Are you excited to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections?? Well, maybe excitement isn’t the right term, but I hope we think about it as an opportunity to make positive change. I honestly didn’t used to care much about voting. I usually skipped the mid-terms and all other local elections. I would only vote in the presidential ones, and even then, I wouldn’t really do any research. I would just vote straight one party and call it a day.
I know many people are probably that way. I want to write today because I have been on an enlightening journey for the past few years that has changed the way I think about voting and when and how to vote. It has changed my life, and I expect it will continue to as I continue learn and grow.
Who am I to offer any insight, you may ask? I’m just a regular person, that is true. I just feel like I’m supposed to share some of the things I have learned. Elections are far more important and crucial to our well-being than many people realize, and it’s not just because of who gets elected.
I have learned many things in my soul-search to be a more principled voter and citizen of our great country. Here are some of those things:
- There is no supreme political party that has all the right answers, and none always has the moral high ground.
- There are corrupt politicians in every political party, and there are also politicians with integrity and courage in every political party.
- Most people want and value similar things – they just may go about it in a different way or have a different understanding. We have so much more in common than there will ever be differences.
- Not all media is honest and not everyone who claims to be an expert or to be telling the truth is credible or has good intentions. Thus, we can’t believe everything we see, read, or hear (i.e.: flyers in the mail, radio/tv ads, news articles, etc.).
- Pointing fingers, being judgmental, dehumanizing, and assuming the worst of organizations, parties, or groups of people, particularly when no credible research has been done, is not productive, kind, or right.
- Talking to people of opposing viewpoints and learning more about the experiences of others we do not feel we relate to is a wonderful way to gain understanding and build compassion.
- Voting is a privilege, and we should take it very seriously. Researching candidates and making informed decisions is our moral obligation and should be a top priority. Straight party voting is not the best way to handle voting as not all candidates in one party are people of honesty, courage, and integrity.
- Loyalty to party and specific leaders above all else does a disservice to all of us. It hurts relationships, fills us with unhealthy anger, fear, and dread, and often causes us to ignore and withdraw from our moral compasses.
- We must decide what is a dealbreaker for us in voting and what is not. Before deciding that, we should do our homework and make sure we know all the many facets and complexities of a platform or issue.
- To really be balanced in our political thinking, and to ensure our perspectives are backed up by sound logic, we must avoid logical fallacies, such as name-calling, whataboutism, generalizations, straw man arguments, red herrings, etc.
There are so many more things I could share, but these are super important. I used to do a lot of these, and I know now that I was wrong about a lot of things.
So, how do we do this?
- Work on your heart. To me, this is the most important step, and helps us feel the crucial importance of the others.
- Ponder on groups/organizations/people that you feel an anger/hatred/prejudice towards. Think about why and consider that you may be wrong. Reach out, do your research, and talk to people to help you ease those feelings.
- Look for the good everywhere you go. There is good in all races, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, genders, economic and educational statuses, and political parties. Never let yourself believe otherwise.
- Assume that when you say or do something that isn’t kind and that is fueled by anger, hatred, intolerance or fear, that someone will be negatively affected. There is always someone reading, listening, or watching who can either be hurt by you or helped and uplifted by you.
- Be very careful and choosy about the media you read and watch. Media that tells you what to think rather than just presents the facts is biased. Media that focuses only on the faults of one party and only the virtues and victimhood of the other is biased. Media that fuels your fear and anger is biased. Media that does not report on major events that should matter to all Americans is biased. Media that never shows the other side of an issue is biased. Every media platform will have some bias, as it chooses what to report on and how. However, there are plenty of options that are fact-based that either do not include opinion at all or present the opinion/perspectives of several sides. The virtues and faults of all leaders/parties will be shown. Fact checking will be done when appropriate. You can find some very helpful charts that show media bias. I personally choose to only watch/read media that is presented as very close to the middle or in the middle.
