Figuring Out My Life After Graduating from College

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I spent my whole undergraduate career dead-set on what I wanted to do after college.  After entering the real world, I had an “uh-oh” moment.  Little did I realize, it was all for the better.

Flashback to 2008.  The Rock Springs High School career academies were brand new my freshman year of high school.  My graduating class was to be the first to test the program out.  In its initial conception, a student could choose between the energy academy, where class curriculum was geared towards the then-booming energy industry, or the health academy, where students learned the basics of the healthcare field.

It’s a rather revolutionary concept if you think about it.  Most times, high school doesn’t prepare you for college.  You don’t learn the study skills necessary to survive college – something I came to learn my freshman year of college.  Rather, you just go through the motions for four years.  But with the academies, if you were genuinely interested in a certain field, you received the basic foundation for that career path so that by the time you entered college, you had somewhat of a head-start when compared to other classmates.

I decided not to go through with either academy.  Science was never my strong subject, and while I was good at math, it was something I didn’t think I wanted in a future career.  Writing was always something I felt I excelled in comparable to other students.  I went through the motions of high school for four years, eager for that next level of knowledge.  I had my heart set on going to the University of Wyoming; there was a lineage of great Kippers thats graduated from this institution, a familial expectation of sorts.  My grandpa received his doctorate from UW in 1972 and later served as UW’s Outreach director.  My aunt was a Wyoming Cowgirl basketball player in the 1970s and was later a teacher at Laramie High School (AND was my mom’s volleyball coach).  All of my mom’s siblings went to UW and most of them (including my mom) were at some point or still are teachers.

I figured that since most of my family went into education, I’d try it out.  After all, it wasn’t the first time I thought I was a teacher-in-training.  I still have vivid memories of playing “school” with my sister when I was younger.  After a supposedly long day of school and getting off the bus, class was back in session in the Blazovich household.  The family dining room turned into a schoolhouse, complete with leftover duplicates of lessons from my mom’s classroom.  I’d be the teacher and my sister would be pupil.  Sometimes we even reversed the roles.  It kept us busy until Mom got home.  Ah, what great times those were.

Then there were the sick days.  The in-service days.  The days I wanted to go to work with Mom.  I remember going to Northpark on a day when I didn’t have school, but Mom had meetings all day.  Without a babysitter to watch over me, she brought me to work.  I remember her classroom so clearly.  There was a long, red counter that ran the length of the classroom in the back of the room.  There were a few horseshoe-like tables scattered around the room.  One table had a bucket full of storybooks.  One table was chockfull of those duplicates my sister and I enjoyed playing with so much.  And in one corner of the room was what seemed to be like a prison cell.  It was the oddest room I’d seen – no windows, no pictures on the wall.  Nothing but concrete.  Out of place for a “normal” classroom.

So, on a campus visit to UW, I checked out the College of Education.  I toured the state-of-the-art educational facility, sat in on a class, but something just didn’t spark in me.  That enjoyment that I had acting as a teacher when I was 8 years old just didn’t translate with time.  By the time I enrolled as a full-time student, I declared as a journalism major because I wanted to expand on my strong writing ability.  I wanted to see if I could make a life out of what I enjoyed.

Over the course of my collegiate career, I joined a fraternity, added two minors, and became routinely involved on campus.  Unlike most college students, I never changed my major.  I considered changing to business my junior year, but I thought that was too late to start over.  Plus, I still loved journalism; I loved my professors and I loved my classes.

I graduated in May of 2016 with a degree in journalism and minors in marketing communications and political science.  I felt that journalism and marketing played hand-in-hand with one another

My first interview after graduating was with Intermountain Healthcare as a marketing associate.  I was so fortunate to receive an interview.  It was my first interview, and I was terribly nervous.  I thought that was going to be a home run…until I got the news that they had chosen someone else for the job.  It was my first rejection, but it wouldn’t be my last.

The months went by, and I had been turned down job after job.  I had the credentials, but the career field had become saturated.  By November, I had sent out over 120 different applications across the marketing and journalism fields.  Field reporters, radio anchors, marketing associates, creative designers.  Nothing.

In the mean time, I wanted to at least make a little money.  I got my substitute teacher license in September, and by October, I got my first sub job.  I drove out to Northpark at 7:45 in the morning, checked in at the front desk, and found my way to my room for the day.  In that room, I saw a long, red counter, a horseshoe table, a bucket full of storybooks.  Fate would have it that it was my mom’s old classroom.

A week later, I got another sub job closer to home.  This time, I was subbing for a friend’s mom in intervention.  I’m not talking about that standard confrontation of an addict, but rather a classroom where students develop speech and reading skills.  These students had such a powerful energy, working incredibly hard to speak succinctly like their classmates.  The sub left me a lesson plan that featured my direct involvement.  I taught them sounds and diacritics and gave them examples and phonetic applications.  These kids made me realize I have a lot to learn.

Then came a series of Godlike coincidences as if He were trying to tell me something.

I was at the grocery store when I ran into a speech therapist for the school district.  I had known this woman for a long time.  Her room was right across from my first grade classroom.  I always remember walking by her room on my way to the computer room and peering in to see if she was there.  She always said “hi” to me in the hallway.  Nicest woman.  She asked me about my life and what my plans were.  I asked if she was still a speech therapist.  With a smile in her eye, she said yes.  She wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Then there was the cashier at GNC.  She was the one of the nicest, most helpful women you could meet.  She had a couple children who, a while back, had been on an IEP to help with speech.  We spent a good 10 minutes talking about her experiences with children who needed some help in developing essential speech principles.  She expressed her frustration when her kids were placed in front of a computer to help them with basic sounds instead of interacting with an actual person.  However, she expressed gratitude towards the speech therapist who took the time to help her children individually and eventually helped them overcome an obstacle in the developmental years.

Late at night, while on vacation with my family in Florida, it hit me.  I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

Some people graduate and still don’t know what they want to do with their life.  I can now say that I was in the same boat.  Some people need to go through real-life trials and tribulations.  I can now say that I’ve gone through plenty.  Some people find their passion when they least expect it.  I can now say that through introspection, I’ve found out my passion.  My passion is using my voice to help other people speak.  I viewed my role as a potential journalist as someone who would help tell people’s stories.  Now, as a Masters student in speech language pathology and communication disorders, I am using my voice to help others make theirs stronger.

Life really is a journey in finding yourself, finding what you want to do.  Sometimes, you’ll find the answer in the situation you’d least expect.

