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Who'll Vote When We're Gone?
By Frank Kaiser
In spite of the most interesting election in memory, voter turnout was the third poorest in a century.

Only half of us bothered to cast a ballot. (Compare that with the close election of 1876 when 82 percent of eligible Americans voted.)

As usual, senior citizens voted in force, a fact not lost on either party. In most every commercial, they stepped all over each other to impress us seniors with who would give us more and better Social Security, bigger drug benefits, deeper tax breaks, free breakfasts and discounted Viagra.

Here in South Florida, the presidential and vice-presidential candidates hit senior centers and adult condos like a pack of Henny Youngmans. Pandering and lying as if shame had been outlawed, the oh-so-sincere office seekers said and did just about anything for our votes.

You'd think seniors were the only ones voting.

You wouldn't be far from wrong. Since 1960, the number of eligible Americans voting has decreased with each election. Today less than one in four of us votes, and chances are that one is a senior citizen. Younger folks stay away from the polls in droves. In fact, 25 percent of those 18 – 24 don't know who's running for president; 75 percent don't know any of the vice-presidential candidates' names either.

On Election Day, way over half of those citizens under 60 were too busy, too bored, or too turned off by the process to care who won. Only we seniors followed each debate, read obscure platform planks, and carefully measured subtle slogan distinctions.

Either we're fools for taking democracy so seriously or non-seniors are not caring enough about the way our country is governed.

Suddenly Trivia: Who said, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms tried from time to time." a) John F. Kennedy, b) George Washington, c) Winston Churchill.

In spite of the chad-counting madness, most eligible voters believe there's no significant difference between the two presidential candidates. It's all same-old, same-old. Two rich and powerful white guys, each backed by millions of corporate dollars, trying to be both something and somebody they're not.

Little wonder so few Americans vote.

Except for us seniors. Our democracy has turned into a corporatocracy, and we're the last ones with any hope of returning to a more honest, decent and democratic America, one that only we can still remember.

Here's the big question: What happens to elections when we die out? Will anyone show up at the polls on voting day? Or will it be like off-year elections here in Miami with single-digit turnouts, mostly cronies of the candidates.

Then what will our federal government be like? Like Miami's?

Looks like we seniors must save our country one more time. We did it in World War II. Now we're going to have to do it again or "of the people, by the people and for the people" will turn into "People good, corporations better."

Doris "Granny D." Haddock understands this. A year and a half ago this 90-year-old great-grandmother from New Hampshire started walking east from Pasadena, Calif., on a one-woman crusade for campaign finance reform. On February 29th she finished her 3,000-mile trek — walking 10 miles each day — by getting arrested for protesting Washington's failure to do anything to curb the legalized and institutionalized bribery that allows the highest bidders to make the laws that run our country.

Granny D. is out to save America. She has emphysema. A case of arthritis required her to wear a steel-ribbed corset as she walked. She lives completely on Social Security. And at 90, she says she's just begun to fight for this country of ours.

Let's face it, if we seniors don't save America, who will? Just as the GI Joe's and Rosy the Riveters in World War II, each of us must do our little part. When asked why she trekked across America on a mission some have called a fool's errand, Granny D. said: " When corporations buy our elections and our government, they're taking our freedom."

Seniors of America unite! What better cause than saving democracy for the world.

Again.

© 2000—Frank Kaiser

Suddenly Trivia answer: c) Winston Churchill.

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