On the barbed wire fence.

July 12, 2008

What I envision is millions of people, casting their votes for no one, in a real, palpable way. How would the talking heads deal with it? They’d be bungling their way through the election coverage: “…well, the earliest exit polls are in, and well, um… they are saying that 78% of Americans voted for, well, ahem, um, none of the above.”

HA!! I would be thrilled beyond imagining if something like that were to happen! But, sadly, it probably never will.

The two party system is so corrupt, so deeply embedded, and either side’s response to anything is so predictable. I am quite certain that the difficulty of ballot access for “third parties” is by design – even that very term is exclusionary and derogatory. Because, let’s face it, folks – the two party system is a money maker for all those pols and political hustlers, no question about it. Yeah, once in a while you have some independent or Green candidate winning smaller, local or state elections, but it meets with a little fanfare, and then, well, it’s business as usual, and the Green candidate gets a bike path put into some city grid, and then political life gets back to normal. No big deal.

I used to believe very strongly that this is where the spark takes hold and fire of change spreads – in those smaller, local elections. But I’ve slowly lost faith in that idea over the years in which I’ve been old enough to vote, and I think the reason that more than half of those able to vote and don’t aren’t showing up to the polls because they understand this idea – they feel completely downtrodden, disgusted and helpless.

Yes, I’ve said this before: my father did used to say “If you don’t vote, don’t bitch” but I am starting to say that if you put someone on the ballot TRULY worth my vote, then I’ll show up. Obama is singing a really timely tune right now, but who knows what kind of change, if any, he’ll bring?

I’ve not yet made up my mind whether or not I’m voting in November. It’s really eating at me. I realize that by not showing up at all is, essentially, helpful for McSame. Certainly, a McSame White House would be shameful – but would an Obama White House, really, be any more desirable or worthwhile?

13 Responses to “On the barbed wire fence.”

  1. psudan Says:

    Good post. You are right about the ballot access. It is difficult by design.

    If you get a chance, please checkout my new blog. It covers third parties and independents. Especially, new and minor third parties.

    They say that voting for a third party or independent candidate is a wasted vote. To me voting for the two major parties that never seem to solve our nation’s problems is a wasted vote. I will not vote for McBama.

  2. Mardé Says:

    Well, Minds, as a registered Democrat, you’ve given me a challenge. I feel I’d better explain myself. How to do that?

    OK, let’s jump back to the 1930’s. There was this guy Roosevelt. He got Social Security through congress, thanks to an overwhelming Democratic majority. The Republicans at the time, plus industry, were largely against it.

    Now let’s jump forward to the 1960’s. That conniving Democratic politician, LBJ, got Medicare through congress, again thanks to a Democratic majority.

    Now let’s move quickly to the present. Both Hillary and Barack proposed universal health care systems. These are not single payer, which is what we should have, but they’re far removed from Republican plans, and in particular, the McCain plan of letting the patients fend for themselves in competition for the best dollar for treatments they themselves decide upon. I don’t know about you but I haven’t been medically trained well enough to know who the best doctors are for my ailments. I have a feeling though that you might prefer the McCain plan? However, I’d prefer the way the rest of the world has gone — to a single payer system.

    So how about Iraq? Let’s use death, the minimization of it, as the criteria. With McCain we stay in Iraq indefinitely. With Obama we do get out of there, maybe not fast enough, but it’s a slam dunk, at least to my mind, that fewer people would die under Obama than McCain.

    On the environment it does appear that McCain and Obama may be fairly close together. Of course, you may say neither one has plans that go far enough. But at least Obama is consulting with Al Gore, for whatever that’s worth.

    What about the nation’s infrastructure? This will require taxes. (Of course, an end to the wars and a reduction of the Pentagon would probably pay for it.) McCain of course wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, a thing he was initially against.

    There are many other issues I could cover where the Dems are better for the nation than the Repubs. That isn’t to say that our electoral system and our two party system isn’t terribly inefficient, maybe even corrupt (as you say) in a lot of ways, but in the meantime we have to cope the best we can.

    Oh, I forgot about the Supreme Court! As I might have said in another comment, I shudder to think what would happen to that court if the Republican, McCain, were elected.

    Hey, Minds! You’ve got to vote Dem, and not just for Obama but for Tom Allen too. Without a Democratic, filibuster proof congress we’d still be largely grid-locked even with Obama as president! (Oh, I know, I probably haven’t convinced you.)

    OK, let me conclude by saying that Of course I could be wrong!! .. which is true.


  3. DD Says:

    “What I envision is millions of people, casting their votes for no one, in a real, palpable way.”

    I have the same dream! 😀

    Seriously though, Obama does NOT represent change. Notice how the media loves him? That should scare you, because the media represents the corporatocracy. They would never give any serious time to anyone who threatened to shake up the establishment with ideas outside the allowed political spectrum (e.g., Ron Paul & Dennis Kucinich).

    Also, Obama speaks in terms of leadership. That should also make you take a few steps back and reevaluate things. In a truly representative democratic system, we’d be looking to elect representatives, not leaders.

    I’m not looking to be led, are you? I can unite with my fellow citizens just fine without a leader. We’re supposed to be the captains of this ship; they’re supposed to be steering it where we tell them. Remember that.

  4. Mardé Says:

    I fear your dreams will never be realized. But I’m sure you feel you have the moral high ground.

    How does the media love Obama? How does it hate Paul and Kucinich? One simple reason might be that the public is not that interested. Why? Because of the media, you say. I agree that that’s partly true, but you can’t prove to me that that’s the whole truth of the matter.

    I don’t know about you but I am looking for a leader. Not a man on a white horse but a leader, in fact a number of leaders. I frankly don’t have time to monitor everything our representatives do.

