With all the depressing political news this year, probably even more people won't vote this fall in the US elections. I can understand people's alienation from the system. As Michael Moore wrote in Downsize This!:
"Instead, the majority of Americans have decided that the best statement they can make is no statement at all. In the 1994 election, more than 60 percent of all voting-age Americans - 118,535,278 people, or the equivalent of the voting-age population of 42 states - chose to stay home and not participate. They did so not because they are apathetic or ignorant or careless. They didn't vote because they have had their fill of it. The candidates and the two political parties no longer have anything to say to the citizens of this country. The Democrats and Republicans are so much alike, obediently supporting the very system that has brought ruin to so many families, that the average American couldn't care less what any of them have to say. They know that voting will not improve their lives, not one single bit.
It is significant to note that, in the 1992 presidential election, nearly 20 percent of those who did vote actually took the time to drive to the polls and stand in line to cast their ballot for a man most of them knew was a certified fruitcake - Ross Perot. That's how intense the level of anger is in this country. Millions threw away their vote simply because they thought it would send a message! Perot, as nutty as he is, was saying a lot of the things that no one else was saying about the American worker - a real irony considering the billions he owns and the fact that his Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton (raised by a single mother, at times impoverished), said little or nothing."
People often don't vote because they don't think it will have an impact. But not voting has consequences. The reason the Republicans won in 1994 was not because of a change in public opinion, but because fewer and different people voted than in 1996. The Republicans were motivated to vote (as one political consultant said at the time, "I wouldn't want to get between the polling both and a Rush Limbaugh listener on election day"). And it will have consequences this year. Campaign finance reform failed in the Senate by just a few votes and it upheld Clinton's veto of a ban on late term abortions by just three votes (two of those votes, Barbara Boxer in California and Carol Mosley-Braun in Illinois are considered among the most vulnerable candidates).
Register to vote and go to the polls on election day (Oct. 4th or 5th is the last day to register in many states. Though in Wisconson you can register on election day - something that should be possible in every state. Rock the Vote has a page with deadlines and details on how to register). If there is a candidate or issue you care about, get involved in a campaign.
Participate in Web White and Blue, an online public service campaign for easy access to 1998 election information. Put their logo on your site (the campaign kicks off Oct. 7, but you can participate any time before the election). Do your own page on the elections.
Watch Frontline this week (it airs on most PBS stations Tuesday, Oct. 6). Washington's Other Scandal takes a hard look at campaign financing in the 96 election among both Republicans and Democrats and the need for reform. The show includes tapes of Clinton participating in campaign strategy sessions and those famous White House coffees. If you can't watch the show, bookmark the site - there will be a lot more information there Tuesday evening (I've worked on Frontlines in the past, but had nothing to do with this one. I have seen all the shows Frontline has done on campaign financing, and they've been excellent). And take a look at the Center For Public Integrity's Buying of the Congress site. Watch The 30 second candidate which also airs Tuesday on most PBS stations and visit their web site. Both programs may be repeated on some PBS stations. Also ask your station to run them again in early November.
Talk about these and other issues online and to your friends, neighbors, people you meet on the street. And again, vote.