If You Want Change, You’re Going to Have to Do More Than “Just Vote”

So, another presidential election year – exciting shit, right? Wrong. We will once again be bombarded with negative campaign ads, slander, and all sorts of bullshit. I’m going to get right to the guts of it – my favorite among the bullshit is that tired old notion that I hear a LOT of very smart people say:

“If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.”

Let me start out first by making a statement that I think goes without saying, but many of you forget – Regardless of whether or not I vote, I have the right to complain as loudly as I want about whatever the fuck it is I want. That doesn’t mean I am right. That doesn’t mean I am free from being called out on my hypocrisy. The first amendment in this country does not make provisions regarding whether or not I voted. In fact, nobody can legally tie one’s refusal to vote into any privileges afforded to any voting citizen, such as free speech, freedom of the press, or the right to suck off your neighbor’s goat. So please, save your “I’m better than you because I voted” shit for someone who can’t see through your smug, self-aggrandizing comments.

But the fact that you feel superior to people who don’t vote because you voted is not really what bothers me; it’s the fact that if all you did is vote, then you really didn’t do all that much more than someone who did not, yet, you act as though you did. Well, let me bring you a healthy dose of reality. Voting is one of the LEAST important pieces of the political process. Let me repeat that. VOTING is one of the LEAST IMPORTANT PIECES of the POLITICAL PROCESS. Voting is, in fact, only the first step in a number of political responsibilities that we all share and frequently shirk. This question is directed especially to you jackoffs who yap all day long about how important it is to get out and vote: What is it you do after you vote? Would that be nothing?! Most of you sit on your lazy asses and judge the candidate you picked on what kind of job the media/political pundits has allowed you to perceive that the candidate has done. This is exactly what makes our political system so freaking pointless! All you do is vote – and that’s NOT ENOUGH! In fact it doesn’t even matter which candidate(s) you vote in, as much as it matters that YOU get on his/her ass and stay on his/her ass.

Unfortunately, most people typically don’t know whose ass to get on. Most people think the President has all-encompassing power, and the president is responsible for everything that happens during a four year term in office, from the economy, gas prices, inflation, and unemployment to which basketball player/rapper is sticking his dick in Kim Kardashian. This is not a dictatorship, and despite what GW Bush thought, the president is not by any means the “great decider.” Our forefathers put in a system of checks and balances in order to ensure that no branch of government, be it executive (Where the President lives), legislative (Congress), or judicial (Supreme Court) can usurp supreme power. However, one thing the forefathers did not anticipate was population growth and the resulting antipathy that comes from feeling that if you are one of three hundred million people, you can’t really make a difference.

So it’s probably not all that easy nor is it practical to stay on the president’s ass, for the simple fact that there are 300 million of us and one of him, so he can’t possibly answer to all of us. However, if you have even a remote understanding of the way our political system works, then you know that while the president is perhaps the most powerful single person in our national government, the 535 members of congress together wield far greater power than the President. Remember, Congress has the power to declare war. It is congress that proposes legislation (hence, the legislative branch of government.) Absolutely true! While the president can suggest legislation, try to get congress to move in a certain direction, the president cannot technically propose any legislation at all! Of the 535 members of congress, 435 of them are representatives. It is through these representatives we as individuals are influential. Unfortunately, either through ignorance, laziness, or something else I have not thought of, our representatives are not being utilized as they should. Because we are not involved in our national or state/local government, the system is not working.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. When I lived in Plumsted Township, NJ, my representative in the 4th US congressional district was a republican named Christopher Smith. He has held his office for 31+ years, in a territory that is mostly democratic, because he happens to be an excellent representative. You know why? Because he ACTUALLY represents. He has town hall meetings where he solicits input from his constituents on how he should vote on bills, what legislation to propose, etc. And when he goes back to congress to do the voting, he votes exactly the way his constituents want him to vote. That’s why we have representatives. We couldn’t possibly get anything done in this country if all 300 Million of us had to vote in congress. So we have members of the house of representatives to do our voting for us. But the problem is, we seldom even show up at these meetings, which leaves our representatives – who should be voting OUR interests – to vote however the hell they damn well please. We already have congresspersons who vote however they want. They’re called senators, and quite frankly the 100 we have are enough. We don’t need 435 more senators in congress. We need representatives.

And that’s why just voting isn’t enough. You need to get your asses to those meetings and be heard by your representatives, so they go to congress and vote what YOU want. Chris Smith has over 300,000 constituents. The last town hall I attended before moving to Connecticut, do you know how many people actually showed up? 20. TWENTY!! That’s a fucking OUTRAGE! How the hell is a representative supposed to represent his constituents accurately when they’re not even there to be heard?! How is he supposed to consider the needs of 300,000 constituents if only 20 of them are active participants? I guess based on your logic, if you don’t show up at town hall meetings and participate in the political, democratic process, and decisions are made against what you wanted, then you have no right to complain about those decisions. Right?

