Currie & Casper
Viewpoint: Citizen Apathy
by David Currie
There is no question that Americans as a whole and Texans in particular do not vote and are not involved in the political process near to the level they should be. I am guessing Ken picked this topic for us to talk about why this is so.
I have missed very few opportunities to vote since I cast my first ballot for George McGovern for president. Politics has always fascinated me. I remember as a child staying up late and watching election results (rooting for Republicans for a reason still unknown to me, lol.)
Early on as a ministerial student I was interested in what I learned about the Social Gospel movement and later earned by Ph.D. is Christian Ethics because of my interest in how our faith should play a part in our personal and corporate morality.
Saying all that, I also know that most of the people who work for me in my various businesses do not vote. When I asked them why they nearly all say the same thing, “I can’t see how it makes any difference in my life.” I have pointed out to them that they will all very much need social security and Medicare when they retire and for no other reason that should encourage them to vote.
But even I get discouraged and could easily be apathetic, especially in Texas with the entire state so dominated by Republicans. Most candidates, once they are elected, will be who they campaigned that they would be. When Charles Perry was elected our state senator I knew he would support very few things I cared about. Yes, I called his office to encourage him to vote against vouchers for public schools, but I knew deep down it was a waste of my time.
Gary Hart, the former senator from Colorado recently made a statement that I think has a lot of truth in it. Senator Hart said. “Can anyone seriously doubt that our republic, our government, is corrupt? There have been Teapot Domes and financial scandals of one kind or another throughout our nation’s history. There has never been a time, however, when the government of the United States was so perversely and systematically dedicated to special interests, earmarks, side deals, log-rolling, vote-trading, and sweetheart deals of one kind or another.”
“What brought us to this? A sinister system combining staggering campaign costs, political contributions, political action committees, special interest payments for access, and, most of all, the rise of the lobbying class.”
The fact is money rules politics and thus the rest of us really have very little influence. We don’t have the money to buy that influence.
Also we know our votes don’t matter that much except in the primaries anymore in many states. In 2014 Republicans got 52% of the votes in all House of Representatives elections BUT they control 57% of the House. How is this possible? Very simply the seats are gerrymandered in such a way that in states run by Republicans, they have pushed all the Democrats into a few districts.
Pennsylvania is an excellent example. Democrats have carried Pennsylvania for many elections for president, but there are 13 Republican house members and 5 Democrat house members. In 2014, the closest race was won with 56% of the vote. All the Democrats have been pushed into 5 urban districts, the only races that matter or in the primaries so there is no incentive for either party to be moderate and work toward the middle for solutions. The radical elements of both parties have the most say.
It’s basically the same way in Texas, only the primaries matter. That can certainly make me apathetic as I feel our choices in most cases are between a right-wing nut and an even more right wing nut. Do the names Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz ring a bell? Or even worse, Dan Patrick. These people have no place in public life yet here they are.
The bottom line is we need real strong campaign finance reform. And we have to help people realize that the issues really do matter to them and their families.
David R. Currie is the new Tom Green Democratic Chair. David is a native of Paint Rock in Concho County where family came in 1879, and continues to ranch there as well as in the Christoval area where he and his wife Loretta live. Married for over 30 years, they have a blended family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.
He is a graduate of Howard Payne University and also has masters and doctors degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminiary in Fort Worth where he did his doctoral work on agricultural policy and the Bible and received his degree in Christian Ethics.
He is a former pastor, staff member of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission which focuses on ethical issues and religious liberty and retired Executive Director of Texas Baptist Committed. He was also sheep and goat specialist with the Texas Department of Agriculture in the 80's when Jim Hightower was Ag. Commissioner.
David is the author of two books, On the Way and Songs in the Desert as well as hundreds of articles that can be found at www.txbc.org.
