U.S. voters should know the issues

Published 8:48 pm Saturday, October 25, 2008

With only a few days remaining until one of the biggest elections in history, the passion of supporters on both sides of the political divide seems to exceed that of any election in recent memory. Political volunteers are canvassing Suffolk’s neighborhoods like never before, and voters are hoping that whatever happens on Election Day, the economy will revert back to the good ol’ days.

I’d like to think at this stage that most people are well informed about the candidates in races from the School Board all the way up to the presidential level. But I’m not confident that’s the case.

In fact, radio shock-jock Howard Stern, who is perhaps better known for his occasionally obscene on-air antics, set out recently to find out whether people vote on the basis of appearance, notoriety or allegiance to a party, rather than aligning themselves with a candidate’s platforms and stands on the issues.

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Stern sent a reporter to Harlem to gauge who would get its residents’ support in the presidential election. The reporter asked random people on the streets whom they were voting for, and almost all those asked quickly responded that Obama was their man.

But then the reporter decided to see how much these potential voters knew about their candidate. “So do you support Obama and his pro-life stance?” he asked. “Oh yeah, we do,” the interviewees answered. The reporter continued the questions. “So are you glad that Obama chose Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee?” the reporter asked. “Oh yeah, we love Sarah, Go Obama!”

The questions went on and on, but you get the point. People who were asked had no clue what the issues were. Instead, they were 100 percent convinced that Obama was their man based on his appearance and perhaps due to race or allegiance to the Democratic Party. Whatever the case may be, it proved that one can garner support by reasons other than what he claims to do once in office.

It reminds me of the movie “The Distinguished Gentleman,” starring Eddie Murphy. Murphy had the same name as a former state legislator and decided to run for office on name recognition alone. Murphy made no public appearances, but because his name was well recognized, he received enough votes to win the election. That may be extreme, but one moral is that you don’t need the best plans to win office, rather the best campaign.

To be fair, let’s not leave out Sen. John McCain’s Republican party. I’m sure Sarah Palin will win the McCain/Palin ticket some votes solely because she is a woman and a small-town girl. Right or wrong, that is how politics works.

Let’s hope that Suffolk voters are more politically aware than the ones Stern featured. A city needs a leader who can lead and has the understanding to get things done in office. The same is true for our country. Voting for a person because of color, fame and the like just spells trouble.