Vote Your Conscience Instead of Being Bullied Into Submission

Ted Cruz - "Vote your conscience."

I don’t agree with Ted Cruz on many issues, but he said something during the Republican National Convention that has resonated with me to this day:  “vote your conscience.”  I’ve seen many a Facebook and Twitter post the past view days from ardent Clinton and Trump supporters essentially trying a last-minute tactic to bully borderline voters into voting for their candidate.

“If you live in a battleground state and vote for a third party…a Trump victory is your fault.  Don’t ruin this,” said one Clinton supporter.

“A vote for a third party is a slap in the face of marginalized citizens,” said another.

Of course, who could forget former Ill. Rep. Joe Walsh’s tweet:  “On November 8th, I’m voting for Trump.  On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.  You in?”

Political “activists” on both sides are appeasing their bases this late in the game while further alienating those small but few handfuls of undecided voters.  Here’s something we forget.

As Americans, we can vote for whoever we damn well please.  We shouldn’t have to be bullied into voting for your terrible nominee just to satisfy your beliefs.  You want to know why so many people are considering voting against these candidates?  People are sick and tired of the empty threats, the political tug-of-war.  People are sick of the childishness and lack of civility.  People are sick of scandals, the mishaps, and the imminent broken promises.  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump think that this is a game, a reality show, the latest edition of “Big Brother.”

People in both major parties have a right to be scared.  More people are becoming informed.  More people are seeing the divisiveness and the elite nature of both parties.  People are angry.  People are moving in droves to other parties, or are unenrolling completely.  People in both parties say, “Don’t vote third party this election.  With the race this close, it’s too important to vote third party.”  If not now, then when?  This is the same shtick that has been said day-in and day-out since Ross Perot ran in 1992.  You shouldn’t feel guilty in not voting for one of the two major parties.

If you vote for someone you truly believe will be a good fit for the office of President of the United States, that’s what matters.  If you vote your conscience and feel good about who you vote for, then you contributed positively to our democracy.  Now, I have my beliefs and I know who I vote(d) for.  I would never shame someone into voting for a particular candidate because that is not what democracy is about.  I respect your decision to vote for whichever candidate appeals to you the most.  I will leave you with this advice, however, on Election Eve.  Don’t listen to other people’s sob stories.  Compare each candidate side-by-side.  Look at the issues you feel are important and see where each candidate stands.  Sometimes it takes a little effort to be an informed voter, and you know, that’s okay.  Just make sure that when you vote, you vote based on YOUR beliefs.  I promise you will feel much, much better.

France, Louisiana to the United States: “Been There, Done That”

Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front

At least once every decade, somewhere in this world, there is an election between a scandal-plagued liberal and an equally scandal-plagued conservative.  There are two noteworthy case studies in which the circumstances were eerily identical, as were the outcomes.  You’d think we would have learned something from them, but yet, here we are, in the exact same spot we’ve been.

Louisiana has their gubernatorial elections in off-years.  The 1991 election would determine who would go to the governor’s mansion in 1992.  Buddy Roemer was the incumbent governor; he was a Democrat-turned-Republican former U.S. Representative who defeated then-incumbent governor Edwin Edwards in the 1987 election.  Though elected as a Democrat, he switched parties a few months prior to his re-election campaign.

Though Roemer had been modestly popular at the start of his tenure, public opinion eventually soured.  Some say that his approval ratings dropped after he vetoed an anti-abortion bill, alienating much of his socially conservative base.  But one of the primary reasons was due to his continued attacks on Marine Shale, a company which Roemer’s administration identified as a main source of environmental pollution within the state.  The company’s owner launched an all-out media campaign against Roemer.

Not helping was the fact that Louisiana has a jungle primary that allows anybody, regardless of political affiliation, to run for office.  If nobody wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters move on to a runoff election, forcing people to choose between one of two candidates and effectively establishing a winner with more than 50% of the vote.  In 1991, former Democratic governor Edwin Edwards sought a rematch against Roemer.  Also running was Republican David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  Duke was a two-term state representative with an energetic base.  In the jungle primary, Edwards placed first with 34% of the vote.  Shockingly, Duke defeated Roemer, and placed second with 32% of the vote.  A runoff would occur between Edwards and Duke within a matter of weeks.

Local media often joked that the only way Edwards would win again in Louisiana was if he ran against Hitler.  These premonitions proved to be prophetic.  The Republican establishment repudiated Duke for his stances, and received no help from the national Republican Party.  Edwards was no saint, either.  He had been put on trial during his third term for fraud and racketeering charges of which he was eventually convicted. Voters were faced with a dilemma: choose between an embattled former governor or a state representative with a history of racism and bigotry.  “Vote the lizard, not the Wizard” became a infamous bumper sticker, reflecting the mood of the election.  Edwards vowed to serve only one term in response.

In the runoff campaign, Edwards defeated Duke in a landslide with Edwards receiving 61% of the vote, paralleling his earlier victories in 1975 and 1983.  In this instance, voters had to choose between the lesser of two evils.  Though Edwards was ridden with scandal, the voters had to make a choice with the whole world watching.

Nearly 10 years later, in 2002, voters in France experienced a similar predicament.  It wasn’t for a governor or a legislator people were voting for, but rather the President of France.  France, like the United States, had two major parties at the federal level:  the center-left Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party) and the center-right Rassemblement pour la Republique (Rally for the Republic, later known as Les Republicains).  France’s electoral system was set up similarly to Louisiana’s:  each party presented a nominee who would run in the general election.  Should no candidate receive 50% of the vote or more, the top two candidates would move on to a runoff.

Many expected the runoff to be between incumbent Jacques Chirac, the nominee of the Rally for the Republic and former Mayor of Paris, and Lionel Jospin, leader of the Socialist Party.  However, numerous smaller leftist parties entered the race, hoping to boost name recognition.  Though all had pledged to back Jospin in the runoff, and unbeknownst to Jospin, they had a larger-than-normal support.

Additionally, perennial National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen ran an ambitious campaign.  He positioned himself in-line with French nationalism and social conservatism.  He was against immigration, especially in cases involving Muslims and people of Jewish religious affiliation.  Le Pen polled surprisingly high, further worrying Jospin’s campaign.

The first round of voting proved to be truly shocking for the nation.  Chirac placed first, with Le Pen slightly edging out Jospin.  The minor leftist parties had eked away enough votes to cost Jospin a chance at the runoff.  People took to the streets with a strong message.

“21 Avril.  J’ai mal au coeur.”  April 21.  My heart is sick.  Demonstrators took to the streets immediately after the election.  One estimate had nearly 1.3 million people marching in the street against Le Pen.

