Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's Election Day! Who gives a hoot!

This may seem like a rant against politics but it's not. Well, not entirely.

Today was an off-year election day in the US. Off-year being one where there isn't a Presidential election. Historically these elections have relatively low turnouts. Unfortunately I was part of the no shows this year. I wanted to vote. I just wasn't healthy enough today to get there.

Watching all the commercials that lead up to an election it's a wonder why anyone votes anymore. Nothing but attack ads, "miss-truths" and "disinformation" pouring out of the media outlets. I can't say lies because the campaigns don't actually cross the line. They come within nanometers though. For me, the last decade or so has done a lot to dishearten me and makes it more and more difficult to vote.

As it stands right now, I see the political landscape as so...
  • Democrats/Liberals
  • Republicans/Conservatives
  • Everyone else
The "Everyone else" group runs the gambit from serious organizations to the whacked-out nut jobs. I do not seriously see the rise of credible a third party anytime in the foreseeable future. Thus, in practical terms, we're left with the two party system.

Democrats and Republicans have been around for the length of the US's society. The only time anyone even hears about the Wigs and the Tories is in American History classes. But unless some extremely drastic event happens, we'll have the Dems and the GOP. But enough background; let's get to the meat.

Right now the two parties can be easily summed up by the following descriptions. The Republicans are wrong and the Democrats are clueless/useless. While there has always been dirty politics in the US, often times making the fights between the parties today seem like a love affair, there's something different about the political system that's grown over the last half-century.

Money has always been the backbone of politics, going back to the earliest recorded history no doubt. But the thing that has changed recently is the speed and scope of information dissemination. We can now follow the election results in real time. Get the latest and greatest projections right to our cellphones if we desire. The current electoral system was created back in the 1700's because getting information collected was difficult at best and next to impossible at worst. No TV, no radio, no phones (no lights no motorcars) so there couldn't be an election based on popular vote. It would take years for even the original thirteen states to get a count. That's why they setup the whole ground-up system. One town or village holds their election. Whoever wins there a single vote for that candidate is taken up to the county level. All of those votes are counted and the candidate with the most is chosen to go up to the state level. There the process is the same and after the counties are tallied up the state sends their vote to the actual election. That's one vote. As the nation grew and the population expanded this process was refined into what we have today in the Electoral College. This system is how you can have a President elected by a landslide yet still not carry 50% of the popular vote.

The bottom line is that there are 51 total votes in a Presidential election. This is how the two parties keep everyone else out of the game. And that "everyone else" includes the public.

The citizens of the US who cast their vote believing it could make a difference. To understand how this happens have a short discussion about politics with someone (preferably not your family or friends unless you all vote the same). My ex-Mother-in-Law was a prime example. She voted Democrat. She didn't care who was running or what issues they campaigned about. If it was a Democrat she voted for them. If Hitler were running on the Democratic ticket she'd vote for him. My family isn't as bad, they at least pay some attention to the issues, but they normally end up voting Republican. You will find the same kind of voters no matter where in the US you go. And they'll be the majority of voters, too. Now ask why they voted the way they did. You may get a list of reasons but they're all superficial. When you dig down the reason for voting will be to keep the other party from gaining (more) power.

I was born in Germany and spent 16 of my first 25 years of life living in Europe. My parents were non-military American citizines and so am I. Living outside the US can give you a different and, I believe, clearer perspective on politics. The US political system is broken and corrupt. However, three or four years ago, a former co-worker of mine described it as "perfectly flawed". There is also a line from the TV show Law and Order that fits to a T.
"Democracy is the worst for of Government there is; except for everything else."
Because when you get down to brass taxes, as bad as you think the system is, it's so much better than everything else. And I've seen a LOT of else's.

So, even if you do feel like me; if you know your vote doesn't really make any difference; you must still get out and vote! The system does have the ability to correct it's problems and improve on itself. But only if everyone votes. Change doesn't just happen. You have to make it happen.

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