Now is the time to learn about candidates

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steven Armitage
  • 366th Medical Support Squadron
Democrat or Republican? Liberal or conservative? 

I never really paid attention. All I knew was that Alex P. Keaton, the character played by Michael J. Fox on "Family Ties" was a Republican. Other than that, I never knew anything about either political party. 

As a young Airman, I would listen to the older, more seasoned noncommissioned officers and officers in my flight debate the issues and discuss their candidates' stance. I never understood what all the fuss was about. Nothing was ever going to change anyway, right? Well, I couldn't have been more wrong! 

As I progressed through my career and advanced up the chain of command, I've seen friends remain on active duty after their enlistment was up, the drastic down-sizing of the military and the effect it's had on the operational capability of the Air Force. I've seen the consequences of Base Realignment and Closure decisions firsthand and my community band together to ensure the base where I was stationed remained open. I've seen slight pay increases and large pay increases, all of these under different presidents. 

A year after I graduated from high school, I voted in the first election I was eligible for. It was my duty and my right to vote; something the "Greatest Generation" and many generations before me fought and died for. I was proud to say I voted; however, I knew nothing about the candidates or what they stood for. I can't even remember who I voted for. 

In elections that followed, I took the opinions of my friends and family and went with the most popular vote. I even voted for one president twice because he was a Texan like me. I was ill prepared for every election I voted in. Looking back, I believe the Greatest Generation would be pleased that I voted, but at the same time, disappointed that I cared so little for the political process they in-part sacrificed their lives for. 

For me, the election in November 2008 is going to be different. I'm older and a little less naive about the political process. I vowed to learn as much about all the candidates I could. I've watched every debate, primary and caucus broadcasted on TV. I attended caucus training, which prepared me for the actual caucus I participated in. I now know what a super-delegate is and how important it is for a candidate to win as many as he or she can. I even volunteer my time to assist the local office of the candidate I support. 

As I walk around my work center and interact with the different levels of hierarchy, I see a different atmosphere. Older, seasoned NCOs and officers still debate the issues and discuss the candidates, but now I see young Airmen and officers getting more involved. The image of Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on MTV and how that inspired an entire generation to "Rock the Vote" comes to mind. 

I decided the time is now to change the way I think about politics. The information is at my fingertips. With the internet, satellite TV, 50 gazillion cable channels and even cell phones that receive the news, there's no longer an excuse for anybody to not be informed. 

Each group or squadron has its own voting assistance officer. I encourage those of you who don't understand the political process to find that person and talk to them. Find out how to register to vote. Find out how an absentee ballot works. You'll be surprised to see how simple the process really is. Start doing your own research and don't rely on the opinions of others. The candidate your friends support may not be the right candidate for you. You could be jeopardizing yourself and your career in the long run. 

There are two good sources of information. For general voting information you can go to and for absentee ballot information go to

Now is the time to change the way you think about politics. Don't wait until the decisions of a president you knew nothing about change your life. Get out there and let your voice be heard Nov. 4.