How many people do you know have actually bothered to take the time and go through the political candidate's websites to discover the issues on their political platforms? Not that many, it would seem. If people did, endorsements wouldn't matter.
Being a politically minded individual, I feel excitement towards the current presidential campaign season and I am constantly finding myself in the middle of political discussions. It surprises me, however, how so many adults don't know much about how politics work or what platforms the candidates stand for.
Today for instance, I overheard my boss say to the guy next to me, "I'm excited about the Super Bowl." I countered, "I'm excited about Super Tuesday." He gave me a befuddled glance and said, "Taco Tuesday?" (which is a bar nearby that has a cheap taco special, on you guessed it, Tuesdays) . "No, Super Tuesday." He inquired, "What's that?" And this is from someone who openly discusses politics with me and my neighboring cubicalites.
"I'm going to vote for X," the zombie voter states.
"Why do you like that candidate over the other ones?" is usually my first response.
"Well... umm.. I think s/he will do the best job," the zombie voter fires back.
"Based on what?"
::: cue the crickets :::
This is something that really bothers me because people will blindly vote for a candidate because of their speaking ability, good-looks, religion, a joe-blow endorsement or the two newest characteristics, race and gender. (Clearly W was not voted into office based on the first two). People are also heavily influenced by their friends. Of course, the problem there is that their friends probably aren't more well versed in the candidate's issues than they are or the friend might favor a candidate based on a bias from list I just provided.
So, here I propose a solution: Require a multiple choice exam on the candidate's issues before being allowed to cast a vote. Here's how it would work. Imagine a voter showing up at the polling station:
"Hi, I my name is Walker Bush and I'm here to vote," said in a charmingly redneck accent.
"Wow, any relation to the current president?" asks the polling official.
"Oh god no!", Fred snaps back, and then adds, "But I get that all the time, some say his mother and I have a strong resemblance. My mustache hasn't lost all its color yet though. Ha Ha Ha," followed by a hoarse phlegm encumbered cough.
Wiping her face, as she pretends to scratch her eyebrow, the polling official informs, "Well, as you may now know, all of our automated polling machines have a little pop quiz that will test your knowledge of the candidate's issues. You must score at least 85% correct to be allowed to cast a vote. But don't worry, if you fail, you can go study up on the issues either by visiting the candidate's websites, or you can go to cnn.com where all the candidates are juxtaposed and then come back. We have a group of internet connected computers right over there."
"Well, I was going to vote (insert political party affiliation here) no matter what."
"I'm sorry sir, the passage of 'Sheepole Slaughter Act of 2008' now requires an informed voting populous," the official politely explains.
Fred acquiesces only to return later to the same polling official, "By golly, I had no idea that candidate Y had made it his primary platform to farm baby chinchillas and then steam roll over them as a new national holiday celebration! After learning about what the candidates actually stand for, I have since changed my mind and now have an informed opinion. Maybe this new rule ain't so bad if it makes people know why they are voting for who they are voting for."
But then again, we can only dream. This is only America after all.