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  • Answers from a Green to a 14 year old on Voting

    Posted by Green Party Peace Network on January 13, 2008

    A 14 year old student recently interviewed Maine Green on Voting as part of her Civics class. The questions she asked:

    1. What are some things you consider when you are choosing a candidate?
    2. What are some things you would want the candidate to do or change after becoming president?
    3. Do you think that one vote can make a difference and why?
    4. Through all the years you’ve been voting how has the process changed?
    5. What party do you belong to and why?
    6. How long have you been voting and why?
    And the answers that were given:

    1. What are some things you consider when you are choosing a candidate?
    The first things I look for are the candidate’s positions on the issues of the day. For example, what is the candidate’s position on the war in Iraq, universal healthcare for all American citizens, funding for public school and colleges, the environment, clean air, clean water? Should the government be spying on American citizens? Should our Bill of Rights be thrown out? Should Americans have the right to privacy without government interference?
    And where does the candidate see the United States’ being 20 , 30, 50 years from now.
    The original inhabitants of the United States….the American Indians never made a decision without asking themselves…What effect will this have on us seven generations from now. They thought and planned for the future.
    2. What are some things you would want the candidate to do or change after becoming president?
    The first thing that the new President of the United States should do is stop the war in Iraq immediately….The US spends $500,000 a minute in Iraq every day. Nearly 4,000 American soldiers have been killed and somewhere between 28,000 and 50,000 have been wounded, lost arms, legs, eyes, etc.
    And nearly 100,000 Iraq men, women, and children have been killed. The cost to Americans growing up in the next 30 years will be over $2 trillion dollars.
    There should be healthcare for every American man, woman, and child. Right now about 46 million Americans can’t afford to see a doctor or have a needed operation. Every other Western industrialized country has government paid health care for every citizen….England, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy, etc….The World Health Organization says that France has the best healthcare system in the world and it costs them a third less than healthcare costs Americans.
    The United States has publicly funded schools, libraries, fire departments, police departments, highways….We have social security and Medicare. We should also have healthcare for everyone. The majority of Americans agree with that even if their taxes might be a bit higher.
    The most important resource that any country has is its people. We should have the best educated people in the world. Our young people should have the very finest schools and teachers in the world. Students should have access to the best art and music programs available and the best science labs and physical education facilities.
    Something else that should be changed is the way elections are run. Millions of dollars are spent on endless campaigns and people soon get tired of them.. In England and other countries political campaigns last just a month and a half or so. Also the campaigns should be publicly funded. Too much of the money comes from the large corporations and companies. And the candidate with the most money usually wins because he/she can afford a lot of television/radio/magazine/internet coverage.
    3. Do you think that one vote can make a difference and why?
    Yes, one vote can make a difference….Here are three examples:
    In the 1854 election for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 7th District of Illinois, Democratic candidate James C. Allenbested got 8,452 votes and the Republican candidate William B. Archer gote 8,452 to 8,451. One vote changed who got elected.
    Later in the 1882 election for U.S. House of Representatives in the 1st District of Virginia, Readjuster ( a political party that no longer exists) Robert M. Mayo defeated Democrat George T. Garrison 10,505 to 10,504.
    And closer to home in 1977, Vermont State Representative Sydney Nixon declared the winner by one vote, 570 to 569 ;however, Mr. Nixon resigned when the State House determined, after a recount, that he had lost to Robert Emond, 572 to 571. There are dozens more examples in US history of how one vote made a difference in who got elected.
    Whether the vote made a difference in public policy and the laws that were or were not passed is another matter. But a single vote meant a lot to the folks who lost or won the election.
    4. Through all the years you’ve been voting how has the process changed?
    I’ve been voting since 1964, and there have been significant changes. The two biggest changes were brought about by television and the huge amounts of money spent on campaigns. Candidates have public relations experts who sell them to the public as if they were soap or soda or cars. The candidates are taught to dress just right and say the right things and look just right.
    Millions upon millions of dollars are now spent on political campaigns for public relations teams and television coverage and travel expenses, buses, trains, and airplanes.The candidates also have so called experts to advise them on what to say and not to say…This all takes money.
    If you are a good looking person with 200 million dollars you might have a good change on getting elected president no matter what you stand on the issues might be. If you are an unattractive person without a lot of money your chances of getting elected are not good….even if the majority of the people in the country agree with you on the issues. Unless you can afford to get your face on television all the time you don’t have a chance.
    An example might be Dennis Kucinich the congressman from Ohio. He does not have the money that candidates like Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barak Obama, Senator John McCain and other candidates do so the news media….newspapers, television, radio…do not take him seriously even though the vast majority of Americans agree with him on the war in Iraq and universal healthcare.
    If the campaign season were only 6 weeks long and all the candidates had public funding….if they had basically the same amount of money each…we would have a better democracy.
    5. What party do you belong to and why?
    I was a Democrat for many years, but now I am a member of the Green party and a delegate to its national convention. I left the Democratic Party when I failed to see that they were any different from the Republicans. Democrats traditionally were the party of the workers in this country. They fought for higher wages, better working conditions, and healthcare. Recently they have become too much like the Republicans who traditionally were the party of big business, the bosses, and the very rich. I see very little difference between those two parties now.
    I became a Green because I believe in the following
    1. Every human being deserves a say in the decisions that affect their lives and not be subject to the will of another.
    2. All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. A small group of people should not have all the wealth while the workers who produce the wealth get much less. The head of a company should not get hundreds of times more pay than a worker does.
    .3. Human societies must operate with the understanding that we are part of nature, not separate from nature. We must maintain an ecological balance and live within the ecological and resource limits of our communities and our planet.

