One hot button topic I have tended to stay away from is politics. I always considered this a personal matter, despite the fact that selecting our leaders has a huge bearing on the future direction of our country and potentially having a significant impact on our lives. Recently, it has been unavoidable being drawn into the public square where the current presidential race is being fought. I have been paying closer attention than usual – from the entertaining early Republican Party debates, to the current/late stages of a highly contested Democrat Party nomination.
Through it all, I have been trying to discern the ideas presented by the current presidential candidates from the rhetoric and noise. I believe that most of us are trying to do the same.
My first experience of what made the USA tick was after being selected as a high school exchange student from South Africa and after arriving in the winter of ’79 to the small town of Hampton in the state of Iowa. I experienced a sense of optimism among the people, and believed that the despite the problems and issues facing the United States, its “can do” citizens would stand up and vote for leaders who would ultimately do the “right thing”. In 1993, after continuing my prost graduate education and changing my immigration visa to a “Green Card” allowing me to work and pay taxes, I earned the right to become a US Citizen.
During the swearing in ceremony in San Diego, the keynote speaker was a local community leader originally from Portugal. I remember him vividly and his encouraging words for us to do our civic duty and vote. After the ceremony, at the back of the auditorium were booths where we could learn about ways to become involved. In order to sign up to vote, one had to become a member of either of the two major parties. So, I signed up as a democrat. I remained registered to vote as a democrat for several years, until I change my affiliation to “no party affiliation”.
I have voted in every election since becoming a citizen.
What’s important to me when deciding which candidate to support, are their ideas, what they stand for and not which political party they represent. Among other things, I ask myself: Do they have integrity? Do they have experience? How will their ideas translate into policies that affect my life, and wellbeing, as well as those of my loved ones? What direction will they want to take the country and how will it affect its standing in the world?
In his political philosophy book entitled Capitalism and Freedom, influential economist and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman stated: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”
Today, as I view the diverse political landscape, I am encouraged that the vigor and volume of the debate is engaging voters of all ages to pay attention to their future and that of our country. Cutting through the noise maybe difficult. It is well known that negative campaigning using tactics of fear and divisiveness are effective with many people who do not take the time to become informed.
So, whose message will resonate most with you: the democratic socialist ideas presented by Bernie Sanders, the populist nativism presented by newly minted politician Donald Trump, the continuation of the status quo offered by Hillary Clinton, the limited role of government offered by Gary Johnson (who you will be hearing more about in the weeks to come), or some other even lesser known candidate?
The right to vote and the freedom to choose is at the root of what makes America great. I encourage you to put fear aside, research the issues advocated by the candidates. Decide on the issues and ideas dearest to you and then vote.
The title of this article is the name of a song by Leonard Cohen. Please click on the link below to view a video of a performance of “Democracy is coming to the USA” recorded live in London.
Enjoy! Please let me know what you think.