In the runoff, voters again had to make a difficult decision.  Would they vote for Le Pen, the nominee of a party that supported antisemitism, racism, and bigotry?  Or would they vote for Chirac, the man though, unpopular and embattled in scandals from his days as Paris’ mayor, would act as a placeholder until the next election?

The result was one of the most lopsided elections in French history.  Chirac won 82% of the vote.  He was successful in trying to convince those from the other side of the aisle to vote for him because the stakes were simply too high.

Isn’t it funny how history repeats itself, as if we never learned from earlier mistakes?  Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have proven to be two of the most flawed nominees in the history of either party. Both of them are laced with scandal after scandal after scandal.  If you’ve read earlier posts, you know where I stand.  You know my basis of reasoning.  Unlike France and Louisiana, you have at most one chance to vote for president.  I’m not going to tell you who you can or cannot vote for.  That is for you to decide.  What I am going to tell you is vote with your consciousness, not your complacency.  If you are satisfied with where a candidate stands on a broad range of issues and not just one single issue, that is your prerogative.  If you want to truly vote your beliefs and go for someone of a third party, go right ahead.  But don’t, and I repeat, DON’T, stay home and not vote and act like your vote does not count.

Jordan’s Quick Picks: 2016 Election Edition

SNL Spoof

With almost two weeks to go until the general election, it’s time to start thinking about who you’ll vote for.  Chances are candidates have been knocking on your door, asking for your vote.  It can get a little overwhelming.  In this divisive, polarizing election, you may be thinking “why bother?”  Simply put, if you don’t voice your concern via the voting booth, you have no right to complain for the next two-to-four years.

In the business field, return on investment (ROI) is critical.  Are the benefits you receive comparable to your investment?  The same can be said in an election cycle.  The investment at hand is your vote.  When you vote, are you getting some sort of benefit in return?  Are the actions of your representative helping their constituency?

I have decided to make the following endorsements based on efficacy, vision, and return on investment.  Only you can decide who you vote for come this November.  These are merely suggestions; I wholeheartedly respect your decision to vote for whomever you feel will adequately represent your value set.

President – Gary Johnson (L).  This has been the hardest decision I’ve made in an election cycle since I’ve been able to vote.  I am analyzing this decision on the basis of who will best help the people of Wyoming.  Currently, our energy industry is struggling.  Some say it’s just a downturn in the energy industry.  Others say it’s the over-regulation of energy policy in this country.  At any rate, it’s obvious that we are struggling.  The politics of Wyoming really represent a libertarian streak; we like to be left alone, away from the infighting and dysfunction of Washington, D.C.  Wyoming has historically voted Republican in every election since 1964, and the closest a Democrat has come to winning Wyoming was Bill Clinton in 1992 (you can thank vote-splitting for that).

I am a firm believer that the transition of power between the parties keeps individuals active in the process.  If something does or doesn’t go right, you have the ability to change it.  I tend to agree equally with the Democratic and Republican parties.  This intricate thread often weaves a conflicted web.  I consider myself a centrist, a moderate.  I am able to see things from both points of view.  However, I am so dissuaded from voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton because of the volatile political environment they’ve helped bolster, that I cannot bring myself to vote for either of them.  To do so would be morally reprehensible.  I have not seen evidence of actions that either campaign would take that would benefit the state of Wyoming.  Alas, many people will be eager to vote for Trump because he has an (R) next to his name.

Sure, Johnson’s had his share of blunders on the campaign trail.  Every candidate has had their blunders, some more than others.  Here’s why I support the Johnson/Weld ticket.  Johnson is a strong supporter of the energy industry as a former governor of an intermountain state.  He believes that when regulation is focused on the problem rather than the business, we can begin to transform our energy policy and production.  He believes that every American has the right to make their own decisions in their lives that will benefit them without governmental interference.  He believes in a simpler tax code, and also believes in a strong protection of domestic civil liberties.  He is a strong, independent alternative to either major party ticket.

Some have voiced concerns about the actions one might take as president.  Please keep in mind the process of checks and balances – a process that allows both the legislative and judicial branches to have the ability to “intermingle” with a president’s agenda.  A president cannot unilaterally act, and his agenda is merely a vision statement, a guideline if you will.

I also want to warn people about “writing-in” a candidate.  That’s not to say that you can’t; you have the ability to speak out and vote for whomever you want.  Be sure to check your state’s write-in laws before you vote.  In the state of Wyoming, a write-in candidate has to file candidacy papers and pay a fee no later than two days AFTER the general election.  Many independent and minor party candidates are trying to get ballot access in this fashion.  As of October 23, 2016, the following parties/candidates have access to the ballot, and may also be recognized for any write-in votes they receive:  Democratic Party, Republican Party, Green Party (write-in), Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, Reform Party.  There has been a lot of talk about people wanting to write-in Evan McMullin’s name on the ballot this November.  Be advised that McMullin has NOT sent in the proper paperwork to Secretary of State Ed Murray, thus, any write-in votes he may receive may not be counted.

U.S. House (WY-AL) – Ryan Greene (D).  The last Democrat to go to Washington, D.C. from the state of Wyoming was Rock Springs’ very own Teno Roncalio back in 1976.  He retired in 1978, and was replaced by Dick Cheney.  This year, Ryan Greene is hoping to win the seat vacated by Cynthia Lummis.  The Republican nominee is former Virginia resident and daughter of Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney.  There are several reasons why I am voting for Greene.

Greene works in the energy industry in southwest Wyoming.  He knows how turbulent it’s been in the past few years.  He will go to Washington as a moderate voice to help the thousands of people being impacted by this economic downturn in the state.  He is not a party-line partisan.  He will represent everyone, and not just the people of his party.  He’s had a lot of Republican support, thanks to his consistent outreach throughout the state.  Greene has talked to thousands of people in both urban and rural areas of the state, and is a strong believer in community.

Liz Cheney arrived in the state back in the fall of 2013.  She attempted to unseat popular incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi.  Little did she realize that we really like Senator Enzi, and that carpetbagging isn’t really appreciated in this state.  Cheney believes she can coast by on her name, which still leaves a sour taste in many mouths throughout Wyoming.

Republican voter registration is nearly three-to-one, when compared to Democrats in this state.  However, in 2006, Barbara Cubin (R) nearly lost to Gary Trauner (D) because of her debate debacle.  It’s possible we could see this again this year.  Greene has an uphill climb, but he could very well win in what is a competitive race in Wyoming standards.

