We’re holding an election in spite of ourselves.
Obstacles and Obligations
The League of Women Voters has shut down its voter registration efforts in Florida, and Souls to the Polls, a fleet
ON THE COVER: FROM LEFT: ILLUSTRATION, ROGER CHOUINARD, PHOTO, ISTOCK; 7, BRUCE PETERSON; CORBIS THIS PAGE: ILLUSTRATION, JOHN CORBITT; STEWART, AP PHOTO/BRAD BARKET; LIMBAUGH, AP PHOTO/COURTESY RUSH LIMBAUGH
of buses that has transported Floridians from churches to
polling places since 2004, is grounded. That’s because 12
years after its hanging-chad fiasco, Florida has decided to
tighten voter access and threaten,
with stiff fines and possible jail,
groups that help voters register.
ment-issued photo ID cards to
vote. Five made registration harder, and five have reduced absentee and early voting. All this in the
name of fighting voter fraud that
has yet to appear. ; These initiatives target the poor and the older
voter—as many as 8 million people over 65, for example, no longer
drive or lack approved ID forms. As egregious as these barriers
may be, though, the more daunting obstacle to voters this year is
We have become casual citizens. We have never had easier access
to more information. Too often we’re caught in a cycle where we’re
more inclined to ignore information available to us and instead seek
views that reaffirm what we already think. Academics call this “
pref-erence-consistent news,” and the result too often is misinformation.
In the face of a still-sluggish economic recovery, income disparity, a record national debt and a paralyzed federal
government, citizens have become discouraged,
distracted and, most of all, uninterested. Structural
problems facing Social Security and Medicare have
festered for years. We talk about new initiatives in
education, health care, space travel, new military
adventures or new weapons systems as if they were
menu items at America’s free lunch counter. But
there is no free lunch.
We all want lower taxes. But where do we have
the debate about what we want our government to
do and then how to finance it? We must do better.
Andrew Bacevich is a thoughtful retired Army officer, author and Boston University professor. He is
pessimistic about the ability of the president—any
president—or a dysfunctional Congress to surmount
institutional straitjackets or partisan politics. But
he’s optimistic about the role citizens can play.
If we engage.
“Yesterday's civic obligations,” Bacevich says,
“have become today's options.” We can do better
As Americans 50 and older, we likely will constitute the majority voting bloc in November. We must
look beyond our comfort zone to study the issues
important to us with fresh eyes and new energy.
Fight the obstacles. Replace today’s civic options
with our civic obligation. —Jim Toedtman, Editor
Too often we only listen
to people we agree with.
Break the cycle of spin with
these reliable sources:
Federal government budget & taxes:
Congressional Budget Office, cbo.gov;
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, crfb.org; Tax Policy Center,
taxpolicycenter.org; U. S. Government
Accountability Office, gao.gov; Bipartisan
Policy Center, bipartisanpolicy.org
Health: Kaiser Family Foundation, kff.org
Foreign policy: Center for Strategic &
International Studies, csis.org
Political news fact-checkers: The
Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact.com and
the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s
Campaign finance: Center for Responsive Politics, crp.org
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