Well the drama of the nationally televised Republican and Democratic conventions is behind us. Perhaps the next focus for schools and families is to help young people understand what to do with the flood of information.
We talk about freedom, democracy, representative forms of government and the opportunity to vote. But what do we, as newly minted 18-year-olds or seasoned citizens, actually think about when we vote? First, realize that most elections are not won because of the number of positives that are associated with a candidate. The victor is usually the combatant who has the fewest negatives. When races are close, the final weeks are peppered with attack ads that attempt to increase the negatives attached to an opponent. The winner may not be the best; he or she is simply not the worst.
Lesson Number One: Ignore the negative and focus on the positive. Voters frequently get frustrated because their candidate did not make it through the nomination process, so they don't vote.
Lesson Number Two: Vote for the person who is most likely to support the principles that you embrace. A "no show" is to abdicate your responsibility and to "acquiesce" with the majority. Staying at home is as if you voted for the winner! As an example, nearly 50% of those eligible to vote self report that they are religious evangelicals, but this group only represented 24% of those who voted in the last presidential election.
Lesson Number Three: A candidate's greatest ally is the apathy of his opponent's supporters. Every election is critical so we must teach young people that it is absolutely important to vote…but it is also important to know why you are casting a ballot.