I've followed politics for more years than I care to count but this Tuesday's election seems to be one of the more lengthy campaigning cycles in my memory. Regardless of the outcome, I'm sure we're all looking forward to voting and moving on.
What we've become, for the most part, is a nation divided by issues. But the irony is that each of us may have an entirely different issue than our neighbor. There are some - I count myself among them - who want to know just where a candidate stands on the issue of illegal immigration. I'll confess I have much more interest in a candidate's position on this matter than I do on stem cell research. I understand those who are passionate about the stem cell issue but have no real interest in the tobacco tax that is on the ballot.
You can go up and down the list of issues facing this country and we stand divided on virtually everyone. But let's think a bit deeper on some issues. For example, the issue of prayer in schools. Or the removal of "One Nation, Under God" from our Pledge of Allegiance. If you polled the American public, you would find overwhelming support for prayer in schools and opposition to changing the words of our Pledge. But - and here's where it gets interesting - the courts have ruled against the vast majority of public opinion. So ignore your special interest issue for a moment and consider which candidate for national office would more likely vote in favor of a judge who would support the majority view.
The candidate who wants to repeal the tax overhaul implemented by the Bush administration may be the same candidate who would not support the appointment of a judge who would overturn the school prayer issue. The candidate who supports the stem cell initiative might be the same candidate who wants to end our involvement in Iraq. In other words, if you limit yourself to a candidate's position on one single issue, you may be missing the larger picture.
Here's what I want from a candidate. I want someone who is conservative yet understands that some members of our society will always need the help of others to succeed. I want a candidate who will have the wisdom to vote against pork barrel projects that siphon our taxes but will support projects that benefit all Americans. I want a candidate who will support affordable health care but one who also recognizes that some patients and some medical providers are taking advantage of the current system. And I want that changed.
I want to vote for a candidate and not against one. I want to be able to tell you why I support one candidate over the other. And I want to recognize that the negative advertising that is rampant is misleading, regardless of the party affiliation. Republican or Democrat - they're both guilty of misleading the voters in their favor.
Here's an example. Claire McCaskill didn't actually not pay her property taxes. It was taxes on an apartment that someone else was responsible to pay. And Jim Talent didn't vote eight times against raising the minimum wage because he wanted to keep worker pay low. He voted against those measures because there were other flaws in the legislation and he wanted a better bill. And he favors higher wages for workers.
But if you just listen to the negative side, you'll come away misinformed and you'll make the wrong decision.
I suspect - if you pay any attention to the polls - that there may be some changes in store following the election. Regardless of the final tally, I'm certain that will be the case. Our only hope and prayer is that the changes will be positive for our nation, our state and our region.
Look deep inside Tuesday when you cast your ballot. Don't be swayed by personalities or slick negative advertising or newspaper editorials. Know what you want out of your elected officials and then honestly, mark the choice that more closely fits your pattern.