In recent memory, there has been no election more contentious, more outrageous and more deeply frustrating than this year’s. It’s not hard to feel disenchanted with the political process and to feel left out in the cold by the people who should be representing your best interests.
And in 2016, it feels hard to compromise. There’s actual data to back this up. According to the Pew Research Center, Americans are more polarized than ever. Some 94 percent of Democrats are more liberal than the median Republican, while 92 percent of Republicans are more conservative than the median Democrat.
But just because the parties are polarized doesn’t mean a vote should be cast without research. Positions matter. Policy matters. Ethics matter. Blind party loyalty doesn’t matter.
You must read the ballot before you vote. It’s a simple thing, an obvious thing, but it’s something that is too easily overlooked. One need look no further than the “regrexit” that immediately followed Britain’s exit from the European Union this summer. Voting is a serious business that must be taken seriously.
If you want to vote Clinton, fine. Know that she not only supports free college for those making under $125,000, but also a no-fly zone in Syria — something that experts and laymen alike worry might aggravate Russia unnecessarily.
If you want to vote Trump, go for it. Know that he’s not just a political outsider who wants to build a wall but also someone whose tax plan would benefit the wealthy at the expense of the lower and middle class while decimating federal revenues.
And if you’re angry and want to protest with your vote, go right ahead. But you must do it bearing in mind your own civic duty to be informed. Do not let a hatred for the major party nominees steer you onto a path that you don’t really believe in.
If you want to vote for Gary Johnson, truly know his platform. Know that he stands not only for criminal justice reform and the protection of civil liberties but also for the elimination of the Department of Education and for a one-size-fits-all regressive consumption tax to replace the current tax code. You should also know that his party, the Libertarians, booed the man when he had the gall to suggest people still need driver’s licenses.
And if you want to vote Jill Stein, know that she’s not on the ballot in Nevada and you can’t write her in.
When you head to the polls, ask yourself a question: “What do I care about most?” Whatever the answer is, your next question must be this: “Would the candidate I’m about to vote for make sure my best interests are represented?”
The answer must be yes. Maybe not a resounding yes, as politics is, after all, a game of compromise. But at the end of the day, you need to be sure that the person you send to Capitol Hill will do what you want to be done, or at least try to get it done.
Outside the ballot you’ve been mailed, easy places to look up any ballot-related information include Ballotpedia or even Google, which will pull up your very own ballot with plenty of handy links if you type in your address.
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