Keeping Them Honest

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008, 3:53 pm

Ahh. After I vote I come away feeling fresh and invigorated–kinda like after I leave the dentist’s office. Which reminds me, I gotta go see the dentist.

DuggleBogey raises a point in the comments of my previous post. What if the candidates up for election in no way reflect your views? What if–and it’s just possible this has happend a few times in American political history–both candidates utterly suck? In that case, why vote?

To this I would say that, except in real nightmare scenarios, there’s usually a lesser of two evils. In the last election I didn’t so much vote for John Kerry as vote against George Bush–and I would’ve done so had the Democratic nominee been former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick. And let me say here on the record that I HATE Brian Billick. Though less so since he got canned.

The other point I would make is that voter apathy helps produce candidates who are lazy, stupid and corrupt. If you know that most people will vote Democratic or Republican regardless of the stiff the party puts up on the dais, you don’t have to worry much about listening to those folks. You trot out the talking points and buzzwords that have worked for the party in the past and your hard-core believers will sigh with contentment. George Bush’s approval ratings have been around 30% for several years now–presumably some of those people would say they approve even if the President bit the head off a kitten during a press conference. The political beliefs of many people appear to be so entrenched that nothing’s going to change them. Including those people who believe that, since nothing’s going to change, there’s no point in voting. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. More and more citizens stop going to the polls, candidates focus more and more on small groups whose members DO get out the vote, and more and more voters feel that they don’t have a say.

But if 90% of Americans voted instead of the 60% in the 2004 Presidential election (which was the highest percentage since the 1968 election) it could, at least in theory, help break up the ossification in our politics. The more people who come to the dance, the more chance of independent voters have of making their weight felt. If the people who aren’t voting are, on average, less beholden to either party than people who DO vote, suddenly that’s a huge group of people both parties have to focus on. An additional 50 million voters might also allow for a viable third-party candidate, which would of course really shake things up.

Of course I’m making some assumptions here, none bigger than my hope that the majority of Americans are reasonably intelligent people who truly want the country to succeed and prosper. I know–that’s a leap of faith. Nor can I be 100% sure that an increase in voter turnout wouldn’t simply bring out even more people in perfect lockstep with the Democratic or Republican party. But when I talk to people about politics, hardly anyone says "I’m a Democrat" or "I’m a Republican". We’ve seen that elections can bring about sweeping change–it happened in 1994 and then the re-sweeping took place in 2006. The more that our elected officials think that the voters will hold their feet to the fryer, that they’d better not massively screw up or they’re gonna be ignominously out on their ass, the better it will be for our democracy. And for that to happen, people have to vote. The more the merrier.

UPDATE: I want to qualify what I wrote about the "sweeping changes" of 1994 and 2006. In those years the ruling party got beat soundly in midterm elections. But you certainly couldn’t say that what followed was a sweeping change in the political climate. Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America never got off the ground, and the currently Democratic majority in Congress hasn’t taken up the task of rolling back the excesses of the Bush Administration. In fact, they’ve even helped enable some of the President’s more despicable plans. But, at least, in 1994 and 2006 the voters fired a good many of their elected officials, and that at least is a start. A beginning, not an end.

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4 Responses to “Keeping Them Honest”

  1. DuggleBogey Says:

    I consider myself pretty darn cynical, but even I can’t vote for someone I hate just because I hate the other guy worse. So I’ll just continue throwing my vote away on 3rd party candidates who are destined to lose, under the unrealistic guise of “sending a message.” One day maybe I’ll cast a vote that counts. Here’s hoping.

  2. Darx Says:

    Well said, Geno!

  3. Scott Says:

    I want my country to succeed and prosper, and there’s not a damn thing any elected official can do about that beside get in the way and fuck it up. That’s what they’re born to do…be a meddlesome busybody. Even St. Ronnie talked about safety nets.

    No, these days, my vote goes unused. When they fuck it up beyond belief, it ain’t gonna be my fault for putting yet another lesser jackass in office. That’s on yall.

  4. Bub Says:

    You are absolutely right. I haven’t been registered to vote in 16 years and I registered a couple of weeks ago. I’ve decided that my vote does count and the stakes are high. We are in a horrible time for this country that we have to bring to an end before we can’t anymore. My wakeup call came when Bush actually won a second term. Now look at us. I feel partially responsible by not doing anything at all. Except talk about how screwed up our country is and one is no worse than the other. Well, that’s bullshit. Absolute evil is running our country right now. ANYTHING besides this conservative hate machine.

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