Commentary: No-vote ethic won’t work Tuesday

Hi, my name is Justin. I am 21 years old, and I have never voted.

It’s not because I didn’t care, you see. It’s just because I didn’t see the point. How do you pick between two or three politicians who seem to be saying the same things?

I want to give back to the working man. I will ensure the rights and freedoms of all those in my district/city/state/country. I will put your tax dollars to work.

Too often, it seems, these promises aren’t fulfilled. So for more than three years now, I’ve been preaching a no-vote ethic. Don’t support the system until the system starts supporting you.

Recently, though, I’ve realized that the no-vote ethic won’t work. People who care about specific things vote regarding to those specific things; hence, motorcyclists in Kentucky who aren’t forced to wear helmets, gun-buyers and sellers who don’t have to worry about background checks getting in the way of their exhibitions, church leaders who don’t have to see OPEN signs in the windows of liquor stores on Sundays.

What do you care about? Should employers be allowed to decide whom they hire based on the applicants’ sexual orientations? Should economic interest take precedent over environmental safety? Should suspected criminals be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime?

Should America, fresh off a victory against the Taliban, attack Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein?

Who you vote for or who you don’t will determine your official answer to each one of these questions on Tuesday.

There’s not much we can do about the executive branch. The Bush administration has another two years left, and so far, it hasn’t shown any signs of listening to the public (or to reason) before making its decisions.

The legislative branch, however, is a different story.

Take our congressional officials, for example. Both Senators, Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning (Republicans) voted in favor of President Bush’s sweeping resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, as did Bowling Green’s U.S. Representative, Republican Ron Lewis.

Did these people ask whether you wanted to attack Iraq? Of course they didn’t, because they knew the question you’d ask: Why? That’s a question a lot of Americans are wondering, although the Bush administration, the media and even most of our spineless Democratic representatives don’t want to have to answer it. They don’t know, either.

But Iraq is hardly the only issue. Just days ago, the Bush administration said it would invariably vote against any measure that would keep a registry of American gun-owners. And then, only a few days later, we learned that the suspected sniper, John Allen Muhammad, had bought his weapon of destruction (the ironically named Bushmaster assault rifle) under his own name.

Think: had that registry already been made, authorities would have traced the bullets’ markings back to Muhammad much sooner, saving a few lives and deterring other criminals from such brazen antics!

Of course, this is only the beginning. High ranks of intelligence have determined Iraq had no substantial ties to the Taliban’s terrorist actions.

The Bush administration has called for an overhaul of those investigating Iraqi ties, since the evidence they expected/wanted didn’t pan out.

America’s proposed 2003 defense budget is $396 trillion, while only half of that is needed to upgrade and renovate every school in America. Thirty-three million of our citizens live in poverty; 41 million have no form of health insurance. And the richest 1 percent of the country got $1.6 trillion in tax cuts, thanks to President Bush.

There’s a reason we have a Congress: To check the actions of the president and his cabinet. But as Democrats face losing control of the Senate as well as losing more seats in the House, that check may soon disappear.

So read up on things, and not just on; check out or E-mail your congressmen ( and tell them what you think about everything. And most importantly, VOTE.

Your lone voice may not make much difference, but with thousands of students reading this newspaper, there’s plenty of potential for impact. And know that two years from now, no matter how far into the proverbial crapper our commander-in-chief has taken us, there will be another chance for us to pull ourselves out.

Our elected leaders may not be saying much these days. That doesn’t mean we can’t.

R. Justin Shepherd is a part-time print journalism major from Bowling Green.