On common ground, a unique and unlikely gathering is taking place. Thousands Ñ citizens and statesmen, conservatives and liberals, traditional enemies with vastly different backgrounds and points of view Ñ are joining for battle. If successful, Americans will experience a re-emergence of political power unknown to them for many decades.
It is a battle for that most essential and precious element in our struggle to self-govern: honest and accurate information about those who represent us or wish to replace those who do.
Shortly before he died James Madison, in a letter to a friend, wrote,
"A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a tragedy ... a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
Project Vote Smart is an effort to provide that power, at the whim of any and every American.
If what we propose succeeds, tolerance will no longer be the only weapon available to Americans tormented by the issueless, mudslinging campaigns that now dominate the nation's elections or the often misleading statements made by their elected representatives. Designed to manipulate us emotionally instead of informing us intellectually, these campaigns eat at the very heart of our democracy.
Project Vote Smart's goal is simple: turn the same slick, high technology used by candidates and elected officials around to the citizen's advantage instead. Allow each individual citizen to decide for himself or herself what information is important and then provide instant access to it. In our democracy no power is more decisive, no political weapon more potent, than dependable, accurate, factual information.
With funds provided by Project Vote Smart members, our volunteers and students are gathering the facts on our elected officials and those who seek our support during elections. They gather together their biographical history, voting records, campaign finances, campaign promises, performance evaluations, and provide it to citizens through our publications, or instantly over our Voter's Research Hotline and through our on-line access. What you want to know, when you want to know it, and who you want to know it about.
Much is at stake. Our aim is to radically reverse the flow of information, re-arming our citizens with its awesome power.
Every prior American generation has labored to preserve, protect, and ennoble this endless struggle to self-govern. If our democracy is to survive for the generations beyond the 21st century, it is going to need help from those of us ending the 20th century. Please help us if you can! Become one of our supporting members, but even if you can't, don't hesitate to use our free services. We contribute our efforts in order to provide this system free to our fellow Americans.
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1995 Permission granted to use articles if source is cited