Oct. 20, 2002: If You Don’t Vote, Don’t Squawk

It must be late October. The days are growing shorter. The Braves have pulled their annual chokeroo and we have an important election just around the corner.

We can do nothing about the shorter days or the annual Braves flop, but we can do plenty about the election. We can vote. The first thing to remember is that you live in a republic. A republic places the power in the voters, who elect – directly or indirectly – those people we want to exercise power on our behalf. More importantly, the republican form of government protects your individual rights against the excesses of mob rule and negates the snob rule of elitists, who think they know what is best for you.

The framers of our Constitution worried about protecting the rights of the individual and not giving too much power to government. Pretty wise thinking on the part of a bunch of white guys, who weren’t nearly as stupid as the white guys we see on television commercials these days. They also didn’t have Martha Burke around to tell them how to conduct their business. (“If you don’t open up this meeting to women right this minute, the National Council of Women’s Organizations is going to insist that this federal convention be moved to Cleveland.”)

Our Constitution gives us the right of free expression, which means we can publicly criticize our president for his views on dealing with tinhorns like Saddam Hussein and that fat blob from North Korea and not be shot as Iraqis or North Koreans would be if they tried to do the same thing. Students from the University of Georgia can march around the campus and chant “No More War” even though they don’t have the foggiest idea of what the real world is like, because they have yet to live in it. With free speech, the media can snipe and second-guess and act like they are smarter than the rest of us.

Our right of free speech means we can sit around and complain about all the things we don’t like about the United States, forgetting that nobody has thought of a better form of government than the one we live in and take for granted.

The one mistake our Founding Fathers made in putting our Constitution together was that they thought we would care as much about this republic as they did. They assumed that we would want to vote in order to ensure that the people’s voice would be heard. Bad assumption. They couldn’t have imagined how lazy and complacent we would become. The state of Georgia has never had even half its eligible citizens cast votes in any given election. You won’t find that despicable fact in any of our state promotion brochures.

If we make the effort, the system can work. The people forced Richard Nixon to resign as president because he had abused his power and lied to the country he was elected to serve. The people wouldn’t elect his successor, Gerald Ford, primarily because he pardoned Nixon. We booted Jimmy Carter out after only one term because we thought him incompetent. George Bush, the elder, lasted only four years because he said “No new taxes” and couldn’t deliver. In Georgia, we kicked out longtime Sen. Herman Talmadge and his successor, Mack Mattingly, and Mattingly’s successor, Wyche Fowler, one right after the other. Current incumbent Sen. Max Cleland could be the next to go if Zell Miller’s incessant shilling doesn’t save him.

Which brings me to the upcoming election in Georgia. We are going to select the people who will make the decisions that can impact our lives for years to come. If past history is any indication, many of us will find excuses to sit on our duffs instead of taking the time to vote. Then we will have the audacity to rail about “crooked politicians” and “big government” and how the world is going to hell in a wheelbarrow.

Please vote in the general election on Nov. 5. It is your civic duty. I would appreciate it. The candidates running for public office would appreciate it, and I’ll bet that those white guys who thought this whole thing up would appreciate it, too.