What is a bellwether state?

I live in Missouri, which is often referred to as a bellwether state, when talking about national politics. I have never lived anywhere else so this might be another example of, what I like to call, Soccertown, USA Syndrome but, whether it is or not I have always been interested in what it means and where it came from.

Although I tested as a gifted child, I am probably not as smart as I think I am but, although I am an artist, I am, by no means, a moron and I try to keep up with the important issues and educate myself about the things that impact my family. The Internet is a valuable tool to gather information on just about anything and something such as Geography, which is not one of my stronger subjects, I have no problem tracking down maps, guides and important details about any place that we would travel. Politics, however, a subject of much greater consequence that I have some clue about but lack a in depth understanding, is a much more complicated topic to research on the Web because most of the information available to the general public is biased.

It scares me a little bit that, in a democracy, they leave the decisions about who is going to run the country, make and interpret the laws, set the budgets and address foreign policy to one of the least qualified people to make them... me. Yes, me and you and all those other people that don't know what a bellwether state is-- all the individuals that don't understand how the electoral college works that have difficulties understanding the ballot or even the simple instructions on how to vote so we don't have a problem with hanging chad.

There are voters that will go to the polls tomorrow believing that Barack Obama is a Muslim or that John McCain used the C-word to describe his wife in a 1992 interview-- not that either one of these things would make a difference of how they would perform as president but it may influence the way some people will choose. Citizens will cast votes for their leader for the next four years based not on what they know about any of the important issues facing our country today, but on what they were told in 30-second partisan TV ads squeezed in-between staged segments of The Hills or from a friend of a friend of a friend who has so much charisma and sounds so smart that they must know what they are talking about. Some will vote for a particular candidate because they think it is the cool thing to do; some to make a statement that they don't like what is going on; some directly along party lines; and some for the lessor of two evils.

No matter how you choose which candidate you will vote for-- whether you study each one and seek out a poli-sci major to interpret the results or flip a coin-- you have the right, in this great country, to be heard. I would encourage every person in the U.S. that is eligible, to take advantage of that right, but I would also ask that you don't take that right for granted and make a educated choice, to the best of your ability.

I have tried very hard to keep this article as non-partisan as possible as to not influence any readers' opinion but it is difficult to find other sources of information that are not supportive of one side or the other. Here are a few sites on the Web that may be helpful in your quest for the truth:

Smart Voter by the League of Women Voters- provides nonpartisan election information including a preview of your ballot for unique district on November 4.

By the People Election Glossary- a glossary of election terms.

Public Agenda for Citizens- the smart voters' guide to what the politicians won't tell you featuring the Voters' Survival Kit.

Wednesday morning, when we get up, the country is going to look a little different than it has for the last 18-months or so. Besides having recycled all of the political signs in the front yards of all our neighbors and the TV and Radio waves being opened to regular stupid ads instead of political stupid ads, we are going to know, generally, what directions we are going to take to try to get us out of the challenges we are facing as a world power for the next four years. No matter who wins, I hope it is a good direction.

After much studying, I have made my choice and will cast my vote for that candidate tomorrow and then sit back and hope for the best-- not that my choice will win, but that whomever does can make a difference and we can all prosper from our decision in the future.

Vote Smart. Read This. Buy T-shirts. Peace.

Sorry... if you found this page looking for the definition of a bellwhether state, here is the definition from Wikipedia: A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create of influence trends or to presage future happenings. The term is derived from Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading its flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be perceived by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight.

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