State Senate District 12 – Liisa Anselmi-Dalton (D).  Anselmi-Dalton is running to replace Bernadine Craft (D), who is retiring after 10 years in the Wyoming Legislature.  She is running unopposed for this seat that has been in Democratic hands since at least 1997.  Anselmi-Dalton is a local businesswoman who manages several hotels in Rock Springs.  She is a Matt Mead-appointee of the state travel and tourism board, and has also been endorsed by the NRA for this election.  Though running unopposed, I feel it necessary to highlight the fact that Liisa Anselmi-Dalton will serve the people of Rock Springs wonderfully, just as Sen. Rudy Anselmi did for nearly three decades.

State Senate District 14 – Fred Baldwin (R).  Three-term state senator Stan Cooper is retiring, and State Representative Fred Baldwin won the Republican nomination to replace him.  Baldwin is a one-term representative from Kemmerer.  This district represents North Rock Springs and parts of Rock Springs north of Reagan Avenue and west of Foothill Boulevard.  His opponent, Charlotte Sedey (D), hasn’t made a concerted effort to win votes in Rock Springs, and I have failed to find information on her stances on given issues.  Baldwin is a firm believer in diversifying Wyoming’s economic portfolio during this turbulent time.  He believes that public lands should be kept in public hands, and further believes that the public should have more of a say in what happens to these lands.  Though his stance on healthcare is a bit mixed, I believe that with the support and public input he desires, he can become more active in this specific topic.  I believe Baldwin will be good for the state senate.

State House District 17 – JoAnn Dayton (D).  Dayton is running unopposed for this seat.  She is a one-term representative who has been valuable to House Democrats.  I may be a bit biased, but her constituent services have been excellent.  She has helped keep me informed on the progress of a bill that both she and I supported.  She represents everyone in Rock Springs, even when they may be outside of her district.  Dayton is a wonderful woman who will continue to do great things for this city.

State House District 18 – Michele Irwin (D) or Thomas Crank (R).   This is a very difficult race as well.  This has been a Republican stronghold for quite some time.  Irwin ran for this seat against the aforementioned Baldwin back in 2014.  To call the race a “shellacking” would be an understatement, likely due to the disparity between Republican and Democratic voters in this district.  During a candidate forum in Evanston, both Irwin and Crank had similar positions on Medicaid (both were in favor of expanding the program to some degree), both had similar positions on economic disparity between eastern and western Wyoming, and both are against raising preexisting taxes/establishing a state income tax.  I believe that either one would be a good candidate for this seat.  Irwin is from Green River, while Crank is from Diamondville.  If you’re looking for someone who might know the issues better close to home, Irwin would be a good bet.

State House District 48 – Jackie Freeze (D).  I recently had a good talk with Jackie Freeze, who’s running against incumbent Mark Baker (R).  As a former WWCC administrator, she knows how to help people grow and run a successful institution.  I go back to thinking about the return on investment people have made in electing Mark Baker to the House, and I wonder if they feel they’ve gotten an adequate return on their vote.  Baker has campaigned consistently on conservative principles and has been unwilling to work with House Democrats.  As a matter of personal privilege, I am still angered at the three times I’ve gone to the Capitol and asked to meet with him, only to be snubbed every single time.  Jackie agrees that constituent services are important.  She publishes regular content on her Facebook page regarding her views on important election issues.  You can view it here:  https://www.facebook.com/JackieFreezeforHouseDistrict48/?fref=ts.  I highly encourage you to check her out and vote for her.

Other legislative endorsements – Stan Blake (D-HD 39), John Freeman (D-HD 60).

Sweetwater County Commission – Holly Dabb (D), Scott Hamel (I). Let me preface this by saying that the current makeup of the Sweetwater County Commission is four Republicans (Chairman Wally Johnson, John Kolb, Don Van Matre, and Doc Wendling) and one Democrat (Reid West).  Concurrently, legislative representation of Sweetwater County currently consists of three Democrats and three Republicans in the House and two Democrats and one Republican in the Senate.  The proportions don’t necessarily add up.  Additionally, Sweetwater County is considered a bellwether county.

This year, Wally Johnson and Don Van Matre are up for reelection.  I constantly find myself asking, “what good has the county commission done for the people of Sweetwater County?”  Usually, I end up drawing a blank.  And it’s not just me; many people in this county are frustrated with how it’s being run.  We get frustrated with the status quo, but we never take charge and try new people out.

Tonight was the forum for Sweetwater County Commission candidates.  There were a variety of issues discussed, from zoning to business to infrastructure to lobbying.  I found the answers striking for both Holly Dabb and for Scott Hamel because their mindset would bring new ideas and balance to a lopsided commission.  One topic discussed was energy diversification.  All candidates were against building wind turbines in Sweetwater County.  Democrat Gary Baliff gave his reasoning as them being an “absolute eyesore.”  Van Matre and Johnson were also against them.  But Dabb gave some insight:  if we do not have the proper infrastructure to house a higher output in energy production, then doesn’t it seem like a waste to talk about it at all?  Hamel agreed, and I think we absolutely need to evaluate infrastructure before we can even consider alternative energy.

Business development was also a big topic.  Hamel, a Green River realtor, was very focused on the topic of business development and laid out an energetic pro-business stance in terms of not overtaxing new business and encouraging business to develop in this area, while finding strengths in this county that will attract both bigger and smaller businesses.

One of the topics that was talked about as well was the state’s rainy day fund.  Sweetwater County contributes quite a bit of money to the state, but it is being held up in this account that isn’t being spent.  I will agree with Johnson on one point in particular:  how can the state have a rainy day fund when the state doesn’t even have a definition of “rain?”  This was something that was agreed upon up and down the slate.  Any candidate must address this problem.

Dabb is the former publisher of the Rocket-Miner newspaper.  A journalist by trade, she understands the necessity to keep government transparent, which is something the county commission desperately needs.  Hamel brings business expertise to the position, which I think would be valuable when talking about expanding the residential and commercial opportunities in this county.  I can’t bring myself to vote for Van Matre nor Johnson because the only thing I have seen them do in this last term was open a new medical center that is being used for outpatient services, even though we already have prior buildings for such procedures.  Additionally, their response to the nursing home crisis a while back was rather lackluster.  Gary Baliff is running as a conservative Democrat.  He positions himself in-line with the Republican incumbents, which personally makes voting for him difficult for me.  I believe that, if elected, the commission will see political balance at a 2:2:1 ratio, and will see new ideas blossom in the process.

