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Here in the real world

By By Craig Ziemba / guest columnist
Oct. 19, 2003
Coming down the homestretch to the November elections, I've had some interesting conversations with friends and neighbors over whom to vote for and why. As usual, the mood of voters ranges anywhere from apathy to amusement, from cynicism to resignation. In an environment where an incumbent lowers the bar of discourse by accusing his challenger of trying to "poison our children," it's no wonder.
Voters want to be idealistic about democracy. We long for leaders who share our values, have the courage to stand for what we believe and in whom we have a high degree of confidence.
The problem, however, is that few politicians meet such criteria. Some candidates not only say the right things but also seem to speak with heartfelt conviction. (That was my impression of Haley Barbour speaking on the issue of abortion at the pro-life fund-raiser last week).
But most politicians in both parties appear to be more concerned with the acquisition and preservation of personal power than they are in advancing the principles that motivate their grass roots folks to get out the vote.
Ideal world
In an ideal world, every ballot cast would be for someone the voter believes in. But here in the real world, we often are forced to pick from a rather mediocre field of candidates and are confronted with the fact that in many races, voting isn't always cut and dry. How then do you stay true to yourself when you have to decide between the lesser of two evils?
Not voting is not an acceptable option. At times democracy may be ugly, but the alternatives are infinitely worse.
Those who boycott elections abdicate their responsibility as Americans and double the power of those who are willing to participate in the process. Becoming too idealistic or pious to make the tough choices ensures only that someone else will decide the future of your community.
Waiting for a perfect candidate is like waiting for a perfect forecast to go camping. A dad could disappoint the kids every weekend, or he could pack up the family and go for it. It's better to get wet trying. In races where the choice is the lesser of two evils, sometimes it's necessary to make that choice. If nothing else, voters should support the candidate whose party platform is most closely aligned with their principles. That particular politician may not impress you, but at least in some small way you can express yourself on behalf of what his party ostensibly stands for.
Believers in limited government and the sanctity of human life should vote Republican. Those who desire for government to take a larger, more active role in health care, housing and education and believe that abortion should be a guaranteed right should vote Democrat.
Other options
Occasionally, though, I'll vote for a write-in or third party candidate that has no chance of winning. A conscientious vote is never a wasted vote, but I'm afraid that by withdrawing from the two party system, I unwittingly helped elect candidates who are far worse than the options my party offered.
Rather than watching from the sidelines, those who care deeply about the future of our society should roll up our sleeves, join the democratic process and try to reform our political parties. If we deem that course of action to be too difficult and walk away from the conflict, we will get the government we deserve and have only ourselves to blame.
Craig Ziemba is a pilot who lives in Meridian. His book, Boondoggle, is available at Meridian Bible Bookstores.