By Colleen O’Connor
Sordid this won’t be.
Brutally, honest, I hope so.
Here is the fastest, and — in my opinion — the best way to decide how to vote for president.
First, the “shocking” truth: All politicians lie. So, too, do all of us.
We are a fiercely divided country. Exactly 47 percent “us” vs. 47 percent “them.” Those “still deciding” are all that matters this year — and every year since the 1960s — and before.
Remember the Florida “chad recounts” of the Gore v. Bush 2000 election? Or the Kennedy v. Nixon election of 1960 — where both sides were accused of ballot tampering (one in Illinois, the other in Texas), but were smart enough not to drag the country through that swamp. Or scroll back to the Civil War years (yes, we are still fighting those states’ rights v. federalism) when Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party candidacy was not even permitted on numerous Southern states’ ballots.
You know, Abraham Lincoln, the “of the people, by the people, for the people” President.
Here is an even more shocking truth. The vast majority of American citizens do not vote. When you read about a “huge” surge in turnout — as high as 53 percent this primary in California — remember that number comes only from registered voters.
More than one-third of Americans eligible do not even bother to register.
And more than 25 percent of those who are registered, stay home, because they are “not interested” or “do not like the candidates or campaign issues.”
And these are the numbers for the big-ticket, presidential contests. It is even more dismal at the local level.
So, how do political campaigns motivate the dwindling pool of available voters? They don’t. They pull out their base. Their side’s 47 percent vs. the other side’s 47%. And they hope the opposing side’s voters stay home.
How do they accomplish this hope? By turning the voters off. By discouraging them. Or just plain depressing them.
Each candidate, and their campaigns, employ some meld of what the Buddhists’ call the “three poisons of the mind” — ignorance, greed and anger. Updated versions are fear, loathing and corruption.
Each of these poisons are remarkably visible this year. Pick your poison. Mark an “X” or write the candidate’s name next to the description you think best fits. Sanders, Trump or Clinton.
Ignorance. Greed. Anger.
I know. There is some overlap. But, you only get one candidate’s name per poison.
Can’t do it? Be brutally honest. Still not?
Then here is the cheat sheet: Which person, exhibiting one or more the above poisons, would you want to represent the United States of America to the rest of the world?
“None of the above” is not an option. But, some serious reflection is.
Consider this. Lincoln’s fuller quote, read at the consecration of the Gettysburg graveyard, for soldiers who fought and died in the bloodiest of all American wars (because we were killing each other) — with more than 600,000 dead — reads:
“…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Before embarking on another contemporary civil war, perhaps each of us should remember, the epitaph of a man who died for offering to pay the poll tax of any African American who couldn’t afford it.
“You don’t vote. You don’t count.”
Just as the suffragettes who endured prison, hunger strikes, forced feeding and even death, knew. If they didn’t have the vote. They didn’t count.
Who you vote for or against is up to you. That you vote should be mandatory.
Colleen O’Connor is a retired college history professor.