Monday, November 05, 2012

My Choices: Election Day 2012

For this Thursday's Child to come out of a long-closed, self-imposed closet and actually talk about how I plan to vote in an election is a major step. During 37 working years in journalism, public higher education or both, I was obligated to keep my activities in the voting booth to myself. I retired in 2008 and finally allowed myself to put a bumper sticker on the car and a sign for a presidential candidate in our yard, but it still felt too strange to announce my choices to the world.  In this election, all that has changed. Last night I wrote the following essay on how I am voting this year, and why.  I'm publishing it not as a partisan ploy so much as to encourage everyone who is eligible to vote in the United States tomorrow to take time to study the pros and cons of issues and to weigh the consequences of their choices in state and federal contests. Voting, to me, is a sacred trust that the American people enjoy and we must not take it for granted. Especially women, who were barred from voting until the 1920s, and African Americans, who were granted voting privileges after the Civil War but were often supressed by poll taxes and outright intimidation until the 1960s passage of the Voting Rights Act. I hope that if you are able, and registered, that you will exercise your right to vote tomorrow unless you have already voted absentee or early in the states that allow it. 

Tomorrow, Nov. 6, I'll be standing in line at my precinct in Bel Nor, MO, voting in my 13th presidential election, an unbroken voting record that started in 1964 when I was 21 and voted by absentee ballot for Barry Goldwater. Over the years I have evolved into an independent Democrat who still occasionally votes for a Republican, at least in state or local elections. When it comes to issues I take a progressive, or some would say liberal tack. I don't mind being called a liberal because to me the term means having an open mind, respecting the opposing view, and using reason to solve the problems of our day. So here is how I will vote tomorrow, if you care to know, and why. For a non-partisan look at issues and Missouri races, I recommend this link: which was prepared by the League of Women Voters. 

To begin with the issues, I will be voting to raise my own property tax with a Yes vote on local Propositions S and L. Prop. S is for the St. louis County Special School District. I know several families whose children are on the autism spectrum or who have a physical disability, and the services of the District have been invaluable to them. To hire more teachers and improve services for a growing number of children and youth who need them will cost our household $36 more a year. That 's $3 a month.  I think we can swing that. Prop L is is 6 cent increase to fund renovations and replacement of several branches and the headquarters of the St. Louis County Library District. I personally use both the Normandy Branch and the Genealogy resources at Headquarters, and I believe the money will be well spent. At least three library employees are among my friends, and I know how dedicated they are in their work. And I get to see these improvements for less than lunch out with a friend...$11.40 a year.
On statewide Amendment 3, I will vote No. This looks like a subtle step that could begin to insert more politics into the selection of our judiciary system, and after having to endure the judicial election ads from a bordering state, there has to be a better way. The Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan has been a national model for selecting judges on merit and this Constitutional amendment would begin to dismantle it.
On Missouri Proposition A, returning the St. louis police department to local control, there are good arguments for and against. But state control of the police department is a relic of the Civil War, and the reasoning behind it has long passed into history. I am going to vote Yes, and trust that issues about police pensions and the review board will be handled fairly or else addressed in future elections.
Proposition B has been opposed by huge bulletin boards all over the state decrying a 760% tax increase! For people who use tobacco products, that is true, and the tobacco industry has funded much if the opposition. It will raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 17 cents, the lowest in the nation, to 90 cents, higher than some of our border states but still lower than others. Half of the revenue will go to K-12 education and 30 percent to higher education, the rest to smoking cessation programs. Opponents fear that the revenue will be directed elsewhere by the legislature. That fear may be well founded, although the measure appears to be written well enough to keep that from happening. As a retiree from employment in higher education and a person who has seen too many people die of lung diseases, I am going to take a leap of faith and vote Yes.
Proposition E is a measure that seeks to stop implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, in Missouri. It prohibits the governor or any state agency from setting up the health care exchanges that are required by the law to be operational by 2014, without approval of the legislature or a vote of the people. It resembles similar initiatives in other states that have Republican majorities in their executive and legislative branches. Proponents are basically opposed to any state regulation of insurance through these exchanges, saying the free market is best, and they want the act to be repealed by Congress.  Opponents point out that if the measure passes, Missouri will lose the federal funds targeted to help set up these exchanges, which according to the Supreme Court are the Law of the Land.  I have noticed that our health care system is already accepting the health care law and starting to implement many of its mandates... Including networks to share health care records systems and hospitals starting to charge more efficiently--that is, by protocol rather than for each separate procedure--for treatment of certain conditions. If these hospitals think they can follow the law, why should the legislature continue to fight it. I will be voting NO.

