Friday, March 23, 2007

Blog Entry #3 - Elections & Voting

The assertion that the current state of elections and voting in this country reflect a Republican model of government in which the priviliged run for office and the wealthy control who has access to the political system may still be largely accurate, however I think democratic aspirations over recent decades have diminished this to some extent, and perhaps need to continue to diminish it further.

Upon drafting the constitution and defining the political framework that exists in this country the framers undoubtedly had a republican model in mind and made efforts to limit the extent the average citizen had upon changing the political landscape. For example, even though the constitution begins with the renowned words 'We The People...' it is interesting to note that in that day 'the people' who were empowered to participate in the voting practice were white, land owning males. Non-whites, females, and non-land owners were excluded from voting. In essence a vast minority of the population were charged with making choices that would impact all peoples of this nation, regardless of their voting status.

Democratic movements over the decades have removed these obstacles. Non-land owners were first ushered into the voting bloc of citizens followed by women followed by blacks, and in the most recent decades suffrage has been extended still further, to Native Americans and younger voters. This model of voters rights was never intended by the framers of the constitution but has none the less become the model of voting that exists today.

Possibly the greatest controversy that still exists in the need for electoral reform is the continuing survival of the electoral college, a system designed and implemented into the constitution by the framers designed to limit popular consent in the selection of the President of the country. By this model the popular vote for President actually elects state electors to the college who then cast the deciding vote for President. Again, democratic ideals and movements in recent decades have seen the electors largely expressing the will of the popular vote of the people and electing the candidate for President that the people would have elected.

However, the very cumbersome system does not always adequately reflect the will of the people as a whole. The 2000 Presidential race was won by President George W Bush having 500,000 less popular votes than Al Gore. It is therefore arguable that the electoral college needs to be reformed.

I think, largely speaking, we take the right to vote very casually in this country. Voter turnout is very low compared to many other developed countries. Perhaps this is also a reflection of the barriers to participation that also exist in this country, such as the need to be registered before-hand to vote, but the argument may still be valid that we do not view voting as seriously as did our forebears who struggled for such rights. And perhaps further still, we feel a disconnection from the candidates we are asked to vote for for various reasons. There are many factors that contribute to our low voter turnout, but I believe it is important none-the-less to participate.

Whether you believe the system to be flawed, our political candidates to be even more flawed, or feel it too cumbersome a process, I believe we all should participate fully in the selection process. We all have opinions to air, and beliefs to uphold and all are affected, whether we like it or not, about the decisions those we elect to make in our stead, actually make. So, do we have any right to complain, to criticise, to praise when we have not participated in that other right of exercising our suffrage?...I think not!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Political Ideology

Political Ideology - what an interesting conversational topic. I guess we all have an ideology. Do we know what it is? Do we care? Should we?

There is definitely an argument that many of us in life simply do not give our ideologies a passing thought. It's not that we don't care aout the state of the city/nation/world - it's just that such ideological thinking may not be as pressing upon our time and thoughts as say more important and 'loud' thoughts such as career advancement, the kids' soccer league, mountains of laundry. Simply put, ideological thought is something some may see as the sole charge of the philosophical elite such as Plato or Aristotle.

But, nevertheless, we all retain some opinions on almost all matters at the end of the day.

This exercise was beneficial to me in that it gave me cause to reflect upon such matters. I entered the revered company of Plato and Aristotle and I mused awhile upon such things. I guess we could be guilty of assuming our political ideologies may be the same as our parents - they were Republican so that's good enough for me - or we may align ourselves with what seems most popular where we live - all my neighbors vote Democrat and my boss campaigned for our Democratic candidate, that must be a worthy cause.

Simply put, it is not sufficient to allow our ideologies to be guided and shaped in such a way. We need to take and stand, ponder what we believe and align ourselves with one political ideology or another.

Friday, March 9, 2007