Monday, November 3, 2008

The polling place: not a movie theatre

On a particular night, a person may decide to go to a movie. He or she peruses the listings in the newspaper, or goes online, or calls Moviephone. If he or she doesn't come across a movie to his or her liking, he or she decides to do something else.

Every four years, a great number of voters look solely at the presidential candidates. If they don't see a candidate to their liking, they stay home on Election Day.

It's not a movie theatre!

This isn't Europe or Israel. We don't have a dozen parties that form voting blocs in Parliament or the Knesset. We have primaries with their slew of candidates instead. Voters have the opportunity in the primaries to make their voices heard regarding nominating candidates. Once the two major parties nominate candidates, the voters' choices are down to two. Yes, staying home is an option. But it's also a copout.

I don't remember his exact words, but R' Moshe Feinstein z"l, one of the greatest Torah sages of the 20th Century, said, "It is incumbent upon every Jew to exercise his right to vote." Damn straight, Rabbi. That's also true of everyone else smart enough to make an intelligent decision. (If a voter is voting based on which candidate he would rather have a beer with or play basketball with or go out to dinner with: please stay home.) Democracy is not a spectator sport! An active electorate makes our representative government more responsive to us and more responsible in action. High turnouts make incumbents nervous; they count on a sleepy, compliant electorate to help them stay in office. If you haven't already voted, please show up tomorrow, despite the long wait, and show them who decides.

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