Why Do We Vote?

The American presidential election is this week and everyone is nervous because if their candidate doesn’t win, not only will the world end in a fiery ball of either liberal or conservative failed policies, but also, they will feel like a loser. I don’t think voting for president matters as much as we make it seem. After all, if you are from Texas or California, or any of the other hopelessly entrenched red or blue states, your vote does not matter, period. Yes, you are expressing your freedom by voting Romney in San Francisco or Obama in Amarillo, but that doesn’t mean it will affect the outcome of the state. Only half of eligible voters turn out to vote. Our electoral college was based in the early 13 colonies where the “Founding Fathers” decided that it was too dangerous to have a straight democracy because a group of radicals could create a “tyranny of the majority” and elect a political zealot. They were also so concerned with the idea of slaveholding states getting higher representation in Congress due to the large population of slaves, inaccurately raising their numbers and thereby erroneously increasing their representatives, they famously and embarrassingly named slaves as 3/5 a person. The framers of the Constitution did their best to create a country from scratch with all the knowledge of the past. They had the problem of knowing then what we know now at that very time, in as far as they knew what hadn’t worked before. They knew what they were doing was special, extremely important and unprecedented. But, as with the Bible’s outdated mandates, things change and the world needs to change with it.

If you’ve ever voted, you see that there are not two choices on the ballot. There are usually 4 or 5 names there other than the Republican and Democratic candidates. You may ask yourself, who the hell are they and how did they get on the list? They were not involved in debates, they were not making advertisements lambasting their opponents, they were not caught in photo op gaffes or misspeaking missteps. Money. Money runs politics the same way it runs sports. (The big names eventually end up on the big teams—see Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard or LeBron James.) Those nameless names on the ballot didn’t have the money from a super PAC or a huge, recognized, “legitimate” party. It’s so frustrating to watch people argue over who is right or wrong and who will be a better president. Asking, “are you better off than where you were four years ago?” Ask this, “Is your life any different than it was four years ago, based strictly on a federal government level?” How has the government affected you in your lifetime? Perhaps you have some disease or some health related issue where Obama care is good or bad for you. Perhaps you have a cousin informally detained in Guantanamo. Perhaps you are gay and want to get married or join the army. Perhaps you are a lobbyist for the NRA and Obama and the Democrats never answer your phone calls. The average American is so far removed from D.C. business that we aren’t really affected by it until election time, when it becomes the issue of the moment. They scare us into jumping on their bandwagon by harpooning the opponent as either crazy or anti-American. They will have us believe that if you elect one or the other, they will change the phony game played everyday in Washington. I don’t think things will change. Money will always rule. We have this false choice between two people who are paid by the same type of corporations and self-interest groups and we jump all over it and let our emotions run wild. I see people supporting Romney and I think to myself, “You’re an idiot.” Then I see my friends who support him, whom I know are not idiots and I wonder why they do. It’s not just a game of rich with Romney and poor with Obama because there are many more poor in America. It also has to do with values and how the candidates pretend to care about issues to generate votes. A politician is the most unspontaneous and generic person you will find in their country. It’s so boring to watch this and feel so jaded. Posing this election as so many have in the past, not as a choice between two people, but as a choice between two futures. It’s disingenuous. Some may benefit more from a particular candidate, but what will be lost? Will Romney prohibit alcohol, move the capital to Salt Lake and print new money with Joseph Smith on the one and five dollar bill? Will Obama levy a 90% tax on millionaires to fund experimental drug-therapy for arthritic or asthmatic immigrants? No, I presume it will be business as usual. That business of course being lobbyist indulgences and cronyism.

Celebrities on the late night shows or on youtube.com all telling you to VOTE, ROCK THE VOTE, WAKE UP AND VOTE, like it’s some great thing and all the power is in your hands. Yes, voting is better than fascism, monarchy or dictatorship, but it still doesn’t make it matter. In 2000, Gore won more votes, but Bush had family ties in the crucial swing state of Florida and got the Supreme Court decision in his favor. They all say, “it’s crazy not to vote,” “people die for your right to vote,” “get out and show your patriotism.” Inside, those same people are thinking how much of an ass you are for voting the opposite way they vote. Bipartisanship is at a ridiculous low, people are completely split down the middle on issues, there is no center in politics, rarely does anything substantive get done within the Beltway, and we are concerned with red or blue, which side are you on? Poverty is growing, education is sliding backward, NASA funding has almost run dry, we’re in debt, we don’t produce anything but armaments and we think one guy will change all that? The real wake up call is that a two party system allows the entrenched and bitter partisanship to stay healthy and strong. Another wake up alarm bell is that we are hopelessly mired in the Eisenhower prophesied military industrial complex. It’s like that idea that if you say it out loud, it becomes an unintentional, subconscious mantra.

Politics is a game of home team advantage, we only root for them because we think they are on our side, but it’s all about them. That’s why championship sports teams thank the fans first, to let them think we are the important ones, “we all won the championship,” but we pay so they can get the trophy. Politics is the same except they pander to us and give speeches to specialized groups to make sure everyone will believe and agree with what they are saying. Rooting for your home team because you were born there is based more in emotion over reason and as naturally damaging to a psyche as believing in a national political party to support your beliefs. Take it from a Philadelphia fan; you will be let down. It’s so hard to keep an open mind about politics when it is so apparent to be an ugly, artificial game. I remember my first time voting (in 2000) feeling like I was participating in something very important. Then the whole issue of who won started. I noticed that I wasn’t feeling like the country would be in trouble if Gore won, I remember thinking, I don’t want to have voted for the loser! I voted for Bush because there were no real issues that year important to me or possibly the country (evidenced by the fact that he won) and I thought Gore was vague and boring. I recall debates being mostly about the variable and unpredictable issue of what they would do, instead of what they did do on record. We all want to be on the winning side. We all want to think “our” team, whether it is the Yankees or a presidential candidate, is the best and most capable team. And then, in 2004, I voted for John Kerry, a person I actually couldn’t imagine representing our country confidently, just because he wasn’t the war hawk, tax-cutting embarrassment Bush had become. I’m completely aware that politics is a terrible discussion to have with anyone you’d like to remain friends with, and that there is an enormous amount to the vote/non-voting argument that I’m not addressing nor am aware of, but it doesn’t change the ambivalence I feel toward this current election. I’m so disgusted by the negativity and lies. I didn’t watch the debates, I didn’t see the advertisements, and I didn’t hear the conversations in America over the past year. I’m proud to be American but not because of my politicians. I’m proud to be American but not simply because of my right to vote. I’m proud to be an American because we are full of idiots, geniuses and everyone in between. I’m proud to be an American because we possess a shared history with the world, albeit flawed and belligerent at times. I’m proud to be an American to have been raised with all our intrinsic freedoms. But those freedoms come with a price. The price of that freedom is to stay informed and suspicious of those who would serve and rule you.

So, on Tuesday, go vote and be happy. Go respectfully participate in democracy, as imperfect and undemocratic as it is. Go lovingly argue with your parents, friends and family about how wrong they are for having an opposite opinion. Go thoughtlessly graffiti yard support signs and congratulate yourself for doing the greater good. Go devotedly thank the Christian God we don’t live in Egypt where a Muslim can be elected president. And remember, whoever wins, nothing changes, America will still be great and the president will make good and bad choices all the same. There will still be football on Sunday, CSI re-runs at midnight, 20 lb. Thanksgiving turkeys to stuff and baste, fully stocked supermarket shelves and politicians who pretend to be smarter and kinder than they really are. There is no apocalypse waiting if one gets elected over the other, despite what the negative ads will have you believe.

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