!