Vote or Shut Up

Turning Point

Our quadrennial national election is upon us. Living in the battleground state of Ohio, I am perhaps more acutely aware than some because of the relentless attention we have received from both parties’candidates.

It seems like one or the other hopefuls or their surrogates have been in my state during this campaign season more than I have. Our airwaves have been inundated with ads and my phone rings daily with pollsters asking how I plan to vote and volunteers making pitches to persuade me to a specific candidate, issue or cause. In Ohio at least, it’s almost circus-like.

While on the surface, this activity (I mean, the amount and longevity of this activity) is somewhat annoying, on reflection it is really a good and unique thing. These efforts by all are attempting to help create what Jefferson referred to as an “educated electorate,” and I think that is important.

If all politics is local, which it really is, then what happens on the national/federal level may seem to be removed from our villages, townships, cities and states. That may have been somewhat true long ago, but with the communication interconnectivity we have at our fingertips today, what happens in our nation impacts our locale instantly.

This is why it is more important than ever to participate in this election process. As a republic, our voice is heard through those we elect to speak for us. It’s important to choose wisely.

It is not my intention to get into politics or policy in this space. Rather, I simply want to convey my belief that regardless of which candidate or issue you choose to vote for, the operative word is VOTE.

It boggles my mind somewhat to think of the conversations in which I will participate regarding the state of national and local affairs that will precipitate from this election. I think it’s one of our most precious rights: the ability to speak up and out about how the people we sent to represent us are doing.

Our penchant to criticize, cajole and occasionally compliment our elected officials and the decisions they make on our behalf is tantamount to sport in this county. I for one enjoy participating in it.

Whether I am discussing issues of the day with family, a colleague or a stranger, the beauty of this sport is all comers play on an even field. My opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s. While points are scored and taken away during the contest, the eventual outcome is usually a tie resulting in fodder for the next game.

However, as bullish as I am on the right and importance of political discourse among the citizenry, I demand one and only one qualification for those who wish to participate: Did you vote? For me, the right to play the political discussion game rests on exercising the vote. Otherwise, I simply don’t care what that person has to say. It’s irrelevant because without any “skin in the game” by virtue of casting a decision—right or wrong which is the basis for the game—arguments have no validity in any such discussion.

Voting is as important a right as any citizen possesses. History records the struggles of the disenfranchised to gain the right to participate in the republic as full fledged members. Along with that right is the duty to exercise it in a thoughtful, educated way whenever the opportunity to do so arises.

Regardless of how the 2012 election turns out, participating in the process is, in my opinion, the only result that really matters. I look forward to perhaps seeing some of you in my travels, at PMTS in April, at PMPA meetings and during shop visits in the coming year. We can use such opportunities to share what we think of the job we did in this election. But if you don’t vote—well, I think you know where I’m coming from.