by Marion Marks
Tuesday’s national election day resulted in voters’ unleashed pent up frustrations and defeated candidates and policies that were perceived as oppressive or punitive. However, as all elections are local, what transpires in Louisiana and Caddo Parish on November 21 will be put under a microscope for years to come. National attention that Louisiana and Caddo have received for injustices of the past has brought in millions of dollars of outside money in an attempt to alter history. But no election has been singled out more than the Caddo District Attorney’s race, often falsely labeled the old versus the new justice.
In retrospect, Caddo citizens generally have been immune to messages or else repulsed by droning harangues that appear to be one-sided, negative or just plain over the top with false logic. Many prospective voters tune out or shut down at the mention of this race, sometimes ashamed of the Caddo record. But all too often, knowledgeable voters, out of respect for a candidate they know who deserves real credit for successes, tunes out because all of the mud being slung. Perhaps the ads work for all the wrong reasons.
Outside of the Caddo Sheriff’s race, which was mercifully concluded with too many false issues being raised, no office in Caddo requires more expertise, professionalism and a universal understanding of citizens, the law and the responsibilities of the office. Yet apathetic voter responses and a failure to go to the polls and vote will only be explained as a mirror of public failures at every level. We have failed in educating, in communicating (even with almost limited money) and in marketing the candidates as real citizens who can be trusted to solve real problems. It’s as simple as “you can lead a horse to water, but sometimes you have to drown him.”
No greater frustration exists for citizens who believe in civic responsibilities and the democratic process than having to recognize the apathetic voter who cannot be convinced to vote, even for their own self interests. From local marketing specialists to media reporters to responsible citizens who actively engage in the electoral process, I find few who have any real pleasure in the results of voter engagement locally. Even in victory, the generally apathetic electorate gives little reason for optimism. Those who take credit is disgusting so many with the filth they spread may be the exception.
Even effective public officials whose job it is to engage voters state that it’s difficult to explain why voters cannot be motivated, even when good choices are on the ballot. The apparent ease with which unworthy officials are reelected, the difficulty of outing apparently criminal elected officials, regardless how good the evidence, redoubles the frustrations of well-intended citizens.
So, back to the problems of electing the better candidates in Caddo Parish. There are no perfect candidates, and our record of returning unworthy or bad candidates to office is abysmal. The choices we have are not so bad at either end of the runoff spectrum that the system will fail based on these available options alone. The qualifications, even at the worst, will not cause the system to collapse. After all, if the system is so bad, would not the justice department have stepped in to protect the rights of the damaged citizens? Even in cases when jurors were wrongfully excluded in capital cases, the DA’s office retried the accused murderers, and in the end, they are in the process of being punished to the full extent of the law.
In the Louisiana governor’s race, either candidate must overcome eight yeas of neglect, even though we prepare to celebrate Bobby Jindal leaving office. It’s apparent there will be some justice and punishment for David Vitter’s past poor (unconscionable) behavior. Perhaps there is a true scale of justice somewhere in the universe.
The vital issue now is how to go about motivating qualified voters to go to the polls and exercise their earned right to cast a ballot. Even street money and free transportation can’t seem to get some people to go to the election booth. Every voter would benefit from obtaining a pledge from neighbors and friends to demand that others must commit to vote. Perhaps there is something to punishing those who do not cast their vote, after all, every citizen will be held responsible for the results. And if you don’t vote and are dissatisfied with the results, there should be a scarlet “G” non-voters should wear for the shame of being Guilty of helping elect bad or unworthy candidates to public office. We have to hand out “Vitties” as punishment is somehow the state’s voters determine he is the better candidate.