Maria Gutzeit: Your vote is the voice that matters


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People are commenting about the huge upswelling of interest in politics. All the marches. All the issues. All the partisan chest beating. While we’ll all have to wait a month for preliminary results, and five months for big decisions, I’m less than excited. I hope in all the flash we aren’t losing even more respect for the hard, measured work of democracy.

Democracy isn’t about marches, though many of the marches were amazing. Never a marcher, I did go to the March for Science, because I feared fellow geeks would get no support. They did get support, and it was fun. The women’s marches were HUGE.

Marches show public interest, though they can quickly (and sadly) become numbers games. In January 2018, Cecile Richards, who is leaving Planned Parenthood to help women get elected to office, told Elle Magazine, “I do think it’s important to remember that it’s great to march, it’s awesome to wear a pussy hat, call your representatives, show up at town hall meetings, but voting is essential.”

Democracy isn’t about which partisan side “wins.”

Like in sports, it’s fun to pick odds and support your team, but elections are about picking a representative. We have a representative democracy, which according to online sources is defined as “a system of government in which all eligible citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them.”

Breaking it down, which of the candidates on your ballot could best represent you? Who is skilled enough to actually can pass laws? There are countless examples of politicians who say everything you want to hear, but in the end exist only as a “no” vote when things get passed without their input. That isn’t representation. Without active participation in tough negotiations, what you have voted for is a seat warmer.

Democracy isn’t about political parties. Party activists may loudly espouse views that citizens registered in that party aren’t on board with. That’s normal. Political parties are not proxies for average citizens. Politicians are not carbon copies of their party’s platform, though they may align with a party. They represent the voters. Remind them of that. Most of the hotly contested races coming up are in areas that are almost evenly divided politically. Though the winning parties rightly dance on election night, an elected official’s job is to serve the whole community, not a political party. Echoing original origins in the Bible, 160 years ago Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Would that we had raging moderates of both parties stand up and demand action on common goals.

The alternative is to allow political labels to run the show, which encourages tribalism and discourages average people.

Moderates can participate at the voting booth, or they can sit back and watch the present mud slinging and pendulum swinging go on, to our country’s detriment.

Democracy starts in our home towns. There’s always a tremendous focus on national issues, yet if you unplug from social media, in particular, and most media in general, and observe what affects you from breakfast until bedtime – it’s not national policy.

It’s local policy. City, county and state politics affect your schools, the value of your home, the rent you pay, whether your streets are paved, crime, taxes, fire service, water service, the economy and businesses around you, what type of health facilities are available, how many parks you have, and more.

A president and national policy do not make or break anyone. Local policy causes a lot more angst or applause. Local office is a tremendous proving ground where our representatives can learn to get things done, and we voters can learn about them. I hope those local elections start to get more attention, now that many have moved to the big November ballot. Candidates and voters should pay more attention to these roles.

The primaries are upon us. Don’t ever feel that things are predestined, that you have to agree with one or the other political party, or that you can’t change things. The only time that is true is if you don’t vote for a good person to represent you.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita.

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