Election Day 2002


Election day has passed. Many political analysts are saying this "mid-term" election was a powerful referendum on the President's agenda. Clearly that is one perspective, but perhaps people across the country have had it with ...

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Election day has passed. Many political analysts are saying this "mid-term" election was a powerful referendum on the President's agenda. Clearly that is one perspective, but perhaps people across the country have had it with party politics, with mud slinging and with not being a part of the process that for better or worse will shape our future.

If one looks around the metropolitan area, at the governors' race, some congressional races and some state senate races, one will see that these contests were not shaped by intense political ideology or clear cut positions on the major cutting edge social, economic and political issues of our time.

It seems to me that many people came out to vote more as a protest of what is, rather than to support candidates that really enflesh the true needs of local constituents.

In New York State, health care, prescription drugs and care for our hospitals continue to be at risk. Special interests continue to be courted by our power brokers while the poor and the needy continue to be victimized.

Social welfare is a disaster, but let's just look at our own county. Our own Social Services has admitted that they lack the physical resources to meet the needs of the homeless and the working poor. We are not talking about ridiculous entitlements, but rather basic human necessities that any human being has the right to.

Besides lacking those basic concrete services, thanks to an early retirement incentive, this already overburdened agency is being further crippled by the lack of competent personnel. It seems that the major way we deal with the poor is not driven by how we can make the poor self-reliant and independent, but rather by what might be more cost effective.

As a norm I have stayed away from government initiatives for the past twenty-five years. Few are grounded in empowering people to succeed. Look at the government's own statistics. My firsthand experience is that most of their regulations and program designs are not connected to reality. If all the fat and waste were eliminated from the administrative overhead in Suffolk County's Social Services' budget, we could adequately service every homeless family in Suffolk County without increasing their budget.

None of the major candidates from any party really had any concrete platforms that truly addressed human services, youth and families in crisis, health care as it applies to families and our senior population, prescription drug access or affordable housing.

So much more money was wasted on negative campaigning this election. It was embarrassing to read and listen to some of the crudest ad hominum attacks to date.

On Election Day, I took an informal poll as to how many intended to vote. The response ran the gamut. Some were very passionate about their obligation to vote. One seasoned registered nurse said that if one does not vote, one has no right to complain about anything relative to our country. This professional went on to say that voting was key to our democratic process and that voters needed to be informed and educated about the issues. Reflecting her generation, she also stressed that in families you don't automatically vote according to party lines or as a family. Voting must be something deeply personal - a choice grounded in one's own convictions.

Having been in a local hospital on an election day this year, and echoing a President's compelling reminder that every vote counts, I innocently asked someone in administration what provisions were made for those who unexpectedly found themselves in the hospital on election day, but were conscious and well enough to vote. After a few minutes, that very helpful administrator came back and said "nothing was in place for a person in that circumstance." There is obviously something wrong with that oversight.

On that same day, I was talking to a local surgeon who was making his rounds. I asked him if he was going to vote. Without hesitation, he said "absolutely." I needled him a bit and inquired who he might be voting for and if he was cemented in a particular party. That simple inquiry unleashed a landslide of comments and concerns. Like many of his colleagues, he tries to vote for the issue and not the party. This year he felt the campaign as a whole was issue-less. He was concerned over the local campaigning and the real shallowness afoot. He was passionate, but disturbed that he was voting for a particular candidate not because he endorsed that candidate, but rather because he was vehemently opposed to the incumbent running for reelection.

As we finished our chat, he told me a refreshing story of how one man was determined to vote in this election even though his circumstances literally made it impossible.

A middle-aged teacher unexpectedly found himself in the hospital longer than anyone had planned. He inquired about voting and was disturbed that no provisions were in place for someone in his circumstances. He became determined to vote because he was so troubled by our political landscape. He spent the better part of Election Day talking about his frustration.

Those who knew him were convinced he would find a way to break out of his hospital room undetected, vote and be back in bed in less than half an hour. His plans were somewhat paralyzed because someone had taken his foot attire, but that was quickly remedied.

Thanks to the cooperative efforts of many other civic-minded Americans, that one voter was helped to exercise one of our greatest gifts as Americans, our right to vote, on election night.

It was the American way at its' best. Rumor has it that he was back in bed when they made rounds.