The DeWitt Endorsement
For hundreds of years newspapers and media organizations have been throwing their support in one form or another to various candidates. Depending on whether you lean to the left or the right, you can find a news channel on television to give you the news that fits your own political bias. But newspapers, which normally trend toward balance, often endorse one candidate over another.
This election season, I made an endorsement. I didn't endorse any particular political candidate. I endorsed something far more important: critical thinking. If you think critically, if you evaluate all the factors and biases and predispositions, it is my view that you will ultimately vote in the right way at every level from the state to the national elections.
Let's start with something on the ballot in Missouri, where probably only a few of you are from. There are two propositions that should be considered. One is Amendment 3, and the other is Proposition B. Let's begin with the last one.
Under Proposition B the state's tobacco tax, which is the lowest in the nation, would be raised to improve education in the state. There are two classes of voters who oppose this initiative. Those who smoke cigarettes, and those who sell them. It seems pretty obvious that smokers would not support the measure because it would require them to pay more. I support their right to object. But the commercials on television and the signs at the gas stations, all paid for by Big Tobacco, encourage people to vote against it because it's "just another tax."
So, here's the real issue. When someone spends money to fight against an issue on the ballot not because they have a personal interest in things (the way smokers do), but because they have a profit motive, it should make you at least a little suspicious about the nature of their opposition to the measure. A critical thinking adult might think that the tobacco companies wouldn't spend millions opposing the tax if they weren't going to lose millions because of it. That would make me discount their message out of hand, and I will certainly be voting yes on Proposition B.
Amendment 3 is similar. Amendment 3 was pushed through by a zealous group of people who seek to change the way judges are appointed in Missouri. In all but four counties judges are elected. In the four biggest counties and at the appellate court level a commission decides on three candidates for each position, and the governor must choose one of the three. The people behind Amendment 3 would like you to vote for direct political control of the courts. Why? Because the over-reaching legislation passed by the corporate-friendly legislature has recently been running into trouble with judges who understand the Missouri Constitution. In essence the politicians want to make the least political branch of government as political as the other two.
When judges decide based on the facts and the law, and not because they are beholden to special interests, it works in favor of the general public, and against the interests of people who would spend their money on the best legislators money can buy. Is it any wonder that these folks would fight back by trying to buy the Courts too? And if it is good for corporations and lobbyists, do you think it would be good for you? gain, critical thinking argues against voting for this amendment.
At that national level Political Action Committees or PACs now dominate the advertising and the media generated around the election. Some of these PACs are funded by billionaires. They write multi-million dollar checks to support them. Some of these millionaires and billionaires made their money on the stock market and in banking circles and have been hurt by financial reform spearheaded over the last four years.
One noted former presidential aide to Mr. Bush has been spent more than $100 million on television ads pushing one candidate. All of these PACs either have lofty-sounding names (The Freedom Coalition) or they have names that make no sense at all (GPS-Crossroads). But what they have in common is lots of money, and money can buy talented salespeople.
These commercials are triumphs of media glitz. The flag flies proudly in the background, eagles swoop from the sky, military men and women salute, and earnest announcers talk about freedom and liberty all while asking voters to reject these same concepts when it comes to a woman's reproductive health care.
So the question has to be this: what makes it worth $100,000,000 to these corporate titans to advocate for a change in government? The answer has to be something worth more than $100,000,000 or it makes no sense. Since you cannot take liberty and freedom to the bank, then the answer must be that the people who the advertisements support will throw back to these corporate sponsors something worth far more than $100,000,000 at some later point in time.
Again, this should make the critical-thinking voter sit up and take notice. That's especially true when the average donation for the other guy's campaign has been from people giving $25 to $50 a month out of their paychecks.
PT Barnum once said there was "a sucker born every minute."
In December, 1944, on a cold and snowy field in the Ardennes, my Uncle Victor Gower was shot in the chest and died in service to his country. He died to safeguard my right to vote. When it came time, I put on the same uniform of the United States Army, as my son did, only a few years ago, to make sure that the right to vote was protected. All of us swore an oath to the Constitution.
This year, as an attorney, I was once again at the polling places to protect the right to vote. The right to vote is too precious, and has come at too high a price in human lives, to exercise without being informed, and being informed does not mean getting all your information from You Tube, a particular news station, or one publication. It does not mean being swayed in exercising the franchise by your local newspaper. Whoever you voted for, you should have because you conducted honest personal research and found the candidates that best protect your interests. Inform yourself. Don't prove Mr. Barnum right. Get the facts and make your decision from the facts.
That is what it means to be an American.