Millions of people will walk out of their local polling facility today feeling as if they have done a really good thing. We're taught that voting is our civic duty; good citizens go out and vote at least once every four years. If you don't vote, then you're spitting in the face of those who fought for your right to do so. Many of these people, who proudly display their "I voted" stickers, fail to realize that filling in the ballot is only half of our civic duty.
The other half of our civic duty is knowing for whom to vote. Some people vote based on their party lines and never look at other options, others are even less informed and they copy the sample ballot that was handed to them onto their real ballot, but some actually do research — ignoring the party affiliation of the candidates — and vote on the issues. I fall in the latter category, of course, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this.
So the question is: if you voted based on political party without doing any research or hearing other sides, did you really complete your civic duty? I suggest that you did not. In fact, voting within party lines without researching is what has got us into the situation we find ourselves in today. Those voters, who I believe are the majority, have given complete control to the Democratic and Republican parties. Those voters are driving the Democratic and Republican parties ever closer to each other (though they would maintain that the parties are vastly different), giving us even less choice every four years.
I'm not suggesting that voting for the Democratic or Republican candidate is an invalid or incorrect vote. If you've done your research and you've decided that yes, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney does match up with what's important to you — more power to you; you've voted honestly. But if you did your research and found someone you really like, but feel that they "can't win" and decided to cast your vote for the "lesser of two evils," you've really done a disservice to your fellow Americans and the entire world. That may seem harsh but I really don't think it is. The point of voting is not to get the other guy out, it's to get the best guy (man or woman, of course) into office.
Now that the campaigns are effectively over, we can all take a deep breath and look at what we've done. It will be interesting to see the outcome in the next few days; but no matter what happens, 50% of America will be displeased with the result. Doesn't it seem strange that after the votes are tabulated, the "winner" was only chosen by 50% of American voters? The other 50% didn't want that candidate to be elected! However, that's how our first-passed-the-post system is engineered to work. It is probably one of the worst ways to vote, honestly. If we want to fix our issues and make elections truly fair, we need to move toward a new voting mechanism. I suggest you look into range voting (more on that later).