- Interactive Chart | Ad Fontes Media
- Media Bias Chart | AllSides
- The Factual’s Media Bias and Credibility Chart – The Factual | Blog (This one is not politically based but rather fact based. The chart goes from left to right rather than from the middle outwards, with the further right being the more factual.)
- Do your research about candidates – don’t let the opposing party tell you what is true about a candidate in the other party. I have listened to and seen enough propaganda to know that this is not an effective way to learn. Instead, you can do this:
- Follow candidate social media pages. See how they communicate and how they serve in their communities.
- Go to candidate websites and read about their backgrounds, who endorses them, and what their priorities are.
- Look at the criminal records of candidates and compare those records to current lifestyle/attitudes.
- Go to websites like ballotpedia.com to see real statements from the candidates about issues that matter. Oftentimes local newspapers will also interview candidates for local positions.
- Do your research about issues that matter to you AND just as importantly, issues that don’t matter to you but that matter to others. Most of the time, in order to get votes, parties will say the worst about each other’s platforms/perspectives to scare you into voting a certain way. There are definitely times when viewpoints are scary and unsound, but more often than not, they are just being misrepresented.
- Talk to your friends and family who have certain beliefs, perspectives, experiences and lifestyles that are different than yours. Have a respectful conversation about your differences and seek understanding.
- Look up the topic at hand, referencing studies, statistics, scholarly articles, court cases, and interviews. Do not rely on the statements of politicians alone. They are often either misinformed or are purposely trying to mislead.
- Work on your preconceived notions of assuming the worst about a party or candidate. Wait until after doing thorough, objective research to determine how you feel about something.
- Educate yourself on American history and current American events. It should all matter to you – the full truth, even if it doesn’t align with what you want or who you like or follow.
- Watch documentaries about American/world history, particularly related to political/social issues.
- Read objective history books/textbooks.
- Study the Constitution and what it really says, as well as what the framers intended.
- Keep abreast of current investigations and court cases related to political figures. Also read current articles about them – what they are saying and doing.
- Read about Supreme Court cases, past and present, to help you know the full extent of decisions and what they mean., as they are often misrepresented.
- To help supplement your research, follow knowledgeable influencers on social media who dedicate their lives not to spreading hate and misinformation, but the exact opposite – spreading truth, hope, inspiration, facts, and unbiased analysis.
- My favorite group to follow is Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG). Its purpose is to help women of faith build a “more peaceful, just, and ethical world.” You can follow this wonderful group on Facebook or Instagram, as well as visit the website: Mormon Women for Ethical Government. I actually volunteer with this organization, and the nonpartisan dedication to Christlike, peaceful, ethical politics is so refreshing. They have also put out this wonderful voting resource that can really help everyone be a more principled vote. I highly recommend reviewing it: Know Your Vote (mormonwomenforethicalgovernment.org)
- My favorite person to follow is Sharon McMahon. Her Instagram page is @Sharonsaysso and her website is www.sharonmcmahon.com. She is a magnificent, knowledgeable, honest, and compassionate woman who has really helped me be a better American. I always look forward to her Instagram stories, which are full of information as well as nonpartisan, compassionate, moral analysis. Below are some images I took screenshots of recently that really helped me learn more about voting, democracy, and what matters.
There is more I wish to say to Christians like myself, and I do so in this video. I hope you find some helpful direction and cause for self-reflection in these words that I felt prompted to record:
Here are a few references for my latter-day Saint readers that have helped me shape a lot of my viewpoints expressed above:
- “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” (churchofjesuschrist.org)
- First Presidency urges Latter-day Saints in the United States to vote – Church News (thechurchnews.com)
- Love Your Enemies (churchofjesuschrist.org)
- Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution (churchofjesuschrist.org)
I also found a couple videos I made two years ago regarding these same issues. I will share one. Here I focus on the humanity of each of us. It mirrors the video above very well, and it was refreshing to watch it again knowing that I have grown even more since then.
I truly hope that we can all take some time to honor our moral obligation to vote in the most ethical, peaceful, law-abiding, democratic, and compassionate way. God bless everyone!
*Election Day is November 8. Don’t miss it!