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Social media has never altered public policy, but voting does

Date: 9/3/2014

Yes, this is now becoming a standard theme for editorial writers: elections and apathy. I’ll try not to make this a summer rerun.

I’ve been told the prediction for voter turnout for the Sept. 9 primary election is going to be quite low despite the fact the election is crucial to pick the final gubernatorial candidates and other state-wide offices. It will determine the district attorney’s race in Hampden County as well as one state representative seat.

It’s an important election and the pundits mutter that despite the urgency that should be created by all these races, people are not paying much attention.

As you read this column we are in the last desperate phase of the primary race. It is when the most ad dollars will be spent in an attempt to establish positions and name recognition. Although some candidates have been building their grass roots efforts for months, this final push is what could give them their victory.

The idea is that many people, perhaps most people, don’t pay attention to all this “political slop,” as the “Old Man” in “A Christmas Story” would say, until the end of white shoe season. This year that means one week is what they have to put the affairs of summer behind them and think about who is going to run the show.

My fear in these days of social media and posting anonymously on forums is people have mistaken expressing an opinion with voting. Sharing that funny meme on Facebook may be an exercise of your right to free speech but most likely it is not going to alter public policy. Voting can and does change things if the correct candidate is elected.

One of the biggest American recreational activities is complaining about government. We have been doing it ever since there was a government. Ambrose Bierce, the great journalist, fiction writer and all-around-hero to inked stained wretches such as myself, defined politics as “a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

I think a lot of people would still agree with such an assessment and yet complaining whether online, over dinner or in your favorite watering hole is still just hot air.

You want to change something? You have to take action. One means of doing that is researching the candidates before you and hauling yourself to your polling place and casting your vote. There is no excuse not to do so.

 If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.

A little reality, please

And speaking of complaints, I have one. I’ve covered a number of candidates’ events and there is a trend to shy away from in presenting formats that include interactions between candidates. Why?

The reason I’ve been given is that when you have three or four candidates coming up with a format with some give and take can be difficult. I was speaking with one candidate and asked him when was there going to be some blood on the floor? I think I scared him a bit!

I didn’t mean it literally.

Another candidate suggested to me a round-robin approach. After an introductory statement, each candidate could direct a question to one another candidate. There could be a rebuttal following the answer. That sounded good to me.

Running for office shouldn’t just be an exercise in reciting a stump speech. Granted I’m sure there are candidates who are quite happy in doing just that, as it is far less risky than speaking off the cuff to one of your opponents.

That, however, is how we separate the wheat from the chaff in a political sense. If a candidate can’t be articulate in a campaign setting how are they going to behave in the State House?

Of course my interests are selfish. It’s a better story when the candidates are challenging one another. There are better quotes and the capacity for a bit of drama. It strips away the carefully constructed facades and allows a bit of reality to shine through. I think is also better for the voters.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.