A Banana Republic?

By Will Baker

I had to chuckle at Fidel Castro’s recent comments regarding our presidential election. A Banana Republic…well yes, I suppose that to the outside observer, we do bear some striking similarities to our sister republics south of our border. But at least Fidel didn’t offer to send election observers over here to help keep things on the up and up.

Yes, we are living in some strange political times. The eyes of our Nation are on Florida as they chug through a process that sooner or later will result in the new President being declared. And during this interval, which might very well take at least another full week, we have protestors taking to the streets, mainstream media pundits feeling extremely foolish over the manner in which they have covered the event, and for the most part, politicians that are behaving badly. And we citizens can only shake our heads while we wait patiently for resolution to a situation that, by some has been described as a crisis, but by others as merely a curious historic event.

But amidst all of the passion, confusion, frustration and embarrassment, I for one, am extremely pleased. You see I came to my political awakening during a time of deep voter cynicism. In the twenty some odd years that I have been eligible to vote, I have never missed voting in an election. Yet I have observed an alarming trend: decreasing voter turnout year to year, election to election. And a deepening sense of voter apathy, that, it seems to me, has at its roots, perceived voter disenfranchisement. Therefore, say what you will about this past election, but one thing is a fact. 200 million folks voted in this election-a record turnout and something that we citizens of our country should feel proud about.

And under the circumstances, I would be surprised to ever hear the following statement uttered again: "why should I vote…my one vote won’t make any difference." Well, one need only recall the events of the past few days to understand what complete nonsense that is. And it seems to me that that developing understanding, that our votes really do matter, is a very important thing--perhaps even more important than the results themselves. Of course this election is tremendously important. The president can set policy, make key government appointments--not to mention justices to the Supreme Court. However compared to an invigorated electorate, I believe that the former are small potatoes compared to the latter.

So where does this leave us? Well for one thing, we are being provided with quality entertainment, the like of which hasn’t been seen by living generations. We have also witnessed a humbling of the mainstream media, who, no doubt, as a result of the slip-shod manner in which they have handled the election coverage will be compelled to change the manner in which they cover future elections. And we are witnessing the machinations of two political parties, who are proceeding in a purely partisan manner, with, what seems to me to be an almost complete lack of regard for how they conduct themselves, at least as it relates to what would be considered by some to be in the best interests of the country. And we are in the rare position of portraying a less than smooth transition of power to the rest of the world. And I believe that we share a sense of collective chagrin over that fact.

I am sure that once the smoke clears I will have more to say on this subject. But for now, I can offer this: A Banana Republic…Fidel, I don’t think so. But a divided and confused republic, well that much is obvious. However I am quite certain that much more good than bad will come out of all this. For I have a great deal of faith in the citizens of our beloved country. And I know that most of us want to do the right thing, including our politicians. And now, we humble voters have concrete proof that what we do in the privacy of the voting booth, really does matter. And isn’t that realization worth all of this ridiculousness, and then some?


 (Essay Collection)