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Tomorrow, Massachusetts will hold its Republican primary and we encourage the Harvard community to take the time to vote. Many of the primaries this election year are bitterly contested, and the Republican candidates may fight for the nomination all the way to San Diego. Every ballot has extra significance.
The current political apathy that many Americans exhibit is disturbing. In other nations, crusaders are fighting for the right to vote. The ideal of free and fair elections is still a cruel joke under many regimes. Yet, Americans frequently take their electoral rights and responsibilities for granted. Even worse, many Americans who are constantly complain about their government do not actually vote. How can those who do not vote expect their criticism to be taken seriously?
Voting is not merely a method of choosing our country's next leaders. Casting a ballot helps to build good citizenship. It helps to make Americans more aware of current political issues, and educates them in the principles of self-government. Harvard students should feel a special responsibility to vote. Our generation has too often been accused of being mired in angst and nihilism.
Voting is even more crucial in today's political climate. The forces of extremism have manifested themselves in conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan. If not enough reasonable and sensible citizens cast their ballots, a demagogue, racist or extremist could be thrust into office. Even though Buchanan lost the South Carolina primary to Bob Dole this weekend, his strong showing in New Hampshire suggests that he could do well in this area, more reason for students to take their voting seriously. America's next president needs to have the vision to lead the entire country into the 21st century. At the heart of this vision must be a solid belief in democracy and free trade, not a dangerous reliance on national socialism.
We encourage those who are not currently registered to vote to do so. Although the Massachusetts primary is important, November's presidential election will be even more significant. For many students, this will be their first opportunity to help choose a U.S. president. In the upcoming elections, we urge all voters to focus on the current issues and to resist being swayed by the barrage of slick political advertising designed by campaign spin doctors.
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