Sweetwater County School District #1 Board of Trustees – Max Mickelson and Carol Jelaco.  The school board has been an area of concern for many different residents of Rock Springs.  I’ve seen many a Facebook posts regarding frustration with how they’ve handled graduation rates and staff concerns, among other things.  I’m a true believer in adding new voices to the conversation and keeping voices that are able to view things with an open mind.  I have genuinely appreciated Max’s work for the school board during the time he’s served.  Of all school board members, he’s the only one (that I’ve seen, mind you) who has actively gone to schools to observe classrooms.  He challenges individuals to think outside the box.  He welcomes community discussion, and encourages people to speak out.  He is transparent.  He is a local business owner who works with wonderful adults in this community.  But most of all, he’s a parent actively working to make this school district a great place to learn and work.

I’m always interested in having former educators on the school board.  They have the classroom experience, that behind-the-scenes experience that can be beneficial for steering the district vision in the right direction.  That’s where Carol Jelaco comes in.  Carol taught in the public school system for 34 years – 32 of those spend in Rock Springs.  She has been a part of the Sweetwater County Education Association, as well as the Wyoming Education Association.  I truly believe that her expertise in the educational field will only benefit the school board.

Wy-HOMECOMING

Arlington

I decided to take the way less traveled on the way back from Laramie this past weekend.  Rock Creek Trail is nestled in the mountains just south of Arlington.  As a little kid, I always remember going to Laramie and seeing how beautiful the changing colors were on the trees.  Sunday was the first time I ventured into this little canyon, and I’m sure glad I did.  As I sat along the banks of Rock Creek, I reminisced about the great weekend I just had.

I never understood the purpose of homecoming growing up.  In high school, it was just one giant week of popularity contests and school pride events.  I was probably most active during senior year, where, in shock and awe, I participated in every single day of homecoming.  I dressed up as a senior citizen, helped build the bonfire, painted people’s bodies for the football game, and yes, even went to the dance.  People who know me know that I hate school dances.  Or dancing in general.

As a senior, I still didn’t know what homecoming truly meant.  Rather than ponder, I just sat back and enjoyed it.  It was my last year.  Four years really flew by.

College was no different.  Granted, the first two years went by fairly slowly, but I was completely okay with that.  I had a blast as an undergraduate.  I was involved, I had a great group of friends, and I had the best brothers I could ask for.  One thing remained constant from high school: homecoming week was a really big deal.

The celebrations were grandiose and there was a larger sense of school spirit.  Being in a fraternity, you were highly encouraged to participate in some event that week.  Homecoming week certainly brought out the competition in each house.  It would behoove certain people to find their niche and contribute in their own individual way.

Homecoming Sing was always something to look forward to.  Each house got to show off their school spirit and household talent in a sing-off.  Last year, one of our members re-worded the lyrics to some country song; the name which confounds me because I’m not a devout listener of country music.  Along with the lyrics, he helped coordinate some dance moves which we hoped would impress.  Though we didn’t win, it was a fun experience.

I got involved more as a member – and later, as an executive – of ASUW.  The pig roast, the hyping-up of people in Simpsons Plaza, the volunteer spirit through The Big Event.

This weekend was my first homecoming as an alumni.  I felt out of place.  It was weird.  My entire scholastic career, I’ve been on the opposite end, participating in festivities as a student.  This time, I was a college graduate.  A lot of the people I went to school with (save for Cameron) weren’t there anymore.  However, as the weekend progressed, I saw more and more familiar faces.  My big in the fraternity came back to celebrate.  My best friend, who is now in law school, took some time out of his busy schedule to have a few drinks.  My aunt, along with her boyfriend, my cousin, and her boyfriend, all went to the Buck at 7:45 PM on a Friday night.  That is officially the earliest I’ve ever been there.

Several fraternity alumni came back this weekend.  People who had been in the house long before I was there.  I tailgated with them in the parking lot of War Memorial shortly before the game.  Everybody was so happy to see one another.  Everybody acted like they hadn’t even been gone that long.  Those long-lasting friendships withstood the test of time.

My family gathered at my cousin’s house for some homemade pizza after the game.  We celebrated togetherness and family.  It certainly was a homecoming to remember.

This weekend made me realize what homecoming meant.  I had such a huge family on campus, between friends, fraternity, and actual family.  You really get to pick who will be in your family at your home away from home.  Though you may be gone, and off to bigger and better things, you can always come back home.  Your family will still be there, awaiting your arrival, ready to reminisce and relive the good ol’ times.

I’m Still Struggling to Figure Out Who in the World I’m Voting For

Vote for Nobody
I’ve struggled and struggled and struggled for months now to figure out who I’m voting for.  I’m mad.  People all across this country are mad.  It’s showing.  But I can’t find a candidate I fully support. It’s touch-and-go with different candidates on many issues I feel are important.  Each one addresses them differently, some more satisfactorily than others.  The jury is still out on who I’m voting for, and here’s why.
  1. A vote is earned, not given.  Nobody in this race has earned my vote.  They have not addressed my problems satisfactorily.  For that matter, no candidate has visited this state (you’ll be hearing about the obvious reason in a later blog posting).  If a candidate wants my vote, they need to discuss the issues people are facing all over this country, Wyoming included, instead of only a few states that really “matter” to them.  The only reality is that these states matter only because they can sway the election.  Gary Johnson is the only one who has made anywhere close to an effort to campaign here, as he will be having a Google Hangout with people at the University of Wyoming this coming week.
  2. The Supreme Court.  I am a believer in an unbiased Supreme Court, a court that should judge without political motivation.  Unfortunately, we live in a society where we elect judges in some jurisdictions and present a litmus test on certain issues for others.  I’m going to throw it back to 1876 for a context of what I’m looking for.  Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden vied against one another in one of the most disputed elections in this country’s history.  There were 20 disputed votes from five different states that would decide the election, so Congress – in its productive heyday – created the Electoral Commission.  Seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one independent were to serve.  David Davis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, was the most reliably unbiased person to hold office in this country.  He was supposed to serve on the Commission, but was elected to the Senate by the Illinois Legislature; thus, he was unable to serve on the Commission.  The consequences of that decision gave the presidency to Hayes.  But the bread and butter argument is that the court, in my opinion, should have four Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent so that the court does not sway in either direction.  Hillary will sway the Court in favor of the Democrats, Trump the Republicans.  Some of their nominees frighten me as well.  Four-to-four-to-one is a good ratio.
  3. Where’s the talk about the issues!?  Hillary Clinton borrowed a Michelle Obama quote during this campaign.  She’s consistently said, “When they go low, we go high.”  Yet, I continually see Hillary commercials go low on the defensive against Trump.  Trump has never taken the high road in his entire campaign.  During the debates, an aggregate total of two minutes has been spent talking about the issues, if that.  The rest of the time, it has been irrelevant political blather, personal attacks, and distractions that keep us from concentrating on the real issues.  Instead of spending time attacking one another, talk to us on how you’re going to resolve the issues this country is facing.  Tell me how you’re going to revitalize our crippled energy industry.  Tell me how you’re going to put Wyoming workers back to work in these fields.  Tell me what you plan on doing.  Don’t redirect me to your website.  Don’t tell me where I can donate money.  Tell me the solutions to these issues.

