Jul 4, 2016

Politics in America is a Good and Necessary Thing

From Professor Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball in a speech made at Monticello, VA welcoming new citizens.

I realize politics has a terrible reputation. Mention the word, and dark visions of corruption, bribery, and smoke-filled rooms are conjured up. I’ll grant you, the current presidential campaign certainly hasn’t helped the reputation of politics. How I would love to offer you some pointed commentary on that subject and our current candidates, but decorum on this day of unity prevents me. (Maybe at our picnic.)
Here’s a revolutionary thought for your Fourth: Politics in America is a good and necessary thing.
It’s the oil that greases the creaky machinery of government by encouraging responsiveness to public opinion.
It’s the glue that binds together a nation of continental expanse and stunning diversity -- unquestionably, the United States is the most diverse Republic on the face of the planet, as you here today prove, with concentrations on our shores of people from every other country around the globe.
Without liberal application of politics, the centrifugal forces and the discord generated by diversity might rip apart the fabric of our society.
Without skillful use of the political arts, how could we hope to make our system work when power is divided in so many ways, vertically with layers of national, state, and local governments, and horizontally with the separated powers of Congress, President, and Supreme Court?
Politics is simply the means we use to make our nation work, and to make our states and communities better places to live.
Your power as an individual citizen is awesome. You can shake things up by speaking up, starting a petition, organizing your neighbors, backing a candidate for office, or running yourself!
And voting, of course -- always, always voting. The choices may not be ideal from time to time, as the 2016 election demonstrates, but part of a citizen’s duty is to pick the best from a mixed lot. Good luck this November.
And get ready to vote frequently -- and I don’t mean for contestants on American Idol or voting people off the island. You’re going to be called on to vote for serious reasons several times each and every year. Primaries and general elections and special elections galore. Just be glad you’re in Virginia. We have a relatively short ballot. In California they elect so many offices and decide so many issues that voting is a part-time job!
By the way, if you want to quickly maximize your influence, just organize all your family and friends to vote. My late father was a first-generation Italian-American and a distinguished veteran of World War II. After the war he became something of an evangelist for democracy. Not only did he never miss an election, he carted many members of our extended family to the polls -- happily providing those who weren’t fully informed with a list of preferred candidates. The lesson is, you too can become a political boss with your own machine!
Your local registrars for the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle are right here with us. Talk about customer service. Before you leave these beautiful environs, be certain to register to vote.
Truth is, citizenship is hard work. You have to do your homework because mistakes can prove costly. You see our good friends across the pond, who made a decision on the European Union that millions are trying to take back, too late to save the value of the pound or maybe even the integrity of the United Kingdom. Judging by the large number of Brits googling “what is the European Union?” after they voted, it looks likely some electors didn’t know what they were doing, with enormous consequences.
The internet does make any voter’s task easier, though it’s critical to seek out the facts before casting a ballot. You also have to separate good from bad information. Here’s a tip. Ignore the shrill voices. You can safely skip any website or delete any tweet that is written in ALL CAPS.

http://www.centerforpolitics. org/crystalball