Voting into the Void

But now, I’m left with a basket of undesirables – but I have to chose. So here’s the part where I weigh my shitty, shitty options.

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Thoughts on making my vote count when I know it won’t count…

If you’re reading this you probably already know that I live in Washington State. As such, because of the electoral college system, my exercise in democracy this November matters very little in the Presidential race. Save some natural disaster Hillary Clinton will secure our state’s electoral college votes. So, why bother voting in this race at all? (Note that I’m not talking about avoiding the down ballot contests here).

This is actually a question worth consideration. What are the good reasons to vote, and do they outweigh the reasons to not vote? First, I want to tackle the latter. The sole reason I can imagine possessing for not voting would be for an extreme aversion to all of the candidates on the ballot. However, even the marginal candidates have something to offer, so this line of thinking quickly dissipates.

But are there good reasons to vote? Well, if I don’t vote I’m essentially abdicating my responsibility to my fellow citizens. I would become a “free rider” that would reap the benefits of an institution that I had no part in holding up. Maybe it is the guilt I still carry as a result of an upbringing heavily colored by the Midwestern Protestant work ethic, but to me an abstention from voting seems almost unethical.

So now to my choices at hand. I have six choices on my ballot here in Washington, and not one of which am I excited about. For the first time in my life I registered as a Democrat in order to cast my vote in the Democratic caucus for Senator Bernie Sanders. This was a candidate that I firmly believed in and could actually get excited about. But now, I’m left with a basket of undesirables – but I have to chose. So here’s the part where I weigh my shitty, shitty options.

Donald Trump:

Pros: Seems to understand that our trade deals have left American workers competing against countries that don’t play by the same rules and can undercut labor and environmental costs so severely that our economy keeps moving toward a Walmart economy. Also may have a halfway decent student loan proposal.

Cons: The man is a walking excrement hydrant that brags about sexually assaulting women. He is a racist, a sexist, and is drumming up xenophobic mania among his supporters in a way that must be labeled as fascist, or at least neo-fascist. He has bribed public officials, ran a sham “university”, and will soon be subject of a trial in which he is accused of raping a 13 year old girl. He doesn’t understand why we can’t use our nuclear weapons. Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, he still believes that trickle down economics is a viable model for the country. He mistakenly believes we (he) can negotiate down the national debt. I could go on, but you likely already know the rest. I wouldn’t let this man manage an Arby’s, and it would be incredibly irresponsible for any thinking person to willfully elect a weak, thin-skinned, megalomaniac such as this to our highest office. There is zero chance I vote for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton:

Pros: Wants to keep our government intact. Thinks things like the EPA and Department of Education are worth keeping around. Wants to fix the ACA by implementing a public option. Wants to put in place training for displaced coal workers. Understands climate change is real and is a threat. Isn’t likely to roll back the civil rights gains made in the last decade. Might be willing to listen to progressives.

She has a good chance of getting elected, which means that the type of reforms I’d like to see take place have a slightly better chance of being enacted.

Cons: Her position on the Dakota pipeline is a complete joke. She will continue to implement neo-liberal policies as she has for decades. I don’t believe she will fight for real progress towards mitigating climate change.I don’t believe she understands the Black Lives Matter movement, nor does she see the problems the movement is so clearly articulating. She unequivocally supports Israel and will look the other way when it commits war crimes because she refuses to take a moral stand against countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia because of the “enemy of my enemy” policy we seem all too eager to cling to. She was endorsed by Henry Kissinger, a man who will never (though he should) stand trial for his own war crimes.

I also believe that she helped cover up her husband’s first rape accuser (though most if not all of the others don’t seem credible). I still don’t understand why she has stuck by such a sleazeball.

Voting for Hillary is essentially voting for 4 more years of the Obama administration, though I have a feeling it will be a much more hawkish one. It would also send the message to Donald Trump and his supporters that a large majority of Americans reject his brand of deplorable demagoguery. But would anyone notice my one vote?

