Who are you voting for?

I don’t care who you are voting for, but thought it was a catchy title for this post. It’s election season after all. I do care about your why though. Have you thought about the reasons you vote for a specific candidate?

We are less than a month away from our general election. I can’t wait for that day. Social media will be lit up with pictures of “I Voted 2020” stickers plastered front and center on t-shirts. I’m trying really hard not to go down a rabbit hole on discussing why so many feel compelled to tell the world they voted. Moving on.

So why do you vote the way you do? It may be very simple. You identify as a Democrat, so you vote Democrat. You believe the Democratic party shares your beliefs as it relates to policy issues. The assumption here is that you understand what the party believes in and the individuals elected will continue to push those policies forward.

It could be far more complex though. Maybe your values don’t align closely enough with a single party. What do you do then? It seems like most Americans would fall into this camp. We certainly have a strong tendency in this country to align with a tribe, but I find it hard to believe that most of us can find a tribe with something as complex as politics. Politics span the idea continuum – from the economy to healthcare to foreign policy and everything in between. I certainly fall into the camp of neither party aligning closely enough with the majority of the policies I believe in. That feels ok to me, it feels right. It feels right because most things in life are grey, so why would something as complex as politics be different? There is very little that is truly black and white. I’d argue that if you think something is black and white then you haven’t thought hard enough on it.

I’m sorry, but this post isn’t going to enlighten you or help you make any political decisions. This post is meant to shed light (again) on the environment we live in that makes gathering information and making educated decisions very difficult. This post is meant to drive you to want to gather as much information as possible before you vote. To think critically about why you are choosing candidate A versus candidate B.

Election season is in full go mode. We witnessed an amazing debate last week (yes that is sarcasm). I think it is intellectually dishonest to call these things debates anyway. Even when they are under control, they are not structured in a way where we can actually learn anything about what a candidate thinks. They are meant to provide sound bites for the various news outlets.

We are being flooded with information in every way imaginable. We get text messages and phone calls. We see political yard signs and billboards. Seemingly every website you go to will have a political ad. TV ads are never ending. And the direct mail, all that mail that I feel obligated to glance at out of respect for the dead trees. These two old parties (not Trump and Biden, but the Republicans and Democrats) are relentless. I think it is important to take a step back and realize what is really behind these presidential candidates, as well as everyone else running.

I am oversimplifying this, but at the end of the day these two parties are nothing more than two large businesses. They have significant revenues, significant expenses, and hundreds of people working for them.

The Democrats and Republicans each have three major party committees. Each committee is designed to focus on a specific a specific office – President, Senate and House. These parties have raised a combined $1.586 billion dollars during the 2020 election cycle (per ballotpedia.org). Let’s say that again, $1.586 billion dollars raised in about 20 months. By all measures, these organizations are mid-size businesses at a minimum. Businesses have a mission and in this case the mission is to influence or win your vote – by all means necessary.

Ultimately these organizations are nothing more than large media companies – pushing an agenda. They don’t do it with meaningful information. They do it with catching taglines, very loose uses of the “truth”, and anything else they can think of that will catch your attention. Their incentives are simple – to gain power. What is more important than power? That is certainly a meaningful motivator.

If you aren’t affiliated with a party or you are an uninformed voter, you must be aware of their motivations. If you aren’t aware, you can easily get sucked into meaningless information that is barely at the level of gossip. If you are affiliated with a party, then this information will always hit the mark with you.

I know it is an uphill battle. Educating yourself in today’s environment is a ton of work. Everyone is seemingly against us. The political parties, social media company’s algorithms, untrustworthy news organizations, and on and on and on.

You must take this on though. Do the work, put in the effort. Not just on the candidates, but on yourself as well. Decide what topics and policies are critical to you and focus on those, vote on those.

Freedom comes with great responsibility. Many say voting is one of those responsibilities, I say being an educated vote is the real responsibility. I’ll leave you with a quote. I think we have strayed very far from it and need to find the path again – quickly!

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weigh, this is a frightening prospect.

Eleanor Roosevelt

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