The picture at the top of this post speaks volumes.  Some days, I feel like I should vote for nobody.  Who is going to focus on what I really care about?  Over the course of the past year-and-a-half, I’ve figured out who I’m not voting for, and that decision is between me and my ballot box this coming November.  As for the rest of the candidates, well, they have less than a month to persuade me, because right now, I’m not convinced.

Joining SigEp was the Best Decision I Ever Made

Close-up of SigEp Sign on our House

Last year at around this time, I bought a new camera for my photography class.  Apparently, the one my mom bought me for Christmas was “not the right kind.”  Annoying, but whatever.  So I dropped a cool $300 on a Sony Alpha DSLR.  I unpacked it in the parking lot of Walmart and put in a spare memory card I had laying around my glove compartment.  When I got home, this was the first picture I took.  It’s the letters on the house I lived at for three years.

Applying for college was more nerve-wracking than applying for jobs.  Most of my high school friends applied and had been accepted to either the University of Utah or Westminster.  I, on the other hand, decided to go to the University of Wyoming.  While I wanted to spread my wings and try out a different city, a different state, the logical choice was UW because of the Hathaway Scholarship and because of low tuition rates.  I packed up two cars full of my belongings and set sail for Laramie.  I don’t think I said a word the entire trip there.  There was no turning back.

I moved into Orr Hall with a roommate I had never met.  Luckily, there were two guys from a fraternity right across the street that volunteered to help me move everything in – something I am still grateful for to this day.  I took way more than I needed to.  After I got settled in, I wondered if UW was really the right choice for me.  I admittedly missed home, but I was also ready for a new experience.

That second week of my freshman year was Greek life’s recruitment week.  Without telling my parents, I decided to sign up for recruitment week.  Each night, I got to explore different houses, meet different people, and figure out this whole “Greek life” thing.  To me, it was a lot like test-driving a car; each one rides differently, and the goal is to find the perfect fit for yourself.  At the end of night three, my recruitment group walked up to a table with a banner that said “Sigma Phi Epsilon.”  And wouldn’t you know it?  Those two guys who helped me move everything into my dorm were the first two people to greet me.

They showed me around the house and gave me virtually the entire history of the house.  There were guys with so many different backgrounds, so many different experiences, so many stories.  I didn’t feel as lost in my collegiate journey as I had been.  I listed SigEp as my top preference, and got to come back a second night.  I don’t remember what activity we did that night, or for that matter, any of the activities I participated in that entire week.  But I do remember something that sticks out to me to this day – everybody in this house meshed together like one big family.

I received four different bids on bid day, the maximum allowable.  Over the next 48 hours, I had to do some soul-searching.  Which organization best matched my value set?  Where would I be most comfortable?  By Sunday, I realized that the decision was obvious.  Virtue, Diligence, Brotherly Love.  Sound mind, sound body.  A truly balanced man.  SigEp was my home, and my newfound brothers were my family.

My parents didn’t find out about the fraternity until it was time for my first due payment.  When I called them up on the phone, my decision was met with much resistance.  If I were a parent and their kid asked for money for something they knew nothing about, chances are I’d probably be angry too.  I spent a good hour on the phone with them, trying to coax them and win their support.  I succeeded.

That first year was one where I grew in many ways – mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I had a younger sister growing up.  No brothers.  I was the eldest child.  When I joined SigEp, I got 35 new brothers, and I was the youngest.  While my sister challenged my patience, my brothers challenged my mindset.  I opened my heart and my mind, and I learned what it truly meant to be a SigEp.

There’s a hierarchy of families, as is custom with any fraternity.  I remember having to choose my big brother.  There were so many choices, but I know I made the right choice.  He was the one who helped me move into my dorm that first day.  And who was my big brother’s big brother?  The other one who helped me move in.  I belonged to a great family.

“Live every day like you’re wearing your letters.”  I’m sure I heard that at least 100 times during my collegiate career.  Certainly, there were very vivid memories of demonstrating each principle SigEp stands for.

Virtue.  Do the right thing.  During Homecoming Week my sophomore year, we participated in the Big Event, a day of service in the community.  I was still on crutches from a surgery back in July, and had been assigned to go to this basement rental near campus.  The woman who lived there needed help cleaning up the place because of health issues.  When I got there, the place was cold, the windows were cracked, the heat didn’t work.  A family of five was living in a two-bedroom apartment.  As I was cleaning the walls, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her situation.  She and I struck up a conversation over the course of the three hours or so that I was there.  I got to know her.  She was thankful for everything she had.  She was thankful for her kids.  She was thankful for the help.  Before I left, she pulled me aside and hugged me.  I learned the value of appreciation.  This isn’t a flagrant search for gratitude.  Rather, it is a lesson in the internal reward you receive for putting others before yourself.  Doing good makes you feel good.

Diligence.  Perseverance at its finest.  I had surgery July 5, 2013.  I was told that it would take at least six months for me to be able to walk without support and eight months for me to be able to run.  I was frustrated because I really enjoyed running, and losing something you love for that amount of time takes a toll.  There were many trials and tribulations within the first three months.  My mom even considered having me take a semester off so I could focus on recovery, but I wanted to go back to school.  I remember the second week of school.  I was still on crutches and still in slight pain.  I just wanted to be able to walk again.  So, I left my crutches at the house and attempted to walk to class in the Ag building.  It took ten minutes for me to walk halfway there.  I was sweaty, out of breath, but damn it, I wanted to walk again.  I did this every day for two months.  Soon, my gait was smoother and the pain went away.  I worked my hardest to be able to run two months earlier than expected.  During Christmas break, I ran my first mile, albeit slower than normal.  By March, I had run a 5K at Copper Mountain.  This is not a pity party.  Pain is temporary, and the experience wasn’t that bad.  But persevering and setting goals made it all worth while, and made me a stronger person.

