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It’s such a long, long time from May to November.

But the noise will get worse when we reach September …

(with apologies to Kurt Weill)

A presidential campaign is not something to sing about; any song would just get lost in the clamor of it all. In this election year there is little to sing about anyway.

Well before the conventions officially name and armor their shining knights to do battle in the minds of the electorate, just about everything is already becoming political. Stay-at-home moms, student loans, same-sex marriages, religious beliefs are issues lining up for the jousts ahead, not to mention the economy and jobs, war, immigration, health care, big government, big and little businesses and entitlements. Come the noises of September, even the thought of singing will be non-existent.

Democracy’s strengths – and flaws – are never more evident than in a presidential election. Freedom of speech imposes both a rhetoric of ideals and accusations, of dreams and nightmares on the minds of the masses, i.e., where the crucial votes are. The media mingle lopsided voices and biases while interpreting – and many times distorting – words and phrases that would be meaningless in off-election years. The microscopes and magnifying glasses of reporters and talking heads become a circus funhouse of mirrors for anyone trying to make sense of current and important issues. Despite all of that, come November the votes of the people will be counted and their voices, if not their song, will be heard.

In the meantime, voters need to do their homework. In a democracy there is nothing more important than one’s vote, especially an educated vote. The months ahead will be all about Politics 101, together with a few graduate courses for the more concerned. Voters worried about the future of our country need to read about and listen to the candidates’ views with open minds, then vote their own, realizing that this election is far from being an “American Idol” spin-off.

Lesson One in the basic course might read as follows:

A true democratic system, even short of ideal, should encourage both capitalism and social justice, liberal and conservative values, instilling in its people a sense of responsibility for bettering themselves while showing genuine concern for others. Our government and its president should do likewise.

Seems like a good place to start, whether in May or September. Hopefully, whatever happens in November will bring that lesson home.