There is a notable, palpable sentiment afloat regarding the primary and general election activities of 2014. Numerous letters and satiric cartoons recently published in this newspaper provide testament to the fact that citizens are increasingly wearied by the lack of campaign integrity. If the editorial pages are reliable indicators, South Dakotans are getting fed up.

As a former military officer and local political participator, I'm anxious about my community's increasing fatigue. Some people have even stated they'd protest by refusing to vote in future elections.

The weariness is absolutely understandable. We've watched as some candidates creep deeper into their murky puddles and we're worried how deep they'll go. We're dispirited as we see politicians deny misbehavior hiding behind special interest groups and out-of-state PACs, knowing that scant few voters fact-check. Campaign ads and mailings are commonly distorting the truth, or worse, presenting blatant lies. 

Along with ballot boycotts, we'll see elevated contempt and apathy as inevitable responses to bad-mannered campaigning. Residents with thoughtful civic backgrounds will refuse to run for public office, aware that vile smears likely await them from opponents. Society's idealistic and energetic youth will shun the entire political system — a dark trend we're already witnessing here in western South Dakota.

Community reactions like these are very serious; a body politic wholly misaligned with the visions of our founding fathers. As a democratic society, do we really want to look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren and profess their futures are so inconsequential as to warrant our snubbing of an upcoming election? Citizen involvement is the cornerstone of our civility and all of society loses when good people withdraw.

So l suggest a more enlightened strategy. Know that the free flow of political information empowers and energizes a republic and serves to keep our government honest and robust. Read, analyze, and embrace the postcards and ads as personal invitations to become informed. Fact-check!

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Don't refuse to vote, but instead redouble your determination to attend the ballot and bring your civic-minded neighbor with you. Hold candidates accountable. Vote for those who campaign with authentic policy statements coinciding with your own convictions. inspire your favorite municipal cause by actively participating in the American political process.

There's no FDA to mandate political truth-in-labeling. There's just us, the voters. Campaigns engaging in social deceit are foiled only by an electorate that proactively refuses to be deceived.

President Adams said a vote ”for principle" is a vote "never lost or cast in vain." At a minimum, then, vote for principle; the only effective way to eliminate unethical campaigning is to vote out the unethical campaigner.

Americans would do well to remember that hundreds of thousands of patriots have paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our access to the ballot box. I’ll pay my sincere respect to them by fulfilling my voting obligation at every future public election and by honorably participating in each electoral battle. Do not give up. Join me.

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