Who’s to Blame?

News 12 ran a segment the day before the election in which people randomly were asked about voting.

It probably was no surprise that many people were indifferent and that some were downright hostile.

You have heard the sentiment many times.

“Why bother voting? They’re all the same.” Or “Why bother voting? They’re all a bunch of crooks.”

Cynicism often is welcome, but not when it’s based on ignorance.

No, all politicians are not crooks, some of them are, of course, but they truly are a minority.

And no, they all aren’t the same. Thinking all politicians view things the same way is a sure sign those articulating that view know little about the issues. If they did, they would understand how each major party has a different philosophy.. The parties simply are not the same when it comes to taxes, budgeting, and myriad social issues. And that’s only part of it. Independent candidates generally offer views that differ greatly from what the established parties believe.

Those who think everyone is the same just are not paying attention.

And when nobody pays attention, as we just saw, you get less than 50 percent of registered voters taking part in a gubernatorial election. That’s not good. .

Voter indifference is not new. We have reached a point that when 60 percent of voters take part in a presidential election – that’s right, a presidential election –  it’s considered good.

Many debate why this is the case. And there are many reasons to explain apathy.

Some blame a two-party system that leaves little room for new voices.

Some blame too much campaign money.

Others blame the special interests.

Others, too, say the media does a poor job reporting what candidates actually believe.

There is some truth in all of these excuses. But there really is another reason.

And that is the public itself. As long as voters, or rather, potential voters, are disengaged, the political system will continue to fail large swaths of the public.

This is a true “Catch 22” situation.

People say politicians do not care about them. But by not taking part in the system, they are assuring that politicians will never care about them. It’s common for candidates and office-holders to give pious pronouncements about how devoted they are to representing the people — all the people. Donald Trump said it last year. Phil Murphy said it last night.

Many times, these hopes are not realized.

Elected officials are most concerned with representing those who vote. This is human nature and does not necessarily make them bad people.

So who votes all the time?

These are the much-maligned special interest groups. You have them on the left and you have them on the right. They vote all the time. And that is why elected officials cater to them.

Average non-voters who bemoan the state of affairs, sadly, seem incapable of moving to step two. They have the power to upset the status quo simply by voting. That’s all.

Every political writer in the state writes about “Democratic” and “Republican” areas. This has to do with demographics to be sure, but it’s more than that. Areas strongly lean one way or another because so few people vote. .And that is why incumbents are just about always reelected and why government – especially locally – is run like a private club. How many times, for instance, do you see a council member resign and simply be replaced by his, or her, spouse?

Morris County is considered “staunch Republican.” But in just about every election, a minority of county voters take part. What would happen if by magic, every eligible voter went to the polls? These individuals, who would not be tied to the GOP, may not vote Republican.  The same would be true with Democratic bastions like Hudson and Essex counties, but in reverse. So, you see, people have the power to truly change things. They just need to get involved.

It is difficult for anyone who has faith in democracy to grasp why so many members of the public drop out. But drop out they do,  and one fears it’s only going to get worse as traditional newspapers fade and people more and more get news – sort of – from cable TV stations that simply reinforce their own beliefs.

This doesn’t seem like the type of nation Madison and Jefferson had in mind, does it?

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