Gary Johnson

Pros: He’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican is what you might expect me to say but that’s a statement with no weight behind it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with identifying with either of those two parties as plenty of capable and responsible politicians do.

I will say that his desire to see the US as less of a work police is enticing. We could use a dramatic cut back in our military spending (while still being responsible for the defense of our country) and its influence around the world which often fuels the flames of terrorism that it is supposed to extinguish.

Also, I generally hate the GOP. Today’s Republican party is absolutely a reflection of people like Trump and Ted Cruz. And by voting for Johnson, I could help get their party to the 5% needed to qualify for federal matching funds. Meaning that a vote for Johnson might mean even fewer votes for the GOP candidate in 2020. That’s a long-game spoiler but given the options…

Cons: He’s a libertarian (I can’t wait till some jackass tells me he isn’t a “real” libertarian because a he thinks driver’s licenses are a good idea) which means a host of awful things if put into practice. And as John Oliver recently showed, his fixation with reducing the size of government leaves all sorts of practical implications up in the air (such as his wanting to close the Dept. of Commerce but not realizing that includes the patent office). He doesn’t seem to understand the government he rails against. And can’t convince even 10% of voters that he’s the right guy for the job.

Jill Stein

Pros: She would fight hard for a stronger minimum wage. She would fight hard for climate policy. She would fight hard for a number of causes that I do believe in. And like voting for Gary Johnson, my one vote would get the Green Party closer to the 5% needed to help them in future elections.

Cons: Her foreign policy is kind of a disaster. Her stance on Syria is extremely troubling. She doesn’t seem to have concrete plans for her proposals. Also, we live in America where there is a Senate and House of Representatives where she would have exactly ZERO members of her own party to support her. Democrats might be on her side, but do we really think she could get her plans through Congress somehow, even if by some miracle she was elected?

The Green Party has had some minor success in getting down ballot candidates elected. But that’s where their focus needs to be at this point. They need a coalition and strong Congressional support in order to help a green POTUS enact the type of legislation they desire.

Yes, there are a couple of other alternatives, but none of which have even the slightest chance of making it to 2% of the popular vote. And yes, I already understand the duopoly and how our lawmakers and media have rigged the system against outside voices. I get all of that. But my one vote only has so much opportunity to do anything, to mean anything in a country of 300+ million.

And this post isn’t to tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you (but really please don’t vote for that fucking asshole Trump). Maybe you live in a swing state and your vote might really help decide if we do or don’t end up with an orange toddler for a president. You have your own choice to make, as do I. These aren’t the options I had hoped for, but they’re the options I have. And I feel that not voting just isn’t a choice that I can willfully make.
Cheers.

Not much of a choice

We like to pretend like there is a real choice in politics, but there isn’t. Because of decades of gerrymandering safe districts, the two-parties have infected national politics with the old stereotypes of entrenched ward bosses with near lifetime appointments in both houses of Congress.

Our Presidential choices aren’t much better either. In the primary races, candidates pathetically pander to a small fraction of their party’s base that is ideologically driven and has the loudest bullhorn, no matter how much of the party they truly represent. After a candidate is chosen, they then spend the next few months and hundreds of millions of dollars pandering to just 4-6 million “undecided/swing” voters. These people largely vote with their pocketbooks in mind and are far less independent than they would have you believe.

There are, of course, the “3rd” party candidates that run too. Occasionally they are successful but usually at city-council and state legislative levels. People will tell you that you’re throwing your vote away when you vote for them, and that the mere fact that they dare to challenge the status quo of the 2 party duopoly makes them a potential “spoiler”, which is like labeling someone as being a leper.

It isn’t any wonder that people are generally fed up with politics today.

I heard this one today: “Romney and Obama are both stranded in the middle of the ocean. Who gets saved? America.”

