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Time to Make It Right
November 2, 2002
Mike Shannon

You want to hear something scary? I don't mean Hollywood or storybook scary; I mean the kind of scary where real bad things happen to real people. The Associated Press released a story on Halloween that claims that all their research and inside sources point to voter turnout for Tuesday's election being the lowest for any midterm election since 1942. To be specific, they believe that the percentage of voting age Americans who participate in this election may be as low as one third. Meaning a full two thirds of the American adult population has apparently decided that there is nothing important or vital at stake in this election. What planet are these people living on?

It would be next to impossible to list all the consequences of what is at stake in this election. Even a partial list, ranging from the immediate; control of the Senate, shifting of the House of Representatives back to Democratic hands, a counterweight to Republican domination of the Federal government, to the long-term; make up of the Federal judiciary, implementation of further tax cuts that may bankrupt the future of our economy as well as government, continuation of imperial overstretch, etc etc. shows the enormous level of importance in this election.

Here in my adopted home state of Florida we have a campaign pitting two men that is a microcosm of what is at stake. It is a contest that should be galvanizing the interest of every man and woman in the state as well as all Americans. We have an opportunity to select a new governor; Bill McBride, a man with a proven track record of impeccable leadership skill and integrity, a man who will revitalize the populist and progressive programs initiated by the late great Lawton Chiles, a man who will restore the faith of the common man that they have an advocate in the Governor's mansion. We also have an opportunity to rid ourselves of Jeb Bush; who is just as shortsighted, just as beholden to the privileged few and just as arrogant in his belief that power is a family birthright as his thoroughly misguided brother in Washington. If Mr McBride fails in his mission to show the Bush family that Florida/America wants a better way due to a small voter turnout it will be far more than a missed opportunity, it will be a shameful act of civic ineptitude.

The locations, the faces and the circumstances may be different but the same holds true for races from the Olympic Penisula to Key West. Each is crucially important to the future of this nation and none may be taken for granted.

In these troubled times we live in we hear an awful lot of talk about how our freedoms need to be defended from those who wish us ill. As true as that may be, the most insidious threats to the strength and lasting success of a democratic society is the cynicism, complacency and or the intellectual solvency of its people.

For a democracy to work it takes work. It is not nearly enough to wrap oneself in the flag and sing Lee Greenwood songs and have the unmitigated gall to criticize the patriotism of those who don't. For a democratic system to function at its most efficient and effective level possible -- even a representative democracy such as ours -- it is of paramount importance that first, the individual citizens takes the time and makes the effort to be fully informed of the issues at hand. Secondly, to see past the image enhancing nonsense and try to get to know the true nature of the capabilities of the people who think highly enough of themselves to believe that they are equal to the task of managing our affairs to the benefit of the common good.

And of course, if you fail to take it the distance and vote on election day, then all the former is moot.

If you have taken the time to read this piece you are obviously a person who will do what is your responsibility as a citizen and let your voice be heard. But you need to do more than that; is imperative that you tell each and every person you know to do the right thing and vote for the collective good cannot be served with collective participation.

And in the aftermath of this election, if someone starts to complain to you about anything involving the political process, ask them one simple question, "Did you vote?" If they hesitate to answer, that likely means only one thing: they didn't. They had their chance and they blew it.

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