In that voting booth

Posted: Oct 29, 2002 12:00 AM

One of the most common laments in letters from readers is a sense of helplessness to do anything about the negative trends in politics and society. Yet the people who make those laments have the ultimate power in the most powerful nation on earth. All they have to do is exercise that power in the voting booth.

To exercise power effectively, it is necessary to have more than power. It is necessary to have knowledge as well. Otherwise, the voter is like a blind Samson.

If you think taxes are too high, then find out who voted to raise taxes and who voted to lower them. If you don't know how to find out such things, your local librarian can probably tell you how to go on the Internet and discover how members of Congress have voted on all sorts of issues.

You can probably do the same for state and local officials. If you are considering candidates who have never held office before, you can probably find their campaign Web sites and see what they are advocating.

You don't like judges who turn criminals loose or who sentence them to "community service" or "anger management" instead of putting them behind bars? Then find out who those judges are and vote against them if they are on the ballot. If they were appointed, then find out who appointed them. If they are federal judges, find out if your senator voted to confirm them.

When you vote for a president or a governor or a member of Congress, you are indirectly voting for judges who will be exercising power long after the people you voted for directly are gone and forgotten.

You don't like the way our loose immigration laws and policies have opened the floodgates to our enemies, as well as to people who are undesirable on other grounds? Then find out how your representatives in Congress voted on immigration legislation. And vote accordingly when you are in the voting booth.

If you live in one of those areas where housing prices have skyrocketed out of sight -- parts of California and New York come to mind, but there are others -- then find out if draconian restrictions on building housing have been imposed under such nice-sounding names as "open space" laws and "environmental protection." And don't be taken in by your local politicians if they also talk piously about wanting "affordable housing."

Don't let them have it both ways. Let them have it between the eyes when you are inside the voting booth.

You don't like bureaucrats telling you what you can and can't do with your own home and property? Look up which of your local officials are gung ho for restrictions and red tape. And don't let them tell you that it is for your own "protection" or to save the earth. You are an adult who can protect yourself, and the earth has been preserved all this time without bureaucrats and busybodies.

If all it takes for you to give up your freedom are some pretty words or alarming rhetoric, then you are simply not going to remain free, in large things or in small. Your rights will be slowly but steadily eroded away. But you have the power to stop these politicians, judges and bureaucrats in their tracks.

But you can't do it sitting down and taking it easy, and just voting according to how someone sounds or looks.

When politicians promise to give you something, just remember that the only money they have is what they take from the people. If you want someone to pick your pockets and then give you a handout, there are plenty of politicians around who will do that for you. In fact, a lot of politicians have been around a long time just by using such tactics.

Above all, never assume that political phrases actually mean what they say or imply. Rent control does not control rents, gun control does not control guns, and the Indian Child Welfare Act disregards the welfare of Indian children with unbelievable callousness.

You have to find out what laws and policies do, not what politicians say they do. If that is too much trouble, then don't bother to go to the polls on Election Day. If you can't do the country any good, then at least don't do any harm with uninformed votes.