| Democracy For Sale?
by Erica Miller, President of Democracy Matters
(Democracy Matters is a non-partisan campaign finance reform group)
I vote. I vote because I know that a mere 18% of my peers ages 18 to 24 voted in 2000, a number that has decreased with each election. Is it any wonder that social security and prescription drugs are campaign rhetoric staples when seniors faithfully turnout to the polls every election? Starting with this election, we have the chance to be taken seriously as a generation. This election is about more than George W. Bush or John Kerry. It is not about being a Republican or a Democrat. It’s about a call for change.
Bush Deserves Four More Years
The apathy of our generation seems well deserved, given how candidates are blatantly auctioned off to the highest bidder, which subverts the very principals of democracy. But inaction will hardly change this and students are beginning to recognize this. It is our generation that has the chance to change this cynicism, to change the way our leaders are elected, and to reclaim our constitutional right by instituting clean elections.
Arizona and Maine have both adopted clean money systems that allow candidates to voluntarily agree to limit their expenditures and in return, they receive public funding. The candidate shows his or her base of support by collecting a designated number of five dollar donations (equivalent to the cost of an Ann Arbor parking ticket). The results are simple: candidates spend more time meeting their constituents, and less time courting special interests and corporations at swanky, black-tie events. This is what democracy truly should be about. Clean money systems create a greater diversity of candidates, not the traditional “good ol’ boys,” millionaire club (e.g. Senator Joe Corzine (D-NJ) who spent $60 million of his own money in his 2000 election campaign). Arizona and Maine have seen dramatic results with 53% of all of their elected state officials running on “clean” platforms in 2002, including Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. More importantly, clean elections help Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, providing real, viable alternatives to incumbents.
More importantly, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of change for every issue. Whether it is the environment, civil rights, increasing cable bills, college tuition, or women’s rights, candidates are more accountable and responsive to their constituents. Special interests, corporations, and millionaires are not representative of the majority of Americans, so why then do we allow them to run the United States Government? It is doubtful that Bill Gates or the McDonald’s Corporation has the same set of values as the average college student. Campaign finance reform is a catch-all strategy, creating a basis for meaningful citizen participation, which was the true intention of the Founding Fathers.
I vote. I vote for the future. Our generation is the swing vote in this election. If we turn out to the polls, we can drastically sway the direction of this election and become a class of citizens that candidates sincerely try to court. Yet, record registration rates alone will not produce results, and change cannot occur if we just sit idly by, complacent with a broken system. Vote or Die, Rock the Vote, Vote for Change, just vote.
by Allison Jacobs, Chair, College Republicans
The media repeats over and over again how important the election of 2004 will be. Groups from the far left to the far right and anywhere in between are registering more voters than any past elections. More people are turning out for events, more youth become actively involved everyday, and more citizens have tuned in to the presidential debates. What makes this election so important? Why are the stakes so high? I am turning out to vote, and I hope that you plan to as well.
The tragedies of September 11 th changed the plan of action and the priorities of our country. The most important issues of this year’s election surround how our country reacted to September 11 th, the subsequent changes in security at home and abroad, and the discussion of the economic policies post-9/11. With our world becoming more global, reactions to international economic policies and foreign affairs are in the forefront. Finally, this year’s election will greatly affect the interpretation of constitutional roles. A recent struggle has ensued regarding judicial activism and the president-elect will have a substantial influence in picking Justices for the next Supreme Court. Voting in this year’s election will allow you to dictate our nation’s global view and our domestic policy. We must vote for a strong, decisive leader to ensure that the United States remains a respected leader in the world and a home to liberty and compassion.
President Bush is the man for the job. Not only am I voting for Bush because of his record and his plan for progress over the next four years, but I am also voting for him because Senator Kerry has very different opinions on how to handle the most important issues of this election. I want to ensure that Kerry is not able to carry his failed Senate record into the Oval Office.
President Bush had a clear, decisive reaction to September 11 th. He immediately looked to what was wrong in our intelligence community and created a department to deal with security failures. The Department of Homeland Security was created in an effort to allow the various segments of the intelligence community to communicate with one another. On the other hand, John Kerry has continued to vote for cuts in defense spending throughout his twenty years in the Senate.
Security from terror abroad is an important issue in this election. In an effort to protect our citizens against rogue states and to protect human life against ruthless governments, President Bush acted to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan and to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein. Again, John Kerry has continued to change positions regarding Iraq. He voted to give the President authorization for war, and then voted against funding our troops in the subsequent endeavor.
Following the September 11 th recession, our President passed a tax cut to jump start the economy. Since enactment of the tax cuts, the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4% and there have been 1.9 million new jobs created in the past thirteen months. John Kerry is campaigning on raising taxes to those who make over two hundred thousand dollars a year—substantially hindering small businesses who create jobs for our nations citizens.
Finally, a substantial talking point of this year’s election has been the nominating of Supreme Court Justices. President Bush has no “checklist” of requisite beliefs for judicial nominations, which John Kerry does. The President has one requirement: that the nominees respect the original intent of the Constitution and interpret it properly. It is essential to allow the legislative branch, which is representative of the people, to make laws—not the courts.
| Why Local Elections Matter
Rob Haug, UM Student Greens
When initially posed with the question “Why are you voting?” my mind first moved towards the impending presidential elections. The presidency may be where the most attention has been placed and it may be the election that most people think of first when the question of voting arises. However, it is certainly not the only political race that we will be voting in come November 2nd. Election Day will see people across the country casting their votes for senators and representatives, mayors and council members, sheriffs and other local officials. With the vast number of elections that hang in the balance this fall, why is it that the only thing people seem to care about is the presidency? Maybe it’s because people don’t realize the impact that local politics have on their own lives or because people don’t realize the kind of influence they can have on local government.
