As presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gains in the democratic polls, the conversation behind his gun control voting record has heated up. Typically democrats support increased gun control, and while Sanders is not pro-gun, mass media and other candidates have questioned his voting record while in Congress and subsequently portrayed him as gun supporter.
As a result, many voters have ruled him out on this one position.
Gun control is obviously a complex and heated topic, and I’m not attempting to discuss this particular issue. Instead, I’d like to us this scenario to point out a major flaw that many voters succumb to during election season.
Voting on bills in Congress is often much more intricate than the summaries we hear about after-the-fact. Bills regarding spending and other major topics often run over 1,000 pages long with multiple different components and conditions, each with their own set of consequences. We hope that our representatives evaluate these consequences to make an educated decision, but it is not uncommon that a representative will be hassled for voting against something that on the surface may seem contradictory to their party lines, but was done in an effort to support their own constituents or avoid a consequence.
Sanders is an excellent example of this (no matter your political affiliation), through Clinton’s attacks on Sanders’s votes on the Brady bill (an act which proposed several increases in gun control and background checks). Sanders and his staff have made it clear that his votes were in an effort to respect his constituents and what was desired from them. Additionally, his current campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has said that there was an additional concern over federal overreach by implementing a national waiting period for a background check.
Looking at surface level information on a candidate’s voting record or history gives only a fraction of what that candidate actually thinks and believes. Investigating the reasons for how a representative might have voted gives a much move in-depth view of a candidate’s true political ideology. You may find that you understand and support their reasons, or you might find that the candidate’s logic is not something you agree with.
Whichever direction you decide, you undeniably have a much more educated and informed view, and there is nothing wrong with that. Especially in this presidential race, with so many conflicting ideas and accusations being thrown around, it is important to look at the facts and make a decision that is not based on what the biased mass media is showing.
There are several websites like Politfact, Real Clear Politics, and Open Secrets that show straight facts with no commentary on candidates’ voting histories, their supporters, polls, and verbal attacks made towards other candidates in ads.
This might seem like a lot of extra work in researching a candidate that you might want to vote for, especially when so many of us find it time consuming to simply go and vote. But the importance of educated voters is becoming more and more apparent as we see inflammatory language and emotions increasing throughout this campaign season. We have the right to have an informed decision into selecting who we want to represent us in government, and it is paramount that we take advantage of that.
Collegian Columnist Alexandra Stettner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @alexstetts.