Politics started intriguing me in 1968, the year I turned seven.
The assassination of Robert Kennedy on TV had me curious about the nature of politics for which someone would kill. I remember seeing an outpouring of affection as Lyndon Johnson departed Washington, D.C. on Jan. 20, 1969. I was glued to the TV during the summer of 1973 when the Watergate hearings were going on.
Whenever politicians came around, I made a point to see them. In November 1975 I saw Senate Watergate Committee chairman Sam Ervin when he appeared at Modesto Junior College. I saw presidential hopeful John Anderson give a speech at Mancini Bowl in 1980. I shook hands with President Carter at Merced Junior College on July 4, 1980. In 1988 I saw Mike Dukakis at Graceada Park. I was in Beyer Park when George and Barbara and Jeb Bush made a campaign stop in 1988. I watched Senator John Glenn arrive by plane with Gary Condit at the Modesto Airport in 1983.
I also left town for some personal encounters. President Ford flew to Fresno on Nov. 1, 1975 to campaign for Congressman Bob Mathias, and I coerced my parents to drive me the hundred miles to see him. I flew to D.C. to be at the 1977 inauguration of Jimmy Carter. In September 1999 I drove to Bakersfield to meet George W. Bush. I shook hands with Ronald Reagan in 1994.
As a political junkie, even local politics stirs my interest to some degree. There's something unique about seeing ordinary citizens getting involved in politics to lead a people. They make headlines. I get to participate by writing about the issues and the candidates.
Our nation's voter apathy is gnawing at me. But the way people vote is more disturbing.
While dissatisfaction with government is at an all-time high, I believe the people can blame no one but themselves. Like the student who doesn't do his homework and gets a bad grade, a dumbed down electorate gets the chaff, not the wheat.
Some voters feel they have no power because the rich buy elections. But no amount of spin or TV commercials can trump homework in search of truth. For example, few people were dialed into the agenda and thin resume of Barack Obama and were bedazzled by promises of hope and change as well as his ethnicity being a novelty. The media - as it always does candidates on the left - gave him a pass and in 2012 portrayed Romney as an out-of-touch rich white guy, dismissing his record as a successful businessman who turned around the Olympics. This time it seems the people are fed up with the radical agenda of the president and hunger for more conservative solutions. That's why Donald Trump is resonating with many.
The problem isn't just that people don't study the candidates and issues. The problem is they're not voting, period.
Let's bring it home. Last Nov. 4 California elected a governor. Gubernatorial elections typically draw more voters than local elections. Stanislaus County had 214,188 registered voters last year. How many voted? Try 92,738 (43.3 percent). That means 121,450 voters stayed home - even as we were electing the leader of our state government.
I find that absolutely appalling.
If you extract data from the 2010 Census you'll note that 367,295 are of voting age in our county, but approximately 153,107 haven't even registered to vote. Thus just 18 percent of Stanislaus County adults bothered to make decisions for a population of 514,453. That's downright scary and embarrassing to have decisions made by minority rule, not majority rule.
Going back to Nov. 5, 2013 - we weren't electing a governor or a president - 77.04 percent of Stanislaus County registered voters stayed home! This is dereliction of duty as citizens of the country and that trend threatens democracy.
In Ceres, there is a growing trend of reduced voter participation in City Council elections. During the 2005 election, 7,772 votes were cast for council candidates. In 2009 that number fell to 4,526. In 2013, only 4,033 votes were cast! Apparently 1,358 Ceres voters in 2013 were apparently so overwhelmed (or unsure about who to vote for) that they skipped the council ballot section altogether. Of course, this decline in voting occurred as Ceres grew in population.
It's rather ironic that local government has more direct impact on our lives than does the state or federal government, yet so few actually watch a City Council in action. Chances are that a Ceres resident personally knows someone on their council, which makes them more in touch. When was the last time Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein visited Ceres? Never, which is my point. Jerry Brown may have come to the Public Safety Center in Ceres last year but it was under such a cloud of secrecy that not even the media was told.
Why all this voter apathy? Probably a number of things. Some don't see voting as important. They use up all their time to make money, run a family or pursue hobbies or recreation. People are less engaged than they were decades or centuries ago, with TV and social media supplanting time for community service, church, reading, service clubs and politics. Many feel like their vote doesn't matter, with news outlets often forecasting winners before the polls are even closed. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer attitude translates to no motivation to vote.
Latinos are also part of the problem. Four million more Latinos in the U.S. were eligible to vote in 2012 than in 2008, but voter turnout is smaller than whites and blacks. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, 50 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots, while 65 percent of blacks and 66 percent of whites did.
Having said all this, I've never bought the argument that more voters is necessarily a good thing. We have far too many so-called "low information" voters who vote only for the good of themselves, not the good of all.
It's no secret that some Democrats want voting to start as young as 16 for the simple reality that young people tend to vote for Democrats, (mostly because they like the socialist programs without thought that their grandkids will be paying for them). But since Obama thinks kids should remain on their parents' insurance plans until age 26, why not treat them as though they are not responsible for themselves, including voting? Since more and more millennials (those 18 to 34) are living with mom and dad, why let them rush to vote right out of the starting gate of adulthood?
Rather than lower the voting age, maybe we should raise it. What's wrong in delaying the voting age to 21, which is the drinking age? It's odd, isn't it, that we don't trust people under age 20 to drink because they're not deemed mature enough to handle booze, but we trust them to vote wisely for those who make policy decisions that affect our taxes of which they generally have no understanding. How many 18-year-olds really have a clue about life to be making important decisions like passing statewide bonds? Do they even know that bonds are another name for borrowing against the future? As long as we have leftist educators swaying our young generation's way of thinking without allowing room for balanced discourse, I think we should let some time to pass to let their heads clear of the political intoxication.
While we're at it, let's require IDs at voting time so that we quit disenfranchising legitimate voters who are concerned about cheating that goes on when fraudulent voters show up at the polls.
Maybe voting is no different than any other aspect of society's ever-growing lazyness. We seem to have lazier people than we used to have. Technology is contributing to this. We used to handwrite letters but now we have email. We would drive to visit family; now we Skype. We used to walk everywhere; now we drive a block to buy milk. We used to go to Blockbuster to rent movies; now we get them delivered. We used to do our Christmas shopping but now have google deliver them to our doorstep. We used to go to each other's house to play video games against each other but now we have XBOX Live. We used to walk to the ATM to deposit checks; now we do it by app. If we wanted a good book, we visited a book store instead of download them. If we got lost, we asked for directions instead of get on our smart phone.
And if we want to vote, we send it in by mail. That's after we vote for the person whose name we saw the most on lawn signs.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org