The election is coming up in three days and suddenly, on Wednesday, all will grow silent. The lawn signs will come down. The airwaves will return to ads for cars and movies. The mailbox will once again become a repository for only coupons and sale fliers. The email inbox will return to its normal spam-filled self.
Based upon the amount of money spent on political campaigns, the Supreme Court equating money with speech doesn’t feel that far off.
But have you ever asked yourself why?
Why do people contribute to a political campaign? Why does every couple of years turn into a seemingly jumbled sea of voices clamoring for you to push a button one way instead of another? Why do people care about election results?
The obvious answer is political power to implement and enforce the law.
The law has a tenuous relationship with the political realm. Most of our laws are the direct descendants, the flesh-and-blood children, of politics, conceived in back rooms in exchange for campaign contributions.
While the political signs, ads and mailers will disappear, the lobbyist season will just be heating up. The money will continue to pour into the system in an attempt to influence, introduce and guide legislation as it becomes codified and solidified into what we call the law. To get a new law passed, you need to get out your debit card.
Yet, outside of politics and history, our public discussion of the law tends to neglect our laws’ sullied parentage. We often give our laws far more respect than they deserve.
We like to think of our laws as pristine, set in stone, brought down from the mountain. They are truths and realities that don’t change, inscribing a moral code for our community. The law is more palatable as a mechanism for social control only if it is based on some fundamental concept of moral goodness, rather than the byproduct of political wranglings, lobbyists and campaign contributions.
I’m not suggesting that we hang the sins of father politics on the head of its child, the law. I’m also not suggesting that we not work within the political system to create the type of society we desire as citizens. Active citizen involvement is critical to a well-functioning government.
I am suggesting that, when looking at any proposed legislation or any new law, as citizens, business owners and voters, we need to begin first by asking the simple question: Who paid to get this law?
Then ask the follow-up questions: Why would they pay for this law? How do the people who paid for the legislation benefit?
You ask those questions, and where to cast your ballot becomes a much more simple process.
Which brings me back to the election in three days. Do you feel like your vote doesn’t count? As an attorney, who will be living with the laws that our legislators pass and the judges our executives appoint, I can tell you that your vote definitely counts.
If you don’t believe me, follow the money. Every mailer, every robo-call, every lawn sign, every ad, every penny spent on these elections says one thing very loudly and very clearly — your vote matters. Don’t waste it. The law is depending on you.
E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. He can be reached at email@example.com or 801-392-8200.