A strong promoter of spreading democracy abroad through free and fair elections, the United States turns its attention homeward this week with important balloting of its own across the country. The November mid-term elections will determine which political party controls the U.S. Congress and 36 state governorships. President Barack Obama isn’t on the ballot, but the outcome of the national races will have a big impact on his policies and achievements in his last two years in office.
This year’s election comes at a critical time for our nation. It is the first since Russia invaded the Ukraine, a militant Islamic insurgency took control of large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, and the shadow of West Africa’s Ebola fever epidemic touched our shores with the return of infected travelers and health care workers. Polls indicate that because of concern with these and other crises American voters will go to the polls in a sour mood. Many may not even cast a vote at all. Mid-term voter turnout is always smaller than when presidential candidates are on the ballot, and given popular discontent that trend may continue.
Or maybe not.
The next Congress will be asked to take fateful votes on war-and-peace issues that will affect every American. The impact will be felt not only in congressional action in the immediate future, but it could provide potential presidential candidates with clues on how to govern if they run in 2016. Important state and local issues will also be on the ballot, such as raising the minimum wage, allowing casino gambling, spending more money on education and legalizing marijuana.
With such high stakes, political parties and candidates have spent billions of dollars to get their messages out and appeal for support. In several states that allow people to vote by mail early because of Election Day conflicts the balloting has never been higher.
Even with their discontent over the nature of politics today and unpopular government policies, Americans know elections are the best way to have their voices heard. That is the essence of democratic government, and a right that, the nation’s current mood or not, few Americans would surrender.