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Throwing away my vote

I will never forget the day that I made the decision to no longer vote along traditional party lines. It was Nov. 3, 1992 and the race for the most powerful position in the world had finally reached its conclusion. The campaigns leading up to the election were quite similar to what we see occurring today with one glaring exception. That exception, and what introduced me to a whole new way of viewing my role in the political process, was a decidedly un-presidential candidate with a philosophy of government that would forever change the political landscape. On that rainy and cold November evening, I was counted among the 19-percent of American voters who were looking for a different way of doing things. Our hopes rested in this unlikely third-party candidate who seemed to have enough brains and guts to change the things that the majority of us considered to be going wrong in America. To nobodys surprise, and especially mine, that candidate did not win the presidency. He also failed to gather nearly as much support in his second bid for election four years later. But for anybody who thinks their vote doesnt count, or that politicians do not pay attention to voters you might want to take another look. While the candidate didnt win, the fact that he was able to make it as far as he did, despite all the odds, stands as a testament to the spirit of democracy. This event sent a shock-wave through Washington and I believe its impact can still be observed in the campaign strategies of today. For the first time in modern history, the major parties were on the defensive. The country was not divided on the issues as some people would like us to believe, or in terms of red or blue loyalties. As a group of citizens, each with one small vote, we were making the best choice for a leader that we possibly could. It has been hard to believe but for the last few weeks something has seemed to be missing from this election season. That missing element is a subtle and a far cry from the constant barrage of political advertisements and endless debates on television that seem to do little more than galvanize the opinions of those who have already made up their minds. The missing element, at least for me, has been the hard-line that people tend to draw between party loyalties. This is one of the first presidential races where I have heard traditional party-line voters tell me that they will be voting for the other guy. If the public opinion polls and media predictions are any indication, this is a wave of change that is washing across America. For the first time since 1992, and despite news reports to the contrary, America seems to be setting itself up to make a decision of conscience in the polling booth next week. When I grew up, voting along party lines was pretty much a duty in my household. The health and longevity of the party came first and the candidate came second. If something went wrong it was always the other partys fault whether they were in power or not. We seemed to always be focused on keeping our guy in office or voting the other guy out. Issues of the time were straight forward, and there was not a lot of discussion about compromise. By casting that critical vote early in my adult life, I was choosing to make up my own mind about what I thought was best for this country. I intentionally chose to face every person who felt that casting a ballot in this fashion was throwing away a vote. In my view, the point to remember is that for a society to be engaged in a democratic form of government, they must feel that the individual vote is what matters the most. When the ballots are tallied next week we will decide which of these candidates is best suited to ensure our tax dollars are well spent, that our country is well cared for, and that someone is looking out for our future. Whether we vote along national party lines on Tuesday, or cast our ballot for a third party candidate with no hope of winning, when the curtain closes behind us we will be left alone with our decision. In that brief moment, we are engaging our future leaders in a rare opportunity where we are fully in control and they are powerless. So if you think nobody is listening to us think again. When the candidates look out and hear only silence, that is when they will know that we no longer have a voice, and they have won either way. Until then the responsibility lies in our hands to define the future of our country. Lets make the best decision we possibly can. Brett Hagadorn is editor of the North Creek News Enterprise. He can be reached at brett@denpubs.com

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