By Jonathan Thompson
In the months leading up to any election, a multitude of campaigns can be seen across several mediums that encourage the American public and in particular, young people, to register to vote. The rhetoric used by these campaigns is usually used to make voting sound “cool”–like something everyone is doing, and something that you should do. While these campaigns are inarguably affective at increasing voting rates among young people, they raise an important question: As an American citizen, are you morally obligated to vote? This question is one I have grappled with recently as I meet more and more people who seem disheartened by the current election.
As each presidential election increasingly becomes (for many) a game of picking the lesser of two evils, I wonder if it is better to vote for the person you think is more qualified, regardless of whether you like he or she? After thinking a lot about this question and speaking with peers, I say yes.
It is easy to subconsciously prioritize likability when it comes to choosing between candidates; however, it is important to look at qualifications on paper before anything else. The reality is that none of us are ever going to be best friends with the president. The most qualified person to run the U.S. could also very well be a complete jerk behind closed doors–I frankly do not care. I would rather see someone who has spent his or her entire life in the trenches of politics running this country than someone who just recently decided to join the race for the Hell of it.
The being said, I think that politics have almost become too personal in our current age of social media. Anyone can voice personal opinions online, and there is virtually no place for politicians to hide anymore. Thus, it seems personality is now just as important when compared to actual political qualification in order to win a presidential election. This idea is refreshing for many, myself included–humanizing the lofty politician–but it can also be distracting. It can distract from the actual goal of the election–to elect the best person to run our country. Through the mediums of social media and television, the very mediums through which we see campaigns that encourage voting, I find it easy to lose sight of the weight of the actual position of president. This position is not something to joke about–not something to laugh about–it’s something to take seriously, just like voting for president.
The reality has never been more apparent than now that voting is important, and can in fact, have a strong impact on our country’s future. Now, do I think voting should be compulsory in the U.S.? No. Voting should continue to act as a civil right within our political system–one that so many before us have fought for. It is now your choice whether you exercise this right. But when November comes, and it’s time to hit the polls, I implore you, as an American citizen, to think hard about the importance of casting your vote, what it means to you, and most importantly to our country.