Brotherly love.  Let the love flow.  I opened up more to my big, Dylan, than I think I’ve opened up to any other person.  There’s a lot of trust, and you come to realize how strong that trust is through experience.  We unfortunately lost one of our members in 2015.  It took a toll on many of us.  A lot of guys lost their close friend and confidante.  I lost my little.  The brothers of SigEp banded together.  In the house, we kept our doors open more frequently.  We engaged in conversation, in reminiscence, in true heartfelt camaraderie.  I’m not ashamed to say that I hugged more.  These were more than brothers, these were my best friends.  This act of brotherly love, this act of friendship stands the test of time.

Graduating was the most difficult part for me.  Leaving something I had grown accustomed to, a house full of my best friends and an organization that taught me so much, wasn’t easy.  To this day, post-graduate Jordan wishes he could have stayed in school and got a second degree, just to be there a little while longer.  At the same time, I wouldn’t trade any decision for the world.  I am a better person because of the fraternity.  The years may pass, but the memories stay.  I think everyone should experience Greek life, regardless of which house you choose.  I may be a bit biased, but out of any decision I’ve made in life so far, joining SigEp was the by far the best.

WFAN is the Homewrecker of New York Radio

WFAN logo

If you haven’t heard, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are divorcing.  And of course, there’s a lot of speculation going on.  Nothing can be proven as of yet, but there are allegations of womanizing on Brad Pitt’s part.  Homewrecking dissolves inseparable bonds, and the pain of the initial incident hurts for years.

YouTube has an uncanny ability to identify videos that I may be interested in.  One of those videos that popped up today was an old aircheck from WNBC-AM New York.  It was the station’s final broadcast before it flipped to a sports talk station, WFAN.  Alan Colmes of the Fox News show Hannity and Colmes, before it became solely known as Hannity, was the host of the final broadcast.  WNBC had been located at 660 on the AM dial for 66 years before it went off the air.  In 1988, General Electric/NBC decided to get out of the radio business.  Stations WNBC in New York and KYUU in San Francisco (among others) were sold to other organizations.  Emmis Communications, owner of WFAN 1050 AM, decided to move the call letters and format to 660, moving WNBC to the history books.

It is a tad bit ironic that “66 WNNNNNNBC” was on the air for 66 years before folding.  Many listeners in New York were saddened by the loss of a once-dominant superstation.  WNBC had long broadcast a top-40 format in direct competition to cross-town WABC-AM.  WABC transitioned to a talk radio format in 1982, leaving WNBC as one of the last music stations on the AM band.  In the 1980s, FM became the primary choice for music listeners because of its superiority in signal.  Most of the dominant stations on the AM side either switched to FM or disbanded altogether.  WNBC had been on the decline for several years; the station was no longer profitable.

Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, a former WNBC DJ and current SiriusXM personality, commented that it was the end of an era.  Indeed, many loyal listeners were dismayed when they tuned into their favorite station and found it broadcasting not music, but sports.  But folks in the New York City radio market shouldn’t have been that surprised.  Just a year earlier, WFAN “homewrecked” another longtime favorite in the metropolitan area:  WHN.

WHN broadcast at 1050 on the AM dial.  It had long been a top-40 station in New York City.  The AM band was diluted with options for this format:  1010 WINS, 570 WMCA, 770 WABC, and 660 WNBC.  After years of stiff competition, the station flipped to a country music format.  New York City had not had a strong country music powerhouse until WHN flipped.  By the late 70s, it was the most popular country music station in the country.  Emmis Communications decided it was time for a change in 1987, and after 65 years, WHN became WFAN – a sports talk station.

Just in the span of two years, two longtime radio legends went off the air.  The consequences were great:  660 AM is a clear-channel station.  At its peak in the overnight hours, the station can be heard throughout continental North America.  Listeners would no longer hear that top-40 station at 660 AM, but rather a sports talk station.

WFAN has been a homewrecker of sorts since its inception.  WHN and WNBC are nothing more than mere callsigns in the annals of history.  These longtime powerhouses made way for a fledgling format that has succeeded more since its been introduced on the FM band than during its entire history on the 660 frequency.  This proves that its never okay to interfere with longtime relationships, because the after-effects will be dismal.

We Only Hear What We Want to Hear, and It’s Ruining Us as a Society

Blackout Button

“Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had a Blackout button?”

Deep in the corner of game show obscurity lies Blackout, starring Bob Goen.  Ever heard of the Pyramid franchise?  This game show replaced The $25,000 Pyramid on the CBS daytime schedule back in 1988.  It was supposed to be the network’s next big hit, but it fizzled out after 13 weeks.  Two teams, each composed of one celebrity and one civilian, competed in this word game.  The object of the game was simple:  you spoke for 20 seconds about a person, place, or thing without actually revealing what you’re talking about.  The opposing team is armed with a “Blackout button” that allows them to censor up to seven seconds of the description in an effort to make identifying the clue as difficult as possible.

At the beginning of the show, announcer Johnny Gilbert would ask the home audience if it would be nice if everybody were equipped with a Blackout button.  In 1988, this was but a fantasy.  In today’s world, this is an actuality.  How so?  Two words:  social media.

We are all consumers of information, be it through television, print media, or even social media.  Up until the mid-2000s, the cycle of news consumption was, well, cyclical.  You would receive a recap of yesterday’s news while reading the paper, get up-to-date information while watching network or cable news, then receive a recap of that day’s events on the evening news.  That cycle would restart the next day.

Then social media happened.  People could post about events instantaneous to their occurrence.  A journalist no longer had to be the first person to report them.

But something else happened.  Individuals could now be more selective of when and where they got their news.  This particularly applies to the arena of politics.  If you’re a conservative, chances are great that you get your news from Fox News, Breitbart, or even the Drudge Report.  If you’re liberal, you may be more inclined to watch MSNBC or get information from a Facebook page such as “Occupy Democrats.”

Why do we do that?  Simply put, we like to hear what we want to hear.  When we want information, we are going to go to a news source that we agree with and get information instantaneously through social media or, to a lesser extent, television.

It justifies our stances on issues and demonizes others for their views.  This certainly hasn’t helped an already toxic political atmosphere in which either side believes their stance is the only correct one.  The electorate has become more polarized in the process, adding fuel to an already raging fire.  Can you solely blame social media for this?  Not particularly, but there is evidence that social media has contributed to this polarization problem.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had a Blackout button?”  We are living in a world where we can “blackout” what we don’t want to hear, and when we hear something we don’t want to hear, we can use our “block-out” button to remove them from online existence.  No wonder we are a society so divided.  Maybe if we did a little more listening and were less blissfully ignorant, then perhaps we could actually be better people.