So when electing a US representative, it shouldn’t matter what his/her political views are. It should not matter if you are pro-choice and he/she is against abortion. If you’re going to vote someone in just because you believe the person thinks the same way as you, then you might as well vote someone in because you have the same favorite color. Irrelevant. All you need to know is this – if his/her constituents ask him/her to vote a certain way, will he/she honor that request, or will he/she do whatever the hell he/she wants? Because if your representative doesn’t vote as you want, then you have to vote him/her out in 2 years. You HAVE to. I remember there was an issue regarding gun reformation on the table. Personally, I voted in favor of the pro-gun side of the issue, but most of his constituents in attendance voted the other way. Mr. Smith went to congress and voted as his constituents asked him. Then he caught shit for it from other Republicans. Bullshit, he DID HIS JOB THE WAY IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE DONE! And while I believe that the plurality of constituents voted in a way that is harmful to the general public, that was their desire. That is our democracy in action. Get your asses to those town hall meetings. And if your representative doesn’t hold town hall meetings, get a petition with a shit load of signatures, and hold that asshole reponsible for having one.

Not only should you be concerned with your representatives in national government, but you also need to get involved with your state/local government. Each state has a state house of representatives and a state senate, with the governor acting as the president of the state. Find out who your state representative is and attend/demand town hall meetings, because not all issues are national issues. You will find plenty of issues – the state budget for example – that affect you even more prominently than national ones. And because there are even less people in the state than there are in the country, you have a LOUDER voice in the state and local forums – USE IT!

The sad fact of the matter is, however, most people do not even know who their US or State representatives are! I hear people bitching about Obama all day long, the same way people bitched about Bush. They act as if they know everything that goes on in Washington, why it happens and who is to blame/to be praised for the result. Poppycock! Ask them this question: To what congressional district do you belong? Who is your representative? And when they tell you that they do not know, as most of them will, LAMBASTE them. “You don’t know what is going on with your local government and yet you have the conceit to think you know what is happening on a national stage? Get real! From here on out I don’t want to hear anything you have to say about what the president is doing – your opinion carries no weight.” These people quote their sources from everyone starting with CNN and Fox news to newspapers I have never heard of such as the Phoenix Fucknugget and the Houston Horny Herald. But it doesn’t even matter from which newspaper/television/internet news source you quote. What matters is the understanding that all of what you read on these issues are somebody’s opinion. Somebody’s slanted opinion – slanted to whatever side of the issue they want you to believe is right. CNN caters to the liberal view, FOX to the consevrative view. And if you can read critically at all then you know that none of these are backed up by research or fact. Seldom if ever does anything conclusively connect any one of society’s ills to the fault or credit of any one individual, president or otherwise. With few exception, there is no such thing as something being all Bush’s fault or all Obama’s fault. It’s Bush + Congress, or Obama + Congress. The only thing I could think of in recent history that is one person’s fault was our failure to respond in a timely manner to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, which can be attributed solely to a president appointing incompetent cronies to head up important national roles. Outside of this one thing, it is our refusal to get involved with congress, which means that what it all boils down to is that we are at fault. Everything that is wrong with our society is, in a very prominent and easily identifiable way, our fault.

So, in conclusion, vote. But after you vote, for God’s sake get involved. I know how difficult that is these days what with the cost of living being so high it requires both parents to work. I know how little time everyone has maintaining a family and supporting their childrens’ extracurricular and school-based activities. So I’ll say it this way: If you’re recently divorced with 4 school-aged children and no help from your deadbeat ex-husband, working a low-wage job off hours to get food on the table and taking online classes to better your family’s situation, you don’t have to attend the meeting. If your situation does not even closely resemble that scenario, then take your kid to one less karate class that week. Let the little ones know it is OK to skip soccer practice this one time to take care of important political matters. Believe me, in the long run it will benefit everybody, because having a mere .002% of people showing up at town hall meetings of representatives to make themselves heard is not enough. SOME of you can make the trek. Do it. And I won’t make the same statements as some of you “just vote” drones: I will NOT say that if you vote, yet fail to get involved afterward, you have no right to complain. You STILL have that right – for now. For if you fail to show up for these meetings, and you don’t let the people that you have elected to represent you know exactly what it is that YOU want, and in some display of incredible Un-American insanity our representatives repeal our freedom of speech because you thought all you had to do was vote, then someday you just might not have the right to complain.

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