Resolve to be politically aware this year
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year's resolutions: I will eat only healthy foods blueberries for breakfast, and homemade yogurt. I'll exercise and meditate.

But enough about me and my delusions. Just to make some points, I'll presume to offer some resolutions for Massachusetts' registered voters:

1. If you don't take time to know the candidates or understand the ballot issues, don't vote.

Forget the League of Women Voters' "get out and vote" campaigns. Instead follow the physicians' maxim: First, do no harm.

If you don't know what you are doing, stay home and watch reality TV. Not only will this save you a trip to the polls, but it gives you an excuse not to complain about the way things are going in your state or country since you couldn't be bothered to become informed enough to address them. (Yes, I realize that, by definition, these people are not reading this newspaper, so they're not likely to read my resolutions. But thought I'd throw out the idea anyhow, for those who might encourage such people to vote as a "civic duty.")

2. "Representative government" means choosing someone who will represent you as much as another person can on the issues. It does not mean choosing someone who is a physical representative of your sex, race or ethnic background, no matter whether you agree or disagree on very important matters. Resolve to do the former, not the latter.

What do people mean by "diversity" anyhow? Minority citizens like oneself, or people who look different than you? People who think different thoughts and believe different things than you? Or do they mean those whose character varies from a desirable norm?

If you are honest, real and open-minded, do you want to vote for a dishonest, phony, rigid person who shares your gender or ethnic background? If you are a woman answering yes to that, consider choosing Martha Coakley, who when she is not avoiding debate is saying whatever she thinks will get her elected.

Of course by behaving thusly, Coakley places herself in the basic "politician" mold. So what happens then to diversity in the Senate?

I'll tell you who would be a diverse senator: Sarah Palin. I got her book for Christmas and find it fascinating. I'm not prepared to support her for president, but she'd be a delightfully diverse presence in the legislative branch. (Do you think most of the people who want more women as role models there would support her? No? Well then, I'm still confused about the diversity concept.)

3. I'm probably missing something important about our American political system, but I really don't get the party thing. I was raised by Democrats in a Democratically inclined union town; originally registered Republican because of reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" at an impressionable age; and finally found myself as an independent voter who presently identifies with Tea Partiers. I considered myself a populist until the last election, when the voters I once admired chose Barack Obama because of "diversity" and, in Massachusetts, voted to end greyhound racing without asking what would happen to the dogs (continued below).

So Resolution 3: Don't blindly follow the party of your parents, which is probably not the same party it was when they registered anyhow. (Mine became Reagan Democrats so we eventually voted together. I'm working on my son, but I'd be embarrassed if he had blindly followed my decision without taking a moment to think for himself).

4. When voting on ballot questions, pay attention, read the Secretary of State's voter information booklet, ask questions when something doesn't make sense (like, why would dog owners mistreat dogs who must be in top shape to win?), and consider "the law of unintended results." I bring this up, again, because WBZ-TV News just did a piece on the dozens of greyhounds who were just surrendered to a shelter in Hopkinton as the tracks closed. There they were kept in little cages, smaller than the ones I found at Wonderland when I checked out the ballot issue; away from their trainers who cared for them, away from the fun of racing, hoping to be adopted, like all those other homeless dogs, many of whom have been displaced by the recession. The greyhounds looked sad, which is how I feel. They didn't look angry though; that's just me, no longer so much a populist.

5. Get the new book by William D. Eggers and John O'Leary, "If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government." I promise this will give you the nonpartisan understanding everyone needs to be a competent issues voter and find some real solutions.

It answers the question that so many of us have been asking each other: What the heck is going on here?! And it's great fun to read besides.

6. Once you have considered all of the above, vote! Your vote counts. In the coming U.S. Senate election on Jan. 19, pitting Republican Scott Brown against Coakley, it can change the course of history.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.

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