”Freak” electoral lessons in Aspen

VOTERS_LIST_6201Most days, we live in a pretty idyllic environment. We’re fortunate to reside in a peaceful town, surrounded by a nature and filled with individuals who have chosen a dedicated mountain lifestyle.

Serious problems seem few and far between. Besides the weather forecast, it can be hard to care what’s happening on the news.

But what happens in Ottawa on October 19 will reverberate across the country and into our community, whether we acknowledge it or not. Policies decided in those stuffy Parliament halls will directly impact the sustainability of our mountain town.

I’m not going to advocate for any candidate, party or platform, but I will argue we should all exercise our right to vote.

It may seem futile, and extremely confusing, but until the vast majority of Canadians are voting we aren’t actually being governed by those chosen by our country.

In the 2011 federal election, voter turnout was just over 61 per cent. That means almost of 40 per cent of us decided voting wasn’t worth our time. But there’s a lot of power lying in that 40 per cent.

Aspen, another mountain town, helped shine a light on why we should care. In 1969, a controversial mayoral candidate galvanized “freak power in the Rockies” with the help of journalist, Hunter S. Thompson.

Thompson’s resulting essay, The Battle of Aspen, is entertaining to say the least. He hit the streets and the bars, registering to vote every hippie, biker, and degenerate he could find. Losing by only six votes, Thompson was motivated to make good on his promise to run for sheriff the following year.

In more organized campaign, whose ‘freak power” platform contained some ludicrous ideas as well as drug reform, Hunter ran for sheriff in a heated, radical and even dangerous race.

While this extreme situation is generally looked back on as a shake-up to the establishment, the underlying point (at least to me) is there is great political power in the hands of those have chosen to disengage from the system. Aspen was a city with a seemingly solid conservative base and smaller Democratic opposition, but the real power laid with those who were undecided, marginalized and overall, apathetic.

Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for Aspen, Thompson lost by a couple of hundred of votes. But despite the outcome, it’s still a stark example of the power of the people.

In this issue we’ve done our best to give you some hopefully useful voter information, Without getting too bogged down in electoral reform, strategic voting and candidate scandal, we hope you choose to exercise your fundamental, Charter-protected, democratic right to vote.