“The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A “Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, ‘Well, Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?’ With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, ‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’”
Before you ignore this post, let me assure you that it is not my intention to tell you who to vote for or how you should be involved in the political process, only to show you that it is vital to keeping our Republic that you are involved, that you do vote, and to give you some tips on how you might begin.
I thought I would start by telling you a little about how elections are conducted. I have been involved with and have managed campaigns on nearly every level. After more than 20 years of experience in politics, I can tell you that campaigns are not rocket science, but there are a few things you should know. Everyone knows how elections are won, right? Your side gets more votes than the other one. How is this accomplished? It is really not that complicated; it is reduced to two kinds of strategies– turn out more of your supporters or make sure your opponent turns out less of theirs. Most campaigns are a combination of the two strategies. We complain about the influence of “big money” and “special interests” in the process. Never forget that those people or organizations, who spend big money, are trying to do what? That’s right, influence your vote. Yet, these tactics are designed to do the things I mentioned above; they drive the supporters of an issue or candidate
to the polls and often discourage the other side from voting. They are able to accomplish this with a variety of market research techniques. We are all familiar with market research in some form or another. Political research is no different. Campaigns and candidates know, with a fair degree of certainty, who is likely to vote for them and why. In addition, they have a pretty good idea of who is most likely to vote in a given type of election. This is known as a turnout model. They also know what issue, or set of issues, has a higher degree of likelihood of motivating the undecided voter. Now keep in mind that when these models are constructed, they are based on likely voters. Depending on the election, this may only constitute between 5% and 60% of the eligible voters. This determines the messaging and what is called the ground game– how many volunteers, what type of voter contacts must be made, what mailing and advertising strategies to use, et cetera. It is also how we end
up with all of the negative ads we all love so much. We say we hate negative ads, but the fact is, if they did not work, campaigns wouldn’t use them. This is how modern campaigns are and how they run.
In candidate-based campaigns, nearly all of the effort is focused on likely, independent voters. This is because most candidates count on those registered in their own parties as likely to vote for them anyway, so they concentrate on the “undecided” voter who is likely to vote. Issue-based campaigns generally focus on independent voters who have a history of voting and likely voters who may be more inclined, ideologically, to agree with a particular issue. I say this to emphasize that all campaigns only focus on communicating, or reaching out, to people who have a history of voting. The rest are mostly ignored, as it is assumed that because they have not voted in the past, they are not likely to vote now. The struggle nearly all campaigns face is how to turn out voters. I have seen, though thankfully never participated in, the worst sort of negative campaigning this country has to offer but the thing that I have found the most difficult to bear, is the lack of participation in
the process of democracy.
Protect and Defend
This brings me to my main point. As we approach yet another election, I am convinced that we are not doing all we can as preppers to keep our Republic. More and more Americans, and indeed preppers, are guilty of largely throwing up our hands in disgust at elected officials, but we seem to be unwilling to do much about them.
According to many sources, less than 60% of eligible voters turned out to vote in the 2012 Presidential elections. The total drops even farther for off-year elections and those for local elections and ballot initiatives. An NBC News report, only days before the 2012 elections on 11/05/2012, reported, “The United States ranks 120th of the 169 countries for which data exists on voter turnout, falling between the Dominican Republic and Benin, according to a January 2012 study from the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. (Not all countries ranked were democracies, a factor that could skew the results.)”
This is a disgrace! The same report goes on to indicate the reasons the researchers suspect are behind the low turnouts. The top two were voter inconvenience and a feeling that many voters have that their one vote doesn’t really make a difference. First, the only way to waste your vote is not to use it. I can understand the second reason, though I still find it a poor excuse for not voting or being involved. However, not voting because of inconvenience!?! Everyone believes they lead a busy life, but how can they be too busy to take time to preserve our republic? As a prepper, your natural inclination is not to wait until something is broken or damaged beyond all repair before you try and fix it, so why do we do this with our democracy? As preppers, we seem to do more investigation into weapons for self defense, the means for food storage, and the background of the young man who might want to date our daughter than we do into those who we trust with upholding our constitution. As far as convenience, there is simply no excuse for not voting! Most states have early voting and absentee voting.
Sitting on the sidelines and making plans to pick up the pieces after all has been lost, or our system collapses, is not by definition trying to keep our Republic. Being prepared to defend it if the tyrants rise is also not doing what we can to keep it. Contrary to the opinion of many, our Republic and our liberty are not birthrights; our liberty is a gift that is granted by our Creator, preserved and defended by the toil and blood of previous generations who passed it from them to us, and we are expected to preserve and defend it and hand it to the next generation. If we take no action to preserve or protect it, it will be lost. The same it true for our republic, We should not wait until it is gone and then go to war to get it back. We should be doing all we can to fight to keep it, while we have it. Choosing to wait for the reset should not be an option.
