It’s election eve in America… and for most people who go through their day happily oblivious to the machinations of electoral politics, that largely means that the wall to wall TV and radio ads are about to give it a rest. At least for a little while. With partisanship cranked up to 11, whatever the outcome is will be sure to be met with a new wave of blistering commentary sweeping across social media. That’ll be fun to watch for a day or two, but it’s not the big story.
What I’m most focused on is seeing if our friendly neighborhood pollsters have managed to work the kinks out after being so patently bad at their jobs in 2016. The vote will be what the vote is, of course, but I remain enough of a student of political science to be academically curious about how we’ve gotten so awful at prognosticating those results in advance. I’m even more curious to see if someone has cracked the code on a way to make polling data worth a damn again or if the whole concept is one that’s been hopelessly upended by changes in technology, society, and demographics.
I won’t bother you tonight with anything trite like “it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just go vote,” because I obviously think it’s incredibly important who gets your vote. Instead, I’ll encourage you to educate yourself on the issues important to you. In my mind the only thing worse for democracy than an apathetic electorate is one that goes along with whatever their friends, family, or favorite celebrity say or what the ads tell them to do because they’re too lazy to do their own homework. Elections aren’t a time for blindly following the herd, they’re one of the few moments when standing on your own convictions actually matters.
Tomorrow is Election Day in America. The franchise is the most sacred right in the civic religion of our republic and it would be entirely presumptive for me to tell you how to vote. If you’ve paid any attention at all to the world around you, you already know how to cast your ballot – and if you haven’t been paying any attention it would probably be better for all of us if you just stayed home anyway.
I don’t know if it’s true of everyone, but I haven’t been a straight party line voter since my very first election. To my eyes the world is too subtly shaded for one size to fit all – especially true when my moderate to liberal views on many social issues careen wildly into my conservative opinions on fiscal discipline and national defense. I do my best to find the candidate who most closely reflects these views – although with the incredible shrinking pool of moderate voices in the contemporary political discussion they’re becoming more difficult to find.
I should admit that I don’t have a great track record of picking electoral winners, but often as not I’ve wished I could take some of those votes for the “winning” team back after the fact. When the dust clears from Election 2014 if all I can say is “I learned all I could and voted my conscience,” I’ll consider the thing well done.
When it comes to deciding who has earned my vote, I only really have one litmus test: Am I better off – are the state and nation better off – now than during the last election cycle. If I’m not – if we’re not – I’m obligated to vote against the incumbent or the party that has led us down that path. By most measures that are important to me – personal liberty, security, financial stability – I find we’re less well off as a whole.
Tonight I’ve locked in my final selections – and filled in my sample ballot just to be sure I don’t forget which way I’m voting on the more esoteric state constitutional and county charter issues. From my perch and from my perspective of what’s good (or perhaps least objectionable) for the country and my home state, this Independent is running to the right across the board tomorrow – not because I agree with everything the Republican candidates say or what’s in the state and national party platform, but because I fundamentally disagree with so much of what I’ve heard from the Democratic candidates this year. In essence, my vote is cast in defiance of Maryland’s traditional far left tendencies. I can only hope millions more follow suit.