If You Don’t Vote, Don’t Grumble

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 01, 2008

The 37 percent voter turnout for the primary election was embarrassing. I would be lying, however, if I said it was surprising. I mean, when is the last time you heard anybody talk about politics?

OK, fine. Barack Obama is our favorite son and only three distant relatives of Cindy McCain will vote for her husband in Hawaii.

Blah, blah and more blah. This election is more than just the coronation of a Punahou grad to the White House. We are facing unprecedented decisions and conditions in our own city and state that are ultimately the responsibility of locally elected leaders.

Before all you Obamaniacs get all hot and bothered, let’s put this whole election thing into perspective. The debate and discussion as to who is best to lead our nation is obviously an important exercise. Whether you are a fan of Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain, the important thing is you are energized and participating. Unfortunately, that same passion is missing at the local level.

Sure, the next president will decide our future foreign policies, wrestle with the War on Terror, shepherd our economic recovery and throw out the first pitch at the Nationals’ home opener. But neither Obama nor McCain will fix Hawaii’s roads, improve our public education or stimulate our tourism industry. So, why don’t we decide who makes the decisions that affect us at home?

Here are a couple of reasons: cynicism and boredom. There is an overwhelming sense that politics means nothing in our everyday lives. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Take this test. Name one thing in your life that is not affected by politics. You wake up in the morning to an alarm clock. The price is affected by the GET, a pyramiding tax that is the equivalent to a 12 percent to 14 percent sales tax.

Wanna take a shower? The cost of the water is dependent on the Board of Water Supply, a semi-autonomous governmental agency. How about breakfast? Not only is the GET a factor, but the cost of shipping the ingredients is affected by the Public Utilities Commission granting surcharge increases.

Every step you take in your daily life is impacted by politics and consequently the government we create. Why would you want the minority to make the decisions for the majority?

I know it is more exciting to talk about Paris Hilton or Oprah Winfrey. I understand you would probably prefer having root canal while listening to Clay Aiken show tunes rather than listen to a conversation about public policy.

Fine. I get it.

But do you let other people regularly make decisions for you? Nobody tells you what to wear, what car to drive, what soda to drink or what to name your children, right? So why would you let someone tell you how much take-home pay you can keep, how much a gallon of gas will cost or how much your home will cost?

That’s what happens when you don’t vote. You give up your voice. You abdicate your responsibility and you lose the right to complain.

Oct. 6 is the deadline to register for the Nov. 4 general election. I am certain the turnout will be greater than the primary, but don’t get lulled into inaction. Whether it’s the presidential race, the mayoral contest or a vote for/against rail, I implore you to get registered and vote.

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