There are many problems with the way the democratic republic in the United States is working. Many pundits, bloggers, and regular people have been talking about reforming the electoral college or bemoaning the failure to energize voters to get to the polls. Most of these complaints are focused on structural deficiencies or strategic shortcomings. I think there is a an even larger hidden problem lurking out there though in the form of massive voter ignorance in two essential realms: the nature of America and their own desires. I'm not ready to take on the former topic yet and want to focus on ignorance of one's own political desires.
I'm not calling people stupid here; I'm saying that most people don't know what they want from a politician or a president. Now this obviously isn't scientific, but based on an impression that I have from the last couple of elections. It doesn't seem that many people pause to figure out what it is that they want in their leader and then go find a candidate that fits that. No, they look at (just) the two main candidates and find ways to de-emphasize the shortcomings of their preferred party's candidate while emphasizing the problems in the other's.
The entrenched two party/ one coin system doesn't have much incentive to change this pattern because it favors them. Many Americans aren't aware that there are many other candidates for president every election. They end up looking at the two main contenders and then vote against the one they dislike the most or they don't vote at all.
There is a third way. If you consistently accept whatever is offered to you and don't ask or demand for something different, you'll never get but what is offered to you. We need to vote for those parties that offer us something other than being less worse than the other main candidate.
All those people who voted for John Kerry in a vote against George Bush wasted their vote in the purest sense of the word, as did all those who voted for Bush out of hatred for John Kerry. Look what it got you, Kerry voters. You got an incumbent president and nothing to show for it. You didn't vote for a candidate you believed in and the parties that might offer that to you continue to languish.
I hope that this election hurt enough people who wasted their votes like this to get them to think about other options for improving the future of our nation. We mustn't give up and quit voting though! I urge everyone, from this day forward, to begin to build a movement to raise awareness about other political options in this country. Every time this election comes into conversation, talk about third parties. Do some basic research and find out about the alternatives, then share this information. There are political parties out there that aren't beholden to big money donors, that aren't into global hegemony via military interventions, that are keen on human rights issues for our nation such as working conditions, health care, environmental sustainability, and energy independence. These are issues that I believe in and that I believe these other parties believe in.
It has to start on the bottom. Individuals like you and me have to get other people like you and me to start thinking about this. We have 4 years to begin raising awareness. At the next election, we'll have to vote for marginalized parties, but those votes will strengthen those parties and elevate their status in the media. Within a couple more election cycles, we will be able to broaden the nature of political discourse in this country.
Don't let the time frame discourage you. It we had done this in 2000, we've had two elections under our belts and our parties would be much more well-known by now. And if we'd built on the progress made by Perot 12 years ago, I have no doubt that we'd be having 4 or 5-way presidential debates now.
We have to do this. We have to urge people to think of what they want for leadership and then find and vote for leaders that do that. There are people who do this already and they've selected George Bush as our president. Do we want to concede our nation and our future to them?
I'd love to hear your comments.
There comes a point in political discussions where it seems that there isn't any more than can be said. I've been stuck there for quite a while now, but since political thoughts also occupy everyone's attention, there wasn't much for me to talk about here. The problems with George W. Bush as president of my country are so incredibly obvious I am truly stunned that more people are not in opposition to him. I'm beginning to be convinced that most voters today are aren't voting for any candidate as much as they are voting against one. If true, I sure hope that this is the last election where that mindset dominates.
Me, I didn't vote this time. I wanted to and intended to but didn't get my absentee ballot. I'm not conspiratorial about it; had I sent in my request earlier, I'm sure the faithful civic servants of the great state of Idaho would have sent it to me. Had I received it, I would have voted for the Green party candidates across the board except when they weren't on the ballot, in which case I'd vote for the Libertarian candidate or whatever other non-Democractic/Republican candidate was in the race. I'm ashamed that I failed to keep track of the time involved in requesting, receiving, and submitting an absentee ballot, but I'm not going to pretend that I voted when I didn't.
I'm ashamed of it because I know that my vote would have mattered. It wouldn't have swung Idaho away from Bush and it sure wouldn't have helped the Greens take the White House. But it would have helped advance the banner of alternatives to the current two party system. The United States needs stronger parties outside of the current paradigm and the only way they are going to get stronger is if we vote for them. Voting for independent and third party candidates isn't a wasted vote, it is a vote for a better democracy in our country.
This election campaign sucked in other ways because of its focus on swing states as well. We need to reform the electoral college in at least two fundamental ways. First, the winner-take-all aspect of the electoral college needs to be abandoned immediately and electoral votes should be split accordingly. If a candidate wins 70% of the votes in a state, he or she should get 70% of the electoral votes. This aids third party candidates as well who actually have a chance of getting a few electoral votes then, which would raise awareness and eventually, representation.
We also need to develop standards for determining a winner in the electoral college. One idea (but not the only one, of course) would be to establish a couple premises that have to be met for a candidate to be declared the winner. They'd have to get over half of the electoral votes AND they'd have to get 15 (10, 20?) more electoral votes than the other guy. Or we could just give it to whoever gets the most electoral votes. But one other element that I think would be nifty would be to give whichever candidate wins the popular vote 5,10,15 electoral votes. This would help ensure that voters intentions are properly recognized in the outcome of an election.
We need to fix electronic voting in obvious ways. First, take them offline. This may reduce them to expensive pencils, but we can afford it. Use a computer terminal to register a vote, confirm a vote, and then print out out a scan-tron type ballot with the votes on it that are then counted in a traditional counting way (and the paper ballot is retained in case of a recount). Either this or go to a true civic system whereby volunteers hand-count the ballots. It might take a little longer but what is a matter of a few hours if it builds civic ties and ensures a trusted election result?
Anyway, in typical fashion I'm all over the place here but these are important points. But most of all I hope that people work to build a system in the US that offers voters candidates that they can vote FOR rather than one that fails to do anything better than offer a candidate "less shitty" than the other. Why are we satisfied with a system that continuously gives us nothing but the option of the lesser of two evils?
But election day 2004 has dawned and hope that you get out and vote. If you don't like Bush and you don't like Kerry, go vote for someone else. You'll feel good knowing you voted FOR something, for a better future for your country and better options for yourself in the next election rather than using your vote to just spin damage control.
Lastly, I'm predicting a Kerry win. Statistically, Bush needs to win both Ohio and Florida to stay in power. Since Kerry and Bush are 50-50 in both states, Bush has a 1 in 4 chance of winning both (as does Kerry). But since Bush needs both and Kerry needs just one to win, Kerry has a 75% chance of winning.
That, and the Washington Redskins lost their last homegame before the election, which, with the last 60 years as precedent, predicts an incumbent loss. Looks like like a lock.
Feel free to vote on me by posting a comment here