I doubt there is a single voter the nation’s electorate who hasn’t at one time been told that “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”.
And it makes sense, doesn’t it? The last presidential election only reinforced the importance of voter participation. Those that don’t take the time to cast their ballot have little credibility when it comes to debating the merits of the issues or people contained on it.
Should our elected leaders be held to a lesser standard? I don’t think so. That would by hypocrisy. That’s why a CNN article on today’s Senate budget vote is so distressing. It notes the following:
Sens. John Edwards, D-North Carolina; John Kerry, D-Massachusetts; Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, did not vote.
With the Senate divided 51-49, why would a presumtive primary election candidate for President of the United States miss such a crucial vote? Even if Kerry knew the vote wouldn’t be close enough for his presence to make a difference, he owes it to the American people to vote on something this important. Especially if he’s going to make scathing attacks on the current administration’s budget proposals like he did just last month on his campaign web site.
I did some research on the web with respect to Senator Kerry’s voting record, and it really stinks. OK, I accept the fact that not every legislator is going to vote on every single thing. Logistics make it impossible. But the Washington Times reports that a non-partisan National Journal analysis of the Senate voting record in 2003 shows that Kerry missed 37 of 62 votes cast. That leaves him with an abysmal 40% attendance record when the chair calls for a vote.
The source for this news is not some right-wing, anti-Kerry front group, but the independent and well-regarded National Journal. This nonpartisan, Washington weekly reports even-handedly on politicians and their behavior. It examined 62 Senate votes from 2003. Of these, Mr. Kerry missed 37 votes while campaigning for the White House.
Congressional Quarterly took a more comprehensive look at 2003, examining 119 votes “in which the president had taken a position”. Kerry was on hand for just 28 percent of those votes. Most senators were present for more than 90 percent of the votes.
To be fair, members of Congress running for President do miss votes. Lieberman and Edwards also missed higher percentages of votes than most of their colleagues. But Kerry takes the cake in the Senate.
Some of these votes were important, too. The Kerry campaign claims that none of the missed votes made a difference. But according to a recent Boston Herald article, there are two instances in which Kerry’s vote would have changed the outcome.
The two missed votes – on privatization of federal government jobs and the creation of a Medicaid program for people with disabilities – undermine the Kerry campaign’s claim Sunday that the senator has missed no roll call votes in which his vote would have altered the outcome.
I am gaining a lot of respect for former presidential candidate Bob Dole, who resigned from the Senate (and his powerful position as Senate minority leader) when he ran against President Clinton in 1996.