The Right Qualities of Leadership
Local government has the power to influence our lives in very real ways. If you’re sick of getting parking tickets, it’s the city you’ve got a beef with. If you’re hip to Ann Arbor’s relaxed pot laws, it’s city council you can thank. Local government makes decisions regarding issues like development, education, and police/fire services, which have a major impact on our lives and the personality of our community. These issues may not gain as much public attention or debate as abortion or war, but they are issues that do carry important consequences for everyone and it is important that you take the time to learn more about what is happening in your own city and what you can do to better your community.
Certain national issues also find their way into the realm of local government. When the enforcement of the Patriot Act became a hot button topic across the nation, it was with local governments that people were able to take an immediate, direct stand for or against it and help to decide how it would be enforced and how it would influence their lives. When the “No Child Left Behind” policy became the top education issue, it was local school boards that decided how this national policy would be implemented in their schools.
It is through the interest and input of the city’s citizens that these issues get raised, debated, and resolved in local governments. After all, when was the last time you had the opportunity to speak directly to a meeting of Congress or the President’s Cabinet? You have the opportunity to make your viewpoints heard at every meeting of a city council. And if you want to meet with your councilperson one on one and let them know what you think the council should be doing to better this city, it’s a short walk down to city hall. When it comes to Election Day, it is in local elections that your vote carries the most weight. While the slim margins in the last presidential election caught a lot of attention, equally divided margins decide almost every local election. For some off-year or irregularly scheduled elections, a single vote can amount to as much as a percentage point for a higher race. What this means is that with a concerted effort to register, motivate, and educate people to vote in local elections, those groups whose voices seem to get lost in massive national elections—including minor parties like the Greens—can be heard loud and clear at the local level.
The powers-that-be know exactly what kind of effect students could have, and have had in the past, on local elections. That’s one of the reasons why state legislation has made it so difficult for students to vote in the communities they live in for most of the year. If you’ve found the process of registering to vote, gaining the right to vote in Ann Arbor, or receiving an absentee ballot for the community in which you are registered in difficult or frustrating, you need to know it is through the state government that this can be changed for the better. Therefore, state government begins on the local level. In a city whose population is arguably one-third students, why is there no student representation on the city council? If students would organize around a candidate, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a student on the council.
Finally, it is through local politics that new ideas can most easily be introduced into the political discussion. Decisions made today by local governments can grow into policy instituted by the federal government in the future. Those of you who want to support minor parties, like the Greens, but are worried about the effect it might have on the presidential election should be willing to vote for those parties for local and state government and should support legislation and petition drives to institute changes like Instant Run-Off Voting (see www.a2irv.org for more info), which will make the electoral process more open to the presence of other parties. Your vote is up to you, so take the initiative to make your community the best it can be and get involved in local politics!
by Ryan Werder
A New York Times Op-Ed on October 23 rd discussed why this presidential race remains so close. With so many changes since the last election, why is the nation as split as it was four years ago? The columnist, David Brooks, suggested that the mind of the nation is divided between choosing between two types of leaders. One option is a leader who has an unfailing desire to “stay the course.” The other option is a leader who sees nuances, weighs individual decisions, and deliberates on the consequences of his actions.
Brooks’ view of the situation gave me the perspective I needed to articulate why Kerry is the ideal candidate for our country. Bush’s administration has pushed us closer and closer to a reality in which we will stand isolated in a world which hates and fears us. Perseverance is often an admirable trait, but not when it involves staying the wrong course. I want a leader who is willing to reexamine already laid plans. If a flip-flopper is a man who can adapt to ever-changing situations, then I dream of a government full of flip-floppers.
The United States’ current policy is disastrous. It pushes us away from progressive treaties such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Kyoto Protocol. Bush argues that the ICC would be able to try our soldiers and that the Kyoto Protocol would hurt our businesses. In reality, the ICC would have been able to try the Abu Gharib torturers, hopefully serving justice equivalent to what they deserve and not the velvet glove they received at the court martial. The European nations’ businesses who have adopted the Kyoto Protocol have created a greener and more productive industrial sector. They’ve also been able to create a multi-billion dollar industry resulting from Kyoto involving “clean-air credits.” The taxes on those credits would be awfully helpful to our deficit-laden “war economy” right now. But Bush is content to stay the course.
For those who praise a stalwart politician for unbending principles, George W. Bush is clearly your candidate. However, for all of those who admire a man who will examine and reexamine all options: John Kerry is your candidate. This election is not only a turning point for the United States’ future in terms of foreign policy, but also in terms of the qualities which we choose to honor. President Bush represents leadership based on faith. John Kerry represents leadership based on intelligence. These are two men with distinct policy ideas and distinct qualities of leadership. With the future of the United States the line, vote for a leader who governs with fierce intelligence and not a man who will lead us blindly along this catastrophic path with nothing but empty faith.