How do you preserve it? You begin with involvement. Thomas Jefferson said, “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
Involvement in the Political Process
A vitally important topic of discussion on many prepper forums is community building. We know that going it alone is not a viable solution for long-term survival in a real TEOTWAWKI situation. We also know that a good way to build relationships in the community include doing some basic things, like being involved in your church, being helpful to (and respectful of) your neighbors, and getting involved in the communities where we live. We all have groups or communities where we gather with like-minded friends, even if it is only on the Internet. Talk to these people, ask them what they know about a candidate. Have you noticed that on virtually every forum on prepper or survivalist issues, there are very few, if any, discussion threads on politics? I know this can be an extremely sensitive topic, but we share information on virtually every type of gear, survival technique, or training but next to nothing about our information that is vital to keeping our republic. The exception to t
his is the plethora of articles telling us of the coming collapse. We are also inundated with articles on how bad the state of modern politics has become and how our liberties are being slowly eroded or simply stripped away. Yet, there is still no information on those who seek another term to continue in office or those who would replace them. We should choose not to wait for the collapse but to do all we can to prevent it from happening.
How to Get Involved
Engage candidates to be an informed voter. Think of this as gathering intelligence. Gather information from multiple sources and especially through in-person observations and questioning. Go out and meet the people who are running for office. All of them do some kind of campaigning and have events that are designed to meet voters. Ask questions. Ask them about their positions, and then make sure they answer the questions. We talk about the importance of increasing our skill set, taking another class on first aid and field craft, or training with a firearm, but nowhere are we talking about learning about candidates for office and the positions they hold. Democracy is not a spectator sport; it requires its participants to be educated and engaged in the process.
Get involved, and do it early, especially in local elections. Local offices are where candidates are generally most accessible and where many candidates for higher offices get their start. Attend forums and even volunteer for a candidate that you like. Most importantly, get involved early. The primary process, which happens in June, decides who will be on the ballot in November. Most voters generally forget, or ignore, that there are generally several candidates seeking election to the same office. Getting involved early can make the difference between having a real choice in November and generally stuck voting for the lesser of two evils, or even not voting at all out of disgust. Getting involved early in the process could have a dramatic effect on who eventually gets to the general election. We don’t have to be stuck with the lesser of two evils.
VOTE! Go to the polls on election day. Vote early (if your state allows it) or vote absentee. This is the most important way to be involved in the process. If you can do nothing else, you must vote. This is especially true with local elections and ballot initiatives. These are the ones that have the most direct impact on your life. Taxes, with the exception of income taxes (except in jurisdictions with locally-imposed income taxes), are most often levied by local and state authorities. Every state has some form of property tax; the decisions on the rate and disposition of these are made by those who govern locally. Ballot initiatives can be particularly important. For example, one of the reasons California is in such a mess is that its constitution can be changed by a simple majority of voters via a ballot initiative.
Because we, preppers, like lists, here is a simple checklist for getting involved.
- Get Informed
- Find out when the elections are in your area. This may sound simple for general elections that happen every two years in November, but local elections (and sometimes primaries) are often not well publicized.
- If you don’t already know, find your local polling place or call you local elections office to find out how to vote early or by absentee ballot.
- Attend candidate or informational forums on ballot issues. Ask questions! Speak to local candidates when they visit your home or neighborhoods.
- Read more than one news source, and read the mailings the candidates send. I know most of us throw them away, and they are certainly to be taken with little more than a grain of salt, but they can be informative.
- Talk to your friends and neighbors. You don’t have to engage in contentious political debate, but find out what others know or may be thinking. Gaining a variety of different perspectives can be invaluable, even it you don’t agree
- Get Involved
- Go to events sponsored by candidates or issue groups. The most reliable way to learn about the person or issue on the ballot is to go get the information yourself.
- If you find a candidate or issue you agree with, go and volunteer. Democracy as I have said is not a spectator sport. This can also be a good way to meet like-minded friends or even make some money. Many campaigns pay for services, like phone calling, door knocking, or hanging out literature.
- If there is no good candidate for an office, find a better one or maybe even run yourself.
- Speak up for, and maybe more importantly against, candidates or issues. Silence is agreement. This can include actually speaking up in public forums, writing letters to the editor in your local papers, and submitting blog postings. You get the idea.
- Donate your time or your money. This is a deeply personal decision. I mentioned volunteering earlier, but if you feel strongly about a candidate or issue, help them in whatever way you can. The three “M’s” of campaigning are money, men, and message. Money to finance the effort, men (or women, sorry ladies) to do the work, and a message that appeals to voters. The first two are the most important, because without them no one is likely to hear the message.
- Register to vote. You don’t have to register for a particular party, unless you want to vote in a primary. (Some states don’t require this and have what is generally referred to as an open primary.) You can register as independent or, in some states, no party.
- Actually vote. Remember, more than 40% of eligible voters don’t vote. Some races or issues can be decided by only a handful of votes.
I will leave you with one very famous quote from George Washington and one relatively obscure quote from Abraham Lincoln that perfectly describe the consequences of leaving our government unattended. Remember that irresponsible action is not only what is going on in Washington today, it is also failing to be good stewards of our legacy by not participating in the process of deciding who will lead our country and safeguard the principles of liberty on which this nation was founded. We get discouraged by what we think of as “big money” buying elections, but no one can buy a vote that is not for sale.
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” —George Washington
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” ― Abraham Lincoln