Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Editorial — Electing to serve a good cause

Like most notes of thanks, this one arrives a bit after the fact. We would like to thank the candidates, campaign workers, those involved with the initiatives and all the election workers for the election on Nov. 4.

Elections are divisive affairs. Candidates spend months sparring back and forth, looking for the slightest bit of imperfection on the part of the competitors. As soon as that imperfection is found, it is trumpeted to the world.

While this is disturbing on some levels, it also is necessary. Whether the position is vice president, U.S. senator or state representative, those running for office deserve a thorough, and perhaps at times unfair, vetting process. These public officials will be taking our money and deciding what to do with it, so it is important we know as much about them as possible.

Candidates submitting themselves to this process deserve our thanks. We may grow to revile certain candidates and their views on some issues, but we must keep in mind that even the candidates we don’t like are part of a democratic system in which thesis and antithesis hopefully leads to synthesis that is better for all.

Three of the 10 races for state Senate and eight of the 40 races for state House of Representatives had only one candidate on the ballot. In one-sided races, constituents usually only learn that the candidate is thankful for support. This shows the value of a competitor. It also shows that running for office is not easy.

Take Sarah Palin, the polarizing candidate for vice president. Quite a few loved her, and quite a few did not, but there is no denying that, for our democracy, she submitted herself to months of hectic travel and unforgiving, harsh criticism.

It’s no mistake that on the night of the election, many candidates thank their families. Skeptics may say this is just politicians being politicians, but it’s clear that the time, effort and thick skin required to run for office places a huge burden on family.

And it’s not just the candidates and the family. The “Alaska Ear” in the Anchorage Daily News reported on Sunday that it’s not uncommon for election workers to gain weight in the months leading to the election. The 17 people working on the Mark Begich Senate race turned that around by entering a fitness pact, resulting in lost weight.

The sacrifices campaigns make for democracy become even more admirable in light of the apathy in which many Americans hold their democracy. The Daily News reported Alaska voter turnout was relatively high this year, with 65 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

The problem is, 65 percent is not very high in light of the sacrifices our armed forces and their families are making at home and abroad right now. 65 percent is not very high in light of similar sacrifices that have been made before and since the 13 colonies declared independence in July of 1776. 65 percent is not very high considering voting is relatively easy and gobs of money are spent begging people to vote.

Americans may disagree about whether government is a necessary evil or a necessary good, but Americans agree that government is necessary. Those who go above and beyond to contribute to the election process deserve our thanks.

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