It is easy to say, “Vote because it is your job.” It is a completely true statement. But if voting is your job, what’s the full job description?
A good grounding can come from an education in Civics, that long-lost subject many of us had in school before it was supplanted with the far more nebulous “social studies.” Those who paid at least a modicum of attention in Civics—rather than shooting spit wads at the chalk board or other students—learned the basic jobs of our three co-equal branches of government and the checks and balances built into that design.
But even in Civics, we were not taught what the responsibilities of voting really meant. Some lip service was paid to the fact that every few years we get to “exercise our right” as voters. Not one person ever pointed out the fact that our job as a voter isn’t just marking a ballot once every couple of years. Its a lot bigger job than that. And the fact that the requirements of a voter’s job are largely unknown is a huge contributing factor to the chaos and danger that we now confront in this year’s slate of elections.
The Job Description
For many people the essence of this job description only appears when they are sworn in as new citizens. When my parents, for example, became Naturalized Citizens in 1961, they recited this oath:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
There is a key clause in this oath, “I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Welcome to the most important part of the job description of a voter.
Though this oath is only recited by newly minted citizens, it is incumbent on all of us to whom citizenship was granted automatically either by birthright as laid out by the 14th Amendment—oddly enough something Republicans want to do away with—or in the case of someone like myself who was automatically naturalized at age 7.
It is our JOB to support and defend the Constitution. That’s a pretty important statement. All our elected officials are required to take an oath of office that includes this same fact. Yet, how many of us realize that this is also our duty?
When we elect people to government office we grant them authority and power. But it derived from us, we grant that authority. If they then violate that trust we vote them out.
Here’s the next part of the job description, “How do you know if they are doing the job correctly or not?”
It is actually not that difficult to see what our elected officials are doing. Contrary to the Trump crowd’s yell of “fake news,” a lot of factual and non-biased reporting does exist. One can safely ignore so-called news outlets like FOX, OAN, Newsmax and other even more radical outlets because everything reported there is slanted to deliver skewed messages and propaganda. There are many non-profit and largely non-partisan news operations in most states. A compendium can be found at States Newsroom. Some of the best investigative journalism comes from ProPublica, another non-profit service.
Sometimes direct observation of a candidate’s statements or actions can give you a direct indication if he or she should stay or be investigated and ejected at the earliest opportunity. Records of actions, decisions, meetings are required by law and available to the public. After all, we are their bosses.
Your observation and personal evaluation of a candidate or incumbent is paramount to your decision-making process. Is the guy you voted for doing more for some special interest than you or your neighbors? Are your concerns being acknowledged and addressed—or ignored?
These are just a few examples, there can be a myriad of questions and benchmarks.
Because of the lack of broad education in Civics and the almost non-existent understanding of what makes up a voter’s job, politics has become an industry of advertisers, marketers and propagandists.
Opinion manipulation is the name of the game. And it is a HUGE game with billions spent every election cycle. History shows us that entire countries can fall to manipulation on these fronts. The story of how American political consultants, Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum got Viktor Orbán elected in Hungary is an important cautionary tale. The result? Hungary is now a democracy in name only and factually a dictatorship. Voters were sold a bill of goods and didn’t realize they were giving away their future rights.
Our own election campaigns are now vast rivers of money, most of it from right wing billionaires and corporate interests that really do want us to give away the store.
There’s a lot at stake. Election watchdogs can only do so much. Legal cases against the most egregious violations of election and campaign finance laws take years to prosecute. For example, Washington State sued Monsanto over campaign finance violations in their opposition to a ballot initiative to force labeling of GMO foods. Monsanto won the campaign and lost the lawsuit, but many years after the measure was voted down, at which point it was just the cost of doing business.
Imagine this on a scale spanning states and nationally. The entities that will spend 10-figure fortunes to tip state and national elections won’t give a damn if they get fined a few dozen million or so. Just the cost of doing business.
This onslaught is coming. And we as an electorate are ill prepared.
Our government is unique in the world, designed to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” That means that us folks, the people, need to do our jobs, but also need to understand our jobs. The job description is simple:
- Defend the Constitution.
- Don’t buy the river of BS heading for us that will be to keep us from doing number 1 or number 3.
- Vote. And this might involve more actual work than earlier elections because of the raft of laws designed to make voting more difficult in Republican-led states.
The better you understand your job and its responsibilities, the less susceptible you will be to the tidal wave of messaging about to wash over you.
Marty Kassowitz is co-founder of Factkeepers. As founder of Interest Factory and View360, he brings more than 30 years experience in effective online communications, social media management, and platform development to the site. He is a writer, designer, editor and long time observer of the ill-logic demonstrated by too many members of the species known as Mankind. After a long history of somewhat private commentary on a subject he totally hates: politics, Marty was encouraged to build this site and put up his own analyses as well as curate relevant content from other sources.