In the late 1960’s election officials announced their election results at precinct levels. In one city, which was away from the mainstream politics, about a third of the eligible voters made it to the polls. Efforts to find out the cause of the low numbers in an informal manner ended in speculation. Interviewees became angry and unresponsive when they were asked if they registered to vote. They felt voting didn’t make a difference in their lives. Politics were a bothersome side show.
Frustrated, some interviewees asked, “How do you really know to whom to give your vote?” “Do you vote the person, the platform, or the issues and how the candidates respond to each other?” Interviewees had no doubts that candidates shaped issues and glad handed to get votes. The issues weren’t relevant. Glad handing was a lie, a misleading hope.
Politics changed. Hollywood style campaigns formatted for television replaced a good visit. Pollsters shaped opinions with insights improbable or not about voters and what they wanted. The old way transitioned to the new media.
“Platform.” That’s an old political word. So is the word “plank.” Now the words are “issues” and “taking a position.”
Politicians crafted a statement that took a position on a political topic. It was a clear statement void of sarcasm, blame, or irony. The public could read it and discuss it. Political parties grouped these issues, planks, into a position, a constructed platform.
A single politician or a political party could have any number of planks. The party members set goals to get party members and the public to support a majority of planks or the entire platform. The concept existed that if voters were comfortable with the majority of the planks then the not so popular planks would eventually become policy or law anyway.
Compromise among party members added or deleted planks. A viable, attractive platform emerged. The primary election winners ran for office based on planks left in the platform. If party candidates were not elected, then party leaders began featured good planks to build a stronger platform for the next election.
Voters, who believed that the election cycle was a valid two or four year process not to improve government but rather keep certain politicians in office. Voters generally came away from the elections with some doubt in some planks and a lot of doubt in others. Planks existing as slogans failed over time. Personally, the old slogan “A Chicken in Every Pot” was a good one. It was a good one until the citizens began asking things like “whose chicken”, “whose pot”, “how big is the chicken”, etc. In order to survive an entire cycle transparently and credibly the planks needed funding and activity specifics.
The wise voter saw the planks or the platforms as political equations which brought about panaceas. Voters realized that the planks might cause political discord and wasted taxes. The wise voter gathered a feel or an intuition to tie candidates to planning and away from planks and platforms.
Some candidates compared favorably over others. The wise voter knew that today’s issues and solutions could flood away with new issues and force new solutions not considered in the platform. War as a political is a good example. Most politicians would run their campaign on issues that would preserve the peace. The onset to war usually eroded and washed away the opportunity to preserve the peace.
The political pendulum would swing. A political pendulum is best understood as public opinion moving from one end of the political spectrum to the other; conservative to liberal depending on the issue. Candidates competed to move the pendulum, slow it, or stop it altogether.
The questions remain: “how should a voter pick a candidate, and how do I vote on a referendum?” Referendums generally are the will of the people and disregard candidates or office incumbents. Candidates would gather voter political opinions.
Political opinions gathered over time for politicians are like assets put in a piggy bank. Equally, the voter needs to save these opinions, modify them, or drop them to come to the best political understanding.
Instead of inserting pennies, dimes, nickles and quarters through the slot into the piggy bank, a candidate tracked voter trends and impacts of issues on voter opinion. So why shouldn’t a voter do the same about themselves and slip a piece of paper indicating the issue, resolution, or candidate and at that point in time?
Little slips of paper added to the bank over time would provide feedback to the voter as to which issues and candidates were the best. Slips of note paper, newspaper cuttings and one paragraph essays could help shape the voter’s opinion. The little piggy bank method allows the voter to develop their own opinions and lean toward a specific candidate without facing all the hoopla during campaigns.
On election the voter can break open the piggy bank and tally the contents. The voter then reconciles the voter’s conscience with the final total contents from the piggy bank. Some voters may have many piggy banks; others, one. Come election day the disciplined voter may be astounded at the bank that is devoid of slips of paper.
The examples are:
1. If the voter thinks taxes are too high, then the voter puts a slip of paper in the bank noting that concern.
2. However, if the voter feels funding should be increased for whatever, then put a slip of paper in the bank noting that concern.
Even if the voter doesn’t feed the piggy banks regularly, at least the voter will think about the issues over time; in their own way they self educate. At some point the voter approach the election will become clear. The best candidate for that voter should emerge even though the competing “slates” (another old word meaning the party’s nominees) may not perfectly fit in clear “for” and “against” conclusions.
Voters don’t have to tell anyone how they voted. Those results go into the piggy bank(s) for the next election for further evaluation. Self education on issues rather than candidate gives voters a method to wade through candidate claims and counter claims against each other as well as volatile issues.
The method may overcome high powered campaigns, excessive campaign funding from unknown donors, and all the mud slinging. Just letting the voter know that an individualized method may be the best approach to making the best possible mark on the ballot would be good. It could empower voters to come back to the election booth or mail in their vote.
It would be neat to see voters take over an election.