In an increasingly divisive election cycle for the Presidency of the U.S.A. the contentiousness has resulted in some voters saying that, if their candidate is not on the final ticket, they won’t vote at all. A decision to cast no vote undermines the very principles of democracy to which we aspire and is a cop-out that grants a non-vote to another candidate who the voter presumably views as equally unqualified or undesirable.
Why is this meaningful in the context of this blog – Pursuing Leadership? My posts over the last eleven years have all in one way or another attempted to shed light on how we see leadership and how we cultivate it in others and ourselves. The bottom line has been how to improve the quality of leadership we see in all sectors – education, business, politics and all?
I am currently reading The History of American Higher Education (Geiger, 2015) and will complete a review when I am done. One of the things the author documents about colonial and post-Revolution colleges was the need to build the capacity for a growing nation that not only included religious leaders, educators, physicians, lawyers, and eventually business and other vocations but also developed in all the capacity for self-governance. If we think politics is contentious now, do a little reading about the history of the Colonies... Those who established the foundation for democracy struggled and they fell short in many ways. However, they did embrace the broad idea of educating citizens so that they would take responsibility for themselves and would be discerning enough to engage in the difficult political discourse required for them to cast a responsible vote.
For every citizen of the U.S.A. who declines to vote in the 2016 elections, education has either failed us or the individual has copped out of the difficult task of reviewing, understanding, comparing, and endorsing the best available candidate on the ticket. When elections are contentious, there are those who count on more citizens not coming to the polls. The narrower the niche of support any candidate has, the more likely it is that the strategy will be to firm up supporters and work to discourage the fence-sitters or disenchanted from getting involved at all. Not voting for a candidate is a vote in favor of the alternative.
I have attempted to remain non-partisan in this brief comment. It doesn’t matter who you like or dislike or even who confuses you to the point of disillusionment. The process of sorting through our values and determining a best-fit candidate who will surely not represent all your views is a responsibility that each of us must undertake if we are to have even the slightest potential of fulfilling the democratic process that our founders and early educators envisioned.