"Elections are a good deal like marriages. There's no accounting for anyone's taste. Every time we see the bridegroom we wonder why she picked him, and it's the same with public officials."
By the time you read this, the election season will be in full swing, with big-ticket races in every state for seats in the Senate, the House, and state and local governments. (And, oh yeah, we're electing a President too.) And for us, this is the time to take stock of the issues that confront us in the four-wheeling community-resource management, land-use issues, emissions regulations, and all the rest-and do our homework, research the candidates and their stands on the issues, and educate ourselves with the intent of making the most informed decisions we can on Election Day.
But before we get any further...well, this bears repeating: Here in the Land of the Free, fully half of us who are eligible to vote don't even bother showing up at the polling place on any given Election Day. And according to the Census Bureau, more than a third of adults in this country aren't even registered to vote at all. Those are shameful numbers for a so-called democracy, and they virtually guarantee that whoever's running the government at any given time will be only doing so with the approval of a small minority of our citizens.
What to do? Here's a novel idea: When was the last time somebody held a voter registration drive at Moab during Easter Jeep Week, or at Lima during the Spring Jamboree Nationals? I'd be willing to wager that you'd find plenty of folks at these shindigs in any given year who either (a) don't bother to vote or (b) aren't even registered. Those are the folks we need to enlist in our efforts to elect government officials who will work with us to keep our public lands open and our pastime thriving.
For those of you who are registered, have you done anything to help elect a candidate-to the Congress, your town council, or anywhere else-who will represent us, or to pass ballot initiatives that will keep our lands open and our 4x4s legal? This could be volunteering to work a phone bank for a few hours a week, hosting a fundraiser with coffee and donuts, or even opening up our checkbook and mailing 50 bucks to someone who'll fight for your interests in Washington, your state capital, or your own backyard. Remember, these are the folks who will be spending your tax dollars enforcing land closures and emissions laws for the next four years, so if you haven't gotten involved, what's your excuse?
Granted, there are many, many issues of overriding importance this year-the economy, health care, and Iraq, among others-but long story short: We can all gripe and grouse in online forums about the evils of big government, tree-huggers, land closures, and the like, but unless we're all willing to roll up our sleeves and make sure that every one of us is registered and motivated, and willing to invest a little "sweat equity" into making sure our voices are heard in the halls of government...like Will Rogers said, if we end up stuck in an unhappy marriage for four more years, we've got no one but ourselves to blame.
Either way, whatever your party or political persuasion, be sure to make your voice heard at the polls-vote on November 4. You owe it to yourself, and to your fellow enthusiasts.