But is it really just an either-or, two sides to the same coin choice? Looking at my options, I really don’t think so. I stand firm that I’m a limited-government type of guy, but not in a rigid Ron Paulite type of way. I’d much rather the government left me alone to make my own choices and didn’t tax me to pay for land wars in Asia to feed the coffers of plutocrats. But when asked to vote Republican, 9.9 times out of 10 I have to say no.

You can chose to blame some of what I’m about to say as one-off crazies or individual lunacy that doesn’t reflect the party as a whole. But I call bullshit. While I’m all for smaller, more efficient government, voting for a Republican on the federal level means that I support the following:

Trickle-down economics – this is of course the theory that if the already wealthy just had a bit more money and were burdened with taxes less, that they would just hire all of the unemployed people out there and the economy would have room to grow. We know this doesn’t work having tried it on more than once occasion in the last century. Currently we’re in a demand-slump. Meaning that it is weak consumer demand that is slowing down the economic recovery. The rich spend less of their income, while the middle and lower class tends to spend more of it. Until those people are spending more, we won’t see continued growth. And if wages continue to be stagnant, we’re going to be living in a Walmart economy for decades.

Science denial – Only 6% of scientists associate with the GOP. Why? Maybe because a plurality believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old and that we came about from the literal garden and a magical talking snake that told us knowledge was a bad thing. Or that they deny the very well established science on global climate change.

Crazy – The GOP has enacted or tried to enact laws that force a women to have a vaginal probe stuck in her if she’s considering an abortion. One of their reps thought that women couldn’t get pregnant if she was “legitimately raped”. A one time front-runner for POTUS claimed that the HPV vaccine made people retarded. A majority of republicans believe that the current President of the US was either born outside of the US or is a Muslim.

Imperialism – Many want to go to war with Iran preemptively, ignoring a decade of a similar failed policy in the US. Paul Ryan calls for an annual increase in military spending – indefinitely (with seemingly no way to pay for it).

Destroying the Environment – Republicans have even included it in some of their official platforms that the dissolution of the EPA is one of their priorities, as well as repealing the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. A vast majority don’t accept the overwhelming evidence that humans are the primary cause of global climate change.

 

I could go on, but I won’t. I could also point out stupid shit democrats do like react to everything bad that happens with a ban, such as the large soda ban that has taken place in New York. Their constant lip service to responsible spending while never (on their own) tackling the long-term problems we will face when it comes to entitlement spending and the growing national debt. Yes, I know exactly how we got to the mess we’re in now, but dealing with it is a whole other issue.

So, when given the choice between someone that understands science and someone that thinks rape babies don’t happen, or given the choice between someone that understands that unions have been a positive impact on the middle class for the last century versus someone that still believes in the myth of trickle-down economics, I generally, reluctantly, raise a blue flag.

 

 

*I’m drafting a post on alternative choices, as well as a sort of meta-post on where I personally stand on the important issues of the day. As always, constructive comments and suggestions more than welcome. Cheers.

Voted.

Last week I was able to vote in my underwear, and no one seemed to mind. Thankfully, my state has mail-in voting, where nearly all ballots cast are done by mail. There are still a few polling places around for people to go in-person ( I believe they can also fill out a provisional ballot if they haven’t registered as well) if they want though.

Personally, I think this system is fantastic (though could be more successful if postage wasn’t required, though you can drop your ballot off at a few different ballot boxes in each county) as far as allowing as many people as possible to vote. In many places, voting still takes place in person, on a Tuesday during the day. This is prohibitive for many working people to find the time to go and vote throughout the day, and isn’t a very efficient process. Also, I find that I am able to make a more informed vote from the convenience of my home, with my laptop open next to me. I can take a look at who is sponsoring a particular initiative, follow the money used in campaigns, and do some thorough research of the candidates and the claims they make.

Right now, we’re seeing quite a few efforts at voter suppression guided by the GOP and powerful moneyed interests. Other than move to mail-in ballots and maybe changing the election day (either to a week-end or having a national holiday on election day), what are some other ways to increase voter turn out?