Is a Vote for a Third-Party Candidate a Vote Wasted? No.

Getty Image of Four Presidential Candidates“A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Hillary Clinton.”

“A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.”

It’s a template used every election by hard-line partisans to coerce voters into voting for their candidate.  “A vote for (insert third-party candidate) is a vote for (insert major party candidate).”  But, should we be threatened by this nonsense?

To answer this question, one must look at the political construct of this nation.  Common knowledge indicates that our Founding Fathers never intended for this nation to be absorbed in the party system.  George Washington noted in his presidential farewell address that the spoils of political parties do nothing but discriminate upon the electorate.  In a series of scandals and controversies, legislators began to take sides, and thus was the creation of political parties.  Federalist, Anti-Federalist, and eventually, the Democratic-Republicans.  After Andrew Jackson became president, a deep political divide separated the electorate further.  Since then, we’ve dealt with the ramification of a two-party system.

Democrats and Whigs.  Democrats and Know-Nothings.  Democrats and Republicans.  Certainly, other political parties have existed over the years.  But none of them have been comparable to the support Democrats and Republicans have.  A recent Gallup poll shows that when asked how they identify politically, 27 percent of respondents said they were Republican and 31 percent said they were Democrat.  Of the remaining respondents, a record 38 percent respondent that they were “independent,” or felt they did not belong to either political party.

What’s more is that two-party identification is at its lowest point since polling on the subject began.  In 1988, 36 percent of respondents said they were Democrat, 31 percent said they were Republican, and 33 percent said they were “independent.”

Why such dismal numbers?  We are gridlocked in a system that makes us choose for the more desirable of two less-than-desirable options.  Congressional productivity since 2011 is at its lowest point in the history of Congress because of the deep political divide.  See, before 1995, members of Congress worked across the aisles to get things accomplished.  Indeed, history shows that there was a large overlap between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican.  Essentially, people in the middle who felt that they did not belong to a political party could choose someone of a political party that was not exactly partisan and be satisfied.

Then things changed.  Party whips ensured adherence to party-line voting.  Members who were not deemed conservative or liberal enough were primaried and replaced on the ticket with more extreme candidates.  Slowly over time, that aforementioned overlap began to diminish.  The result has become one of the most divisive, destructive party systems in the world.  It’s this vicious cycle that has resulted in a record number of people waxing independent, a cause without a party.

Every four years, people take their frustrations to the ballot box, at least on a presidential level.  In a normal election cycle, these independents must choose between two candidates with which they may have severe or bitter disagreements.  That’s why there is so much focus on the independent vote.  Each party tries to capture the middle:  a middle increasingly growing with dissatisfied former partisans.  The sheer focus of the election moves away from issues and towards “what lie can I tell you to garner your vote?”

This pinch on electoral freedom has come to a head this election, and voters are angry.  There is no common ground between the Democratic and Republican nominee.  However, the talk of third-party campaigns has risen.  Believe it or not, there are other options.

Gary Johnson has made a big push in trying to gather the support of dissatisfied partisans by taking stances on issues that put him in the ideological center.  Polls show him garnering the most support of any Libertarian candidate in history.

So why do we feel the need to vote for one of two less-than-desirable options.  That answer lies in the Electoral College.

The Electoral College harbors the environment where the two-party system thrives.  Electoral votes are divvied up among all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to population.  California gets 55 electoral votes for being the largest state and Wyoming gets a measly three votes for being the smallest.  Electors then cast their vote for whomever won their respective state, save for Nebraska and Maine, in which all but two of their votes may be cast for the candidate who won their respective congressional district.

The Electoral College does not account accurate representation.  With Wyoming’s three electoral votes, we are garnered more federal representation than any other state solely because of our small population.  The bigger problem lies when Wyoming is compared to other states with the same allocated number of electoral votes.  Montana has a population of just over 1 million people; Wyoming has a population just over half that size.  One electoral vote in Wyoming represents approximately 195,000 residents, while one electoral vote in Montana represents approximately 333,000 residents.  Same electoral allocation, two different populations, two drastically different appropriations.

Is the Electoral College really representative of the popular vote?  Franklin Delano Roosevelt easily won reelection in 1936, beating Kansans Governor Alf Landon.  The Electoral College vote was 523 to 8 – one of the most lopsided elections in history.  The popular vote, however, tells a different tale.  FDR managed to win 60 percent of the popular vote compared to Landon’s 37 percent.  A win is a win, yes.  However, a 98.4 percent win in the Electoral College does not mirror a 60 percent win of the popular vote.

Let’s take a look at one of the more controversial examples: the election of 1876.  Republican Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio battled Democratic Governor Samuel Tilden of New York for the seat vacated by Ulysses S. Grant.  When election day rolled around, the national popular vote put Tilden in the lead not by a plurality, but by a solid majority.  When tallied, Tilden captured 51 percent of the popular vote compared to Hayes’ 48 percent.  However, because of the allocation of electoral votes and the necessity of the Electoral College, Hayes won the presidency by one electoral vote.  He did not receive a mandate of the people.  This would not be the last time this would occur, either.

George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 because of 537 votes in the state of Florida – a long-time battleground state.  Both campaigns focused their efforts to capture this state that would prove decisive for a presidential victory.  It should be noted that independent candidate Ralph Nader likely ate away at Al Gore’s lead in the state, allowing Bush to win.

The Electoral College and the idea of battleground states have both turned the quest for the presidency from a national campaign to a 10-state campaign.  Democrats nor Republicans would consider stepping foot in Wyoming because it is so deeply considered a “red state.”  They don’t get to hear voter frustration, nor the tales of party successes or failures within the state.

Is a vote for a third-party candidate a vote wasted?  No.  People crave change.  In an electorate so indecisive because of hyperpartisanship among two major parties, they’re mad as hell.  They shouldn’t be threatened to vote for a candidate they don’t agree with.  It may be risky in parts of the country not safeguarded by the Electoral College.  And, indeed, we’ve seen how third-party candidates have winnowed away at leads in key states.  However, third-party candidacies can break that stranglehold we’ve been living in for almost 250 years.  Simply put, if you don’t agree with a political party or their candidate, don’t vote for them, because a vote for that candidate is a vote against your freedom to exercise your Constitutionally-mandated right.