The long, somewhat exhausting presidential campaign wraps up tomorrow. Pundits are treating the election as fairly well decided, and many Americans may pass up their chance to vote because of that. Tomorrow is also when many Americans will turn away from politics and public policy until the next round of elections.
But failing to vote is a mistake, and simply voting is not enough.
The chance that a single vote will alter the presidential election is obviously very small. So why vote? The are many reasons. Obviously, your vote can effect “down-ballot” candidates and issues. The outcomes of elections affecting your local area are not already known.
But there’s another reason to vote: Each vote sends a signal to the political parties and to the candidates who get elected. When a lot of votes start going to a third party, for example, the major parties learn that they need to move in the direction of that party. Your vote for or against the winner helps set his or her margin of victory, which forms the political landscape he or she will tread.
We’ve done a little bit on the WashingtonWatch.com blog to inform your vote on federal candidates, revealing what your Members of Congress and Senators have done with regard to the recent financial services bailout, for example.
Members of Congress and Senators who voted to exempt financial derivatives from state gambling regulation – a partial cause of the financial crisis – are listed here. And then there are the House Members who changed their votes between Monday and Friday of a single week to pass the bailout legislation.
Whether you’re inspired by these issues or others, your vote in the election matters. Regardless whether your vote will change the outcome of the presidential election, you should vote.
But voting is not enough.
Most readers of this newsletter already focus on the policymaking that goes on year ’round. Congress will return in just a couple of weeks, in fact, possibly to consider economic stimulus legislation.
We do our best in this weekly email to highlight what goes on in Congress. The Web site has lots of ways to keep track of what’s moving in Congress and being debated among citizens. Multiple RSS feeds allow you to follow specific bills, issue areas, every bill introduced – whatever may interest you. (Learn more about RSS feeds here.)
Voting doesn’t dispense with your obligation to monitor the public policies of the country. It’s just the beginning.
We hope that you will continue to use WashingtonWatch.com as a way of keeping an eye on what happens in Washington. And thank you for doing your civic duty by voting.
(Please forward this email to people who need encouragement to vote, and who might like to know about a resource like WashingtonWatch.com.)