    4. It is absolutely essential that we develop effective alternatives to society’s current patterns of violence. I believe we should to demilitarize, and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, without being naive about the intentions of other governments. We should learn to talk to the leaders and the people of other countries. After all we all share the same planet.
    6. I believe that it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while paying a living wage which reflects the real value of a person’s work.
    7. We have inherited a social system based on male domination of politics and economics. Females in this country still make less money than their mail counterparts even though they women do the exact same job as the men. That is not fair or just.
    9. I believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationship among people everywhere. What you believe and hold to be the truth is just as important as what I believe.
    10. All of our actions and policies should be motivated by long-term goals. We seek to protect valuable natural resources, safely disposing of or “unmaking” all waste we create, while developing a sustainable economics that does not depend on continual expansion for survival. For example, why hasn’t there been long term planning for alternatives to oil and coal. The oil supply on the earth will not last forever…It may run out in the next 50 years.
    An example of why I dropped out of the Democratic Party and why I see little difference between Democrats and Republicans is this. I dropped out of the Democratic party a number of years ago because the Democrats are not a serious party any more.
    It all came brilliantly clear to me last night while I was watching “Big Sugar” a documentary on the sugar industry broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. This documentary surely would not be shown in the United States.
    Two Cuban brothers Alfonso and Pepe Fanjul run over 70% of the sugar industry in the US. They have a 250,000 acre sugar plantation in the Dominican Republic. The workers there have to cut at least a ton of sugar cane daily in order to earn two dollars which they use to buy a small bag of rice for their
    families to eat. They have one meal a day and the children mainly eat sugar cane as their daily diet. Can you imagine what your teeth would look like after a constant diet of just sugar? No meat, no vegetables, no milk, no bread, no eggs.
    Basically this is slavery…yes…right here in 2008. But this is the best part!!
    One brother Alfonso is the token family Republican. He is best buddies with Jeb and George Bush. Pepe is the token family Democrat. He is best friends with Bill Clinton. For their investment of $465,000 in politics the brothers get back over $50,000,000 in subsidies from the United States government As a result we in the US pay three times as much for sugar as folks do in Canada or Europe. You may have noticed that Life Savers are now made in Canada because Canadian companies buy their sugar from Cuba which charges less for the sugar.
    When Al Gore was Vice President he gave a speech in Florida suggesting a one cent tax on sugar in order to pay for the cleanup of the Everglades which the sugar folks use as their industrial toilet, Pepe called
    straight to the White House and talked to the Democratic President Bill Clinton. And Clinton told Gore to forget about the one cent tax on sugar.
    So while people debated if John Kerry was electable or whether this Democrat or this Republican should run. It didn’t really make a difference because if you have the money you have a better chance to participate in politics.We don’t have a democracy; we have an auction. The highest bidder wins.
    6. How long have you been voting and why?
    I have voted in every election since 1964. Actually I voted earlier than that. I was elected vice president of the student council at Gorham High School in 1957. And in 1958 I was elected president by a vote of 102 to 10…and there were two candidates running against me. I even voted absentee when I was a patient in a hospital.
    I vote because I find politics to be interesting. Everything is political. The price of gas, the price of clothes, the price of cars, the books you are allowed to read, the television shows you are allowed to watch are all political decisions. There are also politicians who would like to determine who you are allowed to love, whether or not you can have an abortion, which religion you should belong to……Any decision that affects the public in anyway is basically a political decision.
    I am not interested in sports unless I know the people playing so politics takes the place of sports for me.
    And one last thing. Public policy is too important to be left to just one day of voting every four years. Every day there are things that good citizens can do to make life better for themselves, their parents, and their future children. People can become aware of the important issues by reading books and discussing things with other people.
    And when you have opinions…write letters to the editors of local newspapers, visit your Congresspeople and Senators’ offices, join organizations that share your views on the issues. For example, besides being a member of the Green Party, I belong to the War Resisters League, War Tax Resistance, the American Civil Liberties Union, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, and the Eastern Maine Peace and Justice Center.
    Joining groups and organizing other people can make an impact of your local politicians.
    Years ago a group of people went to the White House to meet with President Franklin Roosevelt to discuss with him an issue they were concerned about. When they were about to leave President Roosevelt said,”I agree with you 100%. Now your job is to go out there and put pressure on me to do the right thing.”
    By pressure he meant…write letters, organize, hold vigils, march in the streets if need be.
    And the best thing you can do politically is to get involved and run for office yourself some day. And it doesn’t have to be for president….run for a town office or a state office. Remember Michael Moore got elected to his school board when he was a senior in high school.
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