My editors here at the Daily encourage columnists to write about issues that are pertinent to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor or college students in general. I do my best to abide by that rule of thumb as often as possible.
But in case you haven’t heard, the election is tomorrow. Whatever you think of politics, the results of this election will have an impact on all of us and at all levels, from local to national. This will be the first presidential election in which most undergraduates are eligible to vote.
So here’s what I’ll say. I won’t try to sway your vote one way or the other — I assume you’ve made up your mind by now. But I do have some ideas, some tips that I want to offer up.
Specifically, I ask of you just three things:
1. Educate yourself.
You wouldn’t know it from mainstream news coverage, but there’s much more to this election than the heated race for presidency. That’s especially the case in Michigan, where voters will determine the outcomes of six state ballot proposals as well as races for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Michigan Supreme Court, among others.
Don’t let these less publicized — but no less important — elections catch you off-guard. Before you walk into the voting booth on Tuesday, read up on the candidates, their positions and their values. The Michigan Daily has made endorsements, as has The Detroit Free Press and other Michigan news outlets. Check them out.
An uneducated vote is worse than no vote at all.
2. Be prepared to live with the consequences of your selections.
Though we might (justifiably) mock politicians for being out of touch, their decisions have important implications. They’re empowered to address major tasks: setting budgets, declaring wars, levying taxes and investing in education. Elected leaders exercise power because voters give it to them. When casting your vote, ask which candidate’s views mirror your own. Your vote shouldn’t necessarily define you, but it does reflect what kind of future you want to see. Will you be proud to have made this selection? Is your candidate “on the right side of history,” as they say?
3. Don’t lose track of politics after the election is over.
I get it. We’re all excited the election has come to an end. No more debates, hollow promises or pandering. No more misleading campaign ads polluting the airwaves. No more obnoxious, albeit entertaining, candidates making a mockery of our democracy — I’m looking at you, Herman Cain. We’ve lived with daily reminders of this election for the past two years. Now the end is finally in sight. I think that’s a good thing.
However, this doesn’t mean we should ignore politics or policy once the votes have been counted and the results are in. Quite the opposite. More than ever before, we must now focus on holding those we’ve elected accountable. Poor politics thrive on unaccountability. Given how polarizing the 2012 election has been, I welcome its conclusion, but I’m fearful of the apathy that it has engendered. It shouldn’t be too difficult to follow the president in the news, but do make a point of keeping tabs on your representatives in Congress and your elected local leaders.
I’m as happy as you are that the election is almost over. But don’t think of that as a free pass to abandon the political process altogether.
Daniel Chardell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org