It’s that time again, where once every four years our elected officials do us, their constituency, a great favor. They allow us to vote! While the importance of voting cannot be over-stressed (you should do it!), the act alone is not enough; it is a responsibility that requires some individual thought on the part of the voter beyond registering and showing up to fill in some boxes on a sheet of paper.

Each person who can legally vote in this country has an obligation to understand the candidates and issues that will be on the ballot this November, both local and national. The common reasoning for not voting seems to be: “My vote doesn’t count or won’t change anything anyway,” which I would agree is true if you feel that way since it is your own opinion. On the other hand, if you actually care about how the systems that control how this country (and you) operate, then you do have the power to make a difference, as you understand that we are actually the ones who keep this government in power and allow it to function as it does.

Sure, there are a lot of decisions made behind closed doors that we may never have a say in, but by not saying anything, we are making the statement that we are satisfied. A good example of this is the current financial crisis in this country where we the citizens are both the source and solution, since we continue to patronize these unethical institutions, which we have bought into and continue to support.

There is one point that always gets stressed around this time, and that is the differences between the two candidates, right? It seems that the mainstream media cannot spend enough time pointing out where the two candidates differ on certain issues – the issues that we as the American public are made to believe are the most important ones relating to our livelihood. Things like health care, the war in Iraq and the economy.

Although other candidates do exist, such as Ralph Nader, their deliberate exclusion from the media leaves them with no real chance of getting elected to the presidency, and to anyone who saw him speak at UCSB, it is apparent that Nader’s campaign works hard to receive funding. This leaves us with really only two choices for the president of our country: Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. Although they are portrayed as polar opposites through very effective marketing techniques, it is plain to anyone with an ability to see through mainstream media sources that they are more similar than different in basically all aspects except for their ethnicity. While both parties like to paint their candidates as bringers-of-change to the way this country is run as well as the moral and ethical worldview that Washington projects, history does a fair enough job showing how little pre-election promises mean once in office.

So it is important to vote, since after all the policies of the U.S. government are truly global in reach, and as Americans we really do have a responsibility to ensure that this country speaks on our behalf. To do so effectively, it is important to see that the presidential campaign is an advertising campaign, where the president is the product and we are the consumer demographic. Choosing a president should be no different than how you approach any type of advertising that aims to take your money in exchange for a product or service. And some important questions should be asked: Where does it come from? How was it made? Is it actually good for me or just made to appear so through fancy presentation?