Do you understand your vote?
We’re one week away from the mid-term elections. I appreciate you’ve been bombarded with ads for months, and the frequency and fervor have only heightened in these closing weeks. If you live in a state with a pivotal Senate race, such as Ohio or Pennsylvania, the din seems even louder.
Why? There are two primary reasons that have little or nothing to do with political ideology.
- The operatives who actually run campaigns want to win in order to be hired again in future campaigns. Winning by the slimmest margin is still a win. Campaigns are organized and funded to deliver a coherent and simple message such that voters will associate a candidate’s name with a positive feeling or a perceived solution that matters to that voter. In the orchestrated messaging across all channels of communication including TV, print, and, perhaps more importantly, all-digital, we are witnessing the culmination of a highly focused effort to grab voters’ attention.
- Voters are quite lazy about how and where they get their news. I have continued the practice of checking in with client leadership teams about where they get their news when I deliver strategy facilitation. The sources are often concentrated toward an ideological source or are so weak as to not be credible sources. It’s a microcosm of a broader problem. Voters are insufficiently informed to fully participate in our democratic process.
The required engagement by voters
The concept of representative democracy requires some level of engagement by the voters. The Founders understood this, and it’s a prime reason we have a public education system at some level. Academics recognize a regenerative quality of representation in that some issues are more able to move a voter’s level of interest and therefore increase participation in the process.
We live in a time where information has never been more available, yet we often don’t reach for it with the intent to inform. Too often, our sources of news are likely just filling a void in our schedule as we reach for our phones and scroll through alerts and snippets. Many of us lack context and depth of understanding of multiple and often conflicting issues.
At the top, I wrote we have one week left. Many have already cast a vote through an absentee process. But for those who have not yet voted and intend to vote in person, make a little time for some personal reflection about your level of knowledge and level of understanding of the candidates. For those who align with a specific party, I encourage you to evaluate your true understanding of why that may be.
I used to wonder; how could a grown adult change political party alignment later in life. With the events of the last few presidencies, I no longer wonder that. Parties change. For the record, I am registered as Independent because I recognize I don’t fit into a specific ideological mode.
My bottom line? Vote with thoughtfulness after challenging your own beliefs of the “why“ behind your vote.