Aside from the extremely tough economic times, our country seems to be in a deep state of political turmoil. It seems as though politicians have lost their way and have forgotten the purpose of holding an elected office – to effectively serve their constituents. Members of the Democratic and Republican parties have strayed from the fundamental basics of a two-party system. This system was designed to reflect differing opinions and interests on the role and scope of the federal government and liberalism versus conservatism on social and economic issues, among others. The ideal would be to have all interests represented, with agreement on policies that reflect the best interests of the majority of Americans.
What is happening instead is lowbrow political campaigning, with a large focus on fear and little focus on critical issues that our country is facing. There are mudslinging battles between parties that result in little being accomplished to bring the country back to a better place both on the domestic and international fronts.
The result to a large percentage of American voters has been confusion, apathy and misguided decisions of which candidates are best suited to represent them in local, state, and federal government. But, Americans have the power to change this trend by becoming informed voters who analyze candidates not through the skewed political ads and partisan political analysts, but through non-partisan research of their stance on the issues. With so much negative campaigning and influence of special interests, it is hard to sift through what is fact and what is fiction. How do we know what the candidate really believes?
The key to being an informed voter is taking everything that the opponent says with a grain of salt. Most claims of political opponents are exaggerations of the truth, distortions of the truth by taking statements out of context, and sometimes just blatant lies. Do your own research and understand the partisan leanings of the media source from which you obtain your information. Most media outlets, whether openly or not, lean conservative or liberal on most issues. These influences affect the way they report stories and what information they choose to share or withhold from their stories.
Two great websites that I have found to be useful and non-partisan are www.factcheck.org and www.votesmart.org. Factcheck.org is a non-profit project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The site analyzes the factual accuracy of political ads, debates, speeches, etc. Votesmart.org is a non-profit organization made up largely of volunteers representing the entire political spectrum. The site provides information on federal and state candidates as well as current elected officials. You can search the site to find information such as key votes on issues, recent speeches and even current endorsements and campaign finance.
Being a country founded on democracy in which the citizens have a voice in the functioning of their government, Americans have the inherent right and fundamental duty to make informed decisions about how that government serves them. It’s time to step up and take charge of that power. Let’s let politicians know that we’re paying attention.