For state wide offices: Jay Nixon gets my vote for Governor. He won my loyalty with his pioneering consumer protection initiative, the Missouri Do not Call list, when he was Attorney General and he has governed the state well this past 4 years working with bankers and farmers, business and education. For Lieutenant governor, I face a dilemma. For the past two elections I have voted for Republican Peter Kinder because the experience of his Democratic opposition has been weak. But this year the Democratic candidate is Susan Montee, who performed well as State Auditor and helped straighten out our local fire protection district when its directors came under scrutiny for how they had (mis)handled our tax dollars. I am still debating this one..either could serve well as pro tem in the state senate and as stand in for the Governor if he is on a trade mission out of the country. Chris Koster gets my vote for Attorney General...he has a good record in his first term and has earned another one, and the perennial candidate running against him lacks the experience the position requires. For Secretary of State, neither Jason Kander nor Shane Schoeller has statewide exposure  beyond serving in the legislature, but I'm casting my vote for Kander because of his military experience and his higher level of education, and because he is a proponent of early voting, a progressive idea that may appeal to more Missourians after they stand in line for a couple of hours on Tuesday. Finally, I'm voting for Clint Zweifel for State treasurer. Clint was one of my students and advisees at the University of Missouri St. Louis when I advised the student newspaper, The Current. Clint has run the Treasurer's office honestly, has helped people I know recover their unclaimed property, and expedited getting state Loan funds to Missourians impacted by tornadoes and floods and drought. His office even got a clean bill from Missouri's state auditor, a Republican.

For Senator, Claire McCaskill. Two words, Todd Akin, are enough to explain why, but her service to veterans as a member of the armed Services Committee, helping clean up VA hospitals and burial irregularities at national cemeteries comes to mind, as well as her past background as a county prosecutor and state auditor. She is dogged about the details and we need more people who will study this stuff, not folks who confuse beliefs with facts, in the Senate.

For President, Barack Obama. I voted for him in 2008 and I will give him the opportunity to continue leading us out of a very deep recession and out of the second of two ill-considered wars. Progress has been slow, but he has worked with the hand he was dealt, and I cannot support the Republican opposition, which claims to want to put the country on a sounder financial footing but seems to be oblivious to what their plans would do to senior citizens, women, people who could not get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, places that are hit with natural disasters, low-income college students and ordinary Americans who have fallen on hard times.  Not to mention what the opposition's friends in the financial world did to my retirement accounts between 2008-2011, that thankfully are finally recovering. I would say especially to those undecided voters, or those who voted for Obama in 2008 but are wavering now because you didn't see as much hope and change as was promised...please consider the alternative, and the consequences, carefully. And if you are thinking of voting for a third-party candidate in order to express that disappointment, well that is your right...but I am here to say that I exercised that right once, in 1980, and woke up on the Day After to regret it. I voted for my hero Ralph Nader because I was disappointed in Jimmy Carter. Enough of us did that to swing the election to Ronald Reagan, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

I believe our American political process, however flawed some might think it to be, is still the one tool that guarantees our freedom and is the envy of much of the world. No matter how vicious the attack ads and robocalls get, they are in the end only words, and not bullets. Here's to Election Day!