He is currently the president of Cornerstone Builders and Angelo Granite Worx, and managing partner of Stonewall Ranches development company. He has served three terms as president of the San Angelo Home Builders Association, served on the Better Business Bureau board, as a board member of Howard Payne University, The Interfaith Alliance, The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and is current Vice-chair of the San Angelo Adult Literacy Council. He and Loretta are members of Southland Baptist Church.
by Ken Casper
Fewer than 5,000 people voted in the recent election for mayor and city council out of a voting population in San Angelo of more than 50,000. That's not even 10%.
Men and women have died for the right to elect their leaders and representatives, and yet, when given the opportunity to exercise that right, 9 out of 10 local residents don't. Why?
I think there are two reasons. One is complacency: it'll all work out in the end. Other people are taking care of this. I just don’t have the time. I don’t know the people running. I'm not sure about the issues on the ballot. They don't affect me. My one vote isn't all that important anyway.
The second excuse is far more insidious: apathy. Born of a sense of frustration, of helplessness, it's the notion that nothing we do will make any difference, that the system is rigged.
That attitude may be cynical, but it's based on reality.
We hear candidates—of both parties—make campaign promises, then abandon them when they assume office. We see videos of blatant, truncheon-wielding voter intimidation, yet the Attorney General refuses to prosecute it, the same attorney general who was gun-running with Mexican cartels. The president tells bold-faced lies: "You can keep your insurance if you like it." He's taken an oath to protect and defend the country, but he refuses to secure the borders, then he lies about that too. He has a constitutional duty to see to it that the laws be faithfully executed, but he refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court. He usurps the legislative powers of Congress by issuing waivers to laws, e.g., Obamacare, without legal authority.
To add insult to injury, we see our representatives and senators—of both parties—allow this rogue president to get away with these treasonous acts, even though they too took oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We see courts distort plain language to suit political purposes. In short, we see betrayal at the highest levels.
In light of these violations of the public trust, is it any wonder voters feel helpless and used, that some of them refuse to participate in what they see as a charade?
I was taught in my youth that idleness is the devil's workshop. Well, Lucifer, the hero to which Saul Alinsky dedicated his "Rules for Radicals," the bible for the Progressive left, has been working overtime in his shop insuring we have the prerequisites of idleness: welfare, food stamps, endless unemployment benefits, subsidized public housing, no-collateral low-interest loans. Politicians, ever mindful that it's easier to control a small dependent group than a large self-sufficient one, encourage class warfare and laziness.
Thomas Jefferson wisely observed: "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." To that silence we can add not voting.
We are an activist nation. Apathy is foreign to us. We fought a civil war over slavery, then gave the franchise to the people we freed. We have had great movements of civil disobedience, some violent, and passed groundbreaking legislation to ensure all our citizens—regardless of race, color or creed—are able to vote for their officials and representatives.
There is a sad irony in the miserable 10% turnout for our recent local election. The greatest influence a citizen can have on government is at the local level, where a few votes can make a tremendous difference. For example, a couple of years ago the Wall ISD proposed a $22M bond issue. It lost by 8 votes! Its proponents put it on the next ballot. People got involved, and this time it lost two to one.
The question remains: what can be done about voter apathy? The answer: It's up to the individual.
Consider, for example, the alcoholic, who can only cure himself when he faces the reality of his condition. Let us hope the apathetic citizen isn’t too late in understanding the consequences of his inactivity, as did Pastor Martin Niemoeller, whose close friend Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer died in a Nazi concentration camp:
“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Ken Casper was born and raised in New York City a long time ago. After graduating from college, he entered the Air Force and was assigned to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for training. He served overseas tours of duty in Japan, Vietnam and Germany, as well as stateside assignments. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1993 and from Civil Service at Goodfellow in 1997. In 1998 he published his first novel, A Man Called Jesse. Twenty-four books followed, including Upstairs at Miss Hattie’s. During those years he became good friends with Dr. Pres Darby. In 2011, shortly before Pres’s death from ALS, they published a joint novel, Mankillers, a Civil War thriller. Since then, Ken has published three Jason Crow mysteries set in West Texas.
A staunch conservative, Ken was the second president of the San Angelo TEA Party, 2010-2011. He has remained active in local politics ever since.