If you are active on a social media site, watch television, listen to the radio or … well, if you’ve been conscious for the last two months, you have been bombarded by information about the presidential election. In fact, you’ve likely received so much information that you may be burnt out and ready to check out.
As we enter this election year, let's not lose sight of the fact that the president while powerful is only one piece, and a relatively small piece, of our government. The people we send to congress wield far more power to influence our day-to-day lives than the president does.
We face an historic election, and unfortunately for the entire world, far too many of us are forming our political views and support of candidates by what we’ve read on Facebook, or heard from a friend. First, let’s talk about what the president can do.
The executive branch.
The president can:
- Appoint supreme court justices and federal judges. Presidential appointments are important because many of them are appointed for life and the decisions they make, especially in the case of the U.S. Supreme Court, have implications for decades.
- Appoint the cabinet. From the attorney general to the secretary of state, the president has the power to appoint these very important and influential people.
- Veto or sign bills. Congress writes the bills and when enough of them vote in favor of a bill, it is eventually sent to the president for either his signature (which then enacts the bill into law) or his veto, in which case it goes back to congress, where a two-thirds majority is needed to override the veto and enact the bill into law without him.
The point being much of the president’s power is indirect, and without a cooperative congress there isn’t much a president can do that will change much for you and me.
The legislative branch.
Congress on the other hand has great power to change our lives, and far too little attention is focused on congressional elections, both at the federal and state levels.
So whether you are a liberal or a conservative this election season, participate in the voting process.
A right, a privilege and a duty, all in one.
Consider that African Americans and women were not allowed to vote when the United States became a country. People fought and died for the right for African Americans and women to vote, and if you are a member of either of these groups, it is an insult and affront to those who fought, suffered and died to gain this right, if you decide not to exercise it.
- Do your homework. Don’t vote for someone about whom you know nothing. Research the candidates and ballot initiatives before you make up your mind.
- Remember, your vote matters. Many believe that their votes don’t matter; they’re wrong. Recent elections have been very close; every vote counts. Even if your candidate loses, your vote still matters: a candidate who wins by a landslide feels emboldened to do whatever he or she pleases, while one who squeaks by with a narrow margin is less likely to be as confident of the public’s support.
- Don’t be a single issue voter. Lobbyists spend millions trying to convince you that a single issue is a good reason to vote for a particular candidate, while the truth is that your elected official is likely to decide hundreds, perhaps thousands, of things that will affect your life. So it is wise and prudent to avoid electing an official based on a single issue, no matter how important that issue is to you.