We all know the cliche: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". If we know this and believe it to be true then when it comes to the election cycle we're definitely insane.
Every year we're bombarded with advertising that's mostly negative. We get our full share of speculation from the various media pundits and because we're special we get to hear the candidates debate issues that someone else decided were important for us to listen to. Then there's the telephone solicitations, bulk mailings, and if we're lucky the door to door visits. All of this leads up to the culminating event, Election Day.
And then what?
Candidates get elected, some of us are happy and some of us aren't. Then we sit back and wait another year for the cycle to begin again. In the meantime we complain that our elected officials aren't doing the job we elected them to do. Do we really think just voting for a candidate is enough? Are we being naive to expect them to do their job and get it done? We may not want to hear it but a career politician"s primary objective is to get reelected. It's the reason why they call themselves career politicians. Politics is their job and they don't want to be unemployed. This is why they stay in constant fundraising mode. They need to replenish the "war chest" for the next cycle.
We need to do a better job of holding our elected officials accountable. We must remind them that we're the ones who put them in office and the ones who can vote them out. We need to be actively involved in the political process.
Here are some things you can do:
Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965), born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. Detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.
"The Ballot or the Bullet" is the name of a public speech by Malcolm X. In the speech, which was first delivered on April 3, 1964, at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland,Ohio, Malcolm advised African-Americans to judiciously exercise their right to vote, but he cautioned that if the government continued to prevent African-Americans from attaining full equality, it might be necessary for them to take up arms. It was ranked 7th in the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century by 137 leading scholars of American public address.
Close to 50 years later this speech is still relevant.
"....22 million black victims of Americanism are waking up and they’re gaining a new political consciousness, becoming politically mature. And as they develop this political maturity, they’re able to see the recent trends in these political elections. They see that the whites are so evenly divided that every time they vote the race is so close they have to go back and count the votes all over again. And that means that any block, any minority that has a block of votes that stick together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that’s who gets it. You’re in a position to determine who will go to the White House, and who will stay in the doghouse. You’ re the one who has that power....You’ re the one who put the present Democratic Administration in Washington DC. The whites were evenly divided. It was the fact that you threw 80% of your votes behind the Democrats that put the Democrats in the White House. When you see this, you can see that the Negro vote is the key factor. And despite the fact that you are in a position to be the determining factor, what do you get out of it? ...... Anytime you throw your weight behind the political party that controls two-thirds of the government, and that Party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that Party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race."
Before I get too far into it. Here's some background information from the U.S. Electoral College's website:
The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.
Presidential electors are selected on a state-by-state basis, as determined by the laws of each state. Generally (with Maine and Nebraska being the exceptions), each state appoints its electors on a winner-take-all basis, based on the statewide popular vote on Election Day. Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates, voters within the 50 states and Washington, D.C. actually choose electors for their state when they vote for President and Vice President. These presidential electors in turn cast electoral votes for those two offices. Even though the aggregate national popular vote is calculated by state officials and media organizations, the national popular vote is not the basis for electing a President or Vice President.
Voter suppression is real and in effect. Let's not think for one second that since the election is over attempts to suppress (or redirect) the vote have stopped. It appears to me that in today's politics if you can't win you can always try to change the rules for your benefit.
Have we forgotten what we just went through during the last election? Voter suppression was in full swing. Changes to voter ID laws, gerrymandering, and changing of available registration days were just a few of the tactics used. All of this happened because we took our eye off of the ball. We allowed the obstructionists to gain control in the 2010 mid-term elections. In August 2012 I wrote:
At least 180 restrictive bills were introduced since the beginning of 2011 in 41 states. There are approximately 47 bills currently pending in 12 states. Since the beginning of last year 24 laws and 2 executive actions in 19 states have been enacted.
In the 2012 presidential election Barack Obama's margin of victory over Mitt Romney in the popular vote was close to five million votes. Obama garnered 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206. He surpassed by 62 votes the "magic number" of 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidential election.
What would happen if the popular vote was neutralized by changing the way electoral votes are counted?
Although there have been some significant wins in the courts pertaining to voter ID and voter suppression tactics, do not think for one second that the battle is over and we can soley focus on registering voters and getting them to vote.
Did you know in 46 states private citizens have the ability to challenge your right to vote? Not only can they challenge you prior to Election Day, in the 39 states that currently allow private citizens to challenge voters inside the polls, only 15 require challengers to produce documentation to support their claims. Similarly, of the 28 states that allow challenges before Election Day, only eight require challengers to provide reliable evidence that the voter is ineligible. These anemic proof requirements open up the process to abuse by political operatives seeking to use challenges to suppress or intimidate voters. They can literally park themselves at the polling locations, find someone they suspect, and make a challenge that you’re ineligible to vote. When that is done you will need to provide proof that you are indeed entitled to vote.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.