    The direct democracy you seem to be advocating I find dangerous. 300 million people each with a hand on the wheel of the ship of state? You’ve got to be kidding!

    Ok, DD, we differ quite a bit in our views, that’s apparent, but thanks for your three comments on my blog. I see you are a fan of Noam Chomsky. Well, he’s brilliant but I’m more of a pragmatist than a purist.

  5. DD Says:

    I’m a fan of some of what Chomsky says, yes. I’ve never read anybody that I’d endorse fully, but I take wisdom in bits and pieces, as I find it, and he has some gems to offer.

    I’m not in favor of direct democracy, BTW. I’m well aware of it’s inherent dangers. I’m not sure how or why you draw that conclusion from what I’ve said about wanting an honest and representative government.

    You seem to be suggesting that since there’s a risk that people will vote to reinstate slavery, for example, we shouldn’t have any real substantive input. We can’t be trusted; we need elite policy makers to define the limits of discourse, then it’s safe to allow us to select from among the “leadership” options on display, all of whom adhere to those limits. I’m saying that’s not freedom. And more of that is certainly not “change.”

    If you don’t have time for all this messy business, then why participate?

  6. DD Says:

    As for the media, you seem to believe that they represent public sentiment. I find this laughable. They give us smut like Britney Spears’ party habits, and vacant entertainment tripe like American Idol, but the substance is not there. What passes for information would be better described as infotainment. Celebrities on the nightly news should horrify you. They don’t want us to be informed. They are little more than a government agency. Case in point here. This is why the Internet is so important. Traditional media is a form of passive brainwashing. People watch TV and think that this is what the range of discourse is, even though there’s a whole gamut of ideas out there that aren’t allowed to express themselves in the mainstream.

    I watched the Ron Paul campaign closely, because he was the only anti-war candidate with any real support. It was almost surreal to see the disparity between the level of enthusiasm I saw, versus the coverage he got. There has been serious analysis of this, actually. I don’t recall the name ATM, but a media professor, who was not a Paul supporter, AFAIK, showed how he was systematically shoved under the carpet by the media, even as his supporters flooded him with millions. So it’s not just discouraged supporters saying this, although they are certainly vocal and even annoying at times.

    Anyway that’s just the most recent example of the media participating in the construction of discourse boundaries. There is a limited spectrum of ideas that are allowed, and we are not to discuss anything outside that box. But of course we are free to debate vigorously within those limits. Yippee.

  7. Mardé Says:

    OK, DD, I pretty much agree with your last comment about the media, and especially the treatment of Ron Paul. But who is responsible for it? The moderators were mainly interested in those candidates who had a chance of winning.

    All I’m saying about the “leaders” is that we do need them. They are supposed to have the time and resources to delve into issues that most of us don’t have time for. I’ve got other things to do in life than constantly second guess our “leaders”. That’s why of course that it’s important to get people in there you trust.

  8. DD Says:

    Why do you think it was only those other candidates who were deemed to have had a chance of winning? Paul was a stronger contender for the Republican nomination by several criteria at various stages of his campaign, yet the media presented an upside-down version of reality.

    You still don’t seem to understand the point about leaders vs representatives. Just because you don’t have time to monitor the day to day nuts and bolts of government doesn’t mean that you need a leader. That’s precisely why you need a representative! A representative is someone who takes your plan and implements it.

    Example: The president is commander in chief, but he doesn’t pore over maps and draw up battle plans; he has generals to do this as his representatives. And the generals delegate still more detailed tasks to their representatives. At the end of the chain, the president’s plan should be implemented. This is why we blame him when it all turns to shit (and why we should ultimately be blaming ourselves).

    According to your reasoning, the infantryman, as the person assigned to carry out the mundane details of warfare, is the president’s military leader. Clearly, this is backward; the president is the leader of the infantryman, and we are a step UP the chain, ABOVE the president, as HIS leaders.

    Whether you want to think of every citizen as a sovereign individual, as a libertarian might, or whether you want to think of the populace as a collective sovereign, as a socialist might, it makes no difference. Our position is still ABOVE our representatives in government. They are not our “leaders.”

    You shouldn’t be expected to worry about all the little details, but you should be expected to help formulate the plan. That’s just responsible citizenship. Even if you didn’t care about the plan (which I know you do), then you’d still be obligated to participate, if only to preserve the democratic institutions that allow those who do care to implement policies that provide you with the relatively abundant liberties you enjoy.

  9. Mardé Says:

    OK OK OK change the word “leader” to “representative”. No problem. So, I should formulate the plan as to how we’re going to solve the world’s problems, and hand it down to the presidents, etc. I guess I do agree with Ron Paul on foreign policy (but that only): we should bring all our troops home. So that’s my plan. Now who did you say I give that to?

    Of course my plan could be wrong….


  10. mindserased Says:

    Wow, great stuff here guys. (That’s so trite of me to say, but I mean it.)

    DD, I wonder about that very last statement you made. Are you saying that you advocate compulsory voting, so that even people like me who are wondering what the hell to do in November will have to show up and vote anyway?

  11. DD Says:

    Mardé: Who you should give your plan to is up to you. 😉

    mindserased: Perhaps “obligated” wasn’t the right word. I don’t think you should be forced, but I do think everyone should at least go through the motions, if only to show interest in the democratic process.

    Imagine if turnout fell even further. Imagine if only 1/4 of the population bothered to show up, with, say, 10% actually supporting the winners of our elections. How far will it have to go before our system is simply abolished? At some point it becomes almost comical to even call it a representative democracy (I think we’ve reached that point already). Why not simply dispense with the formalities and establish an official oligarchy?

    I think you should vote for those reasons if nothing more, but I don’t think you should vote for the “lesser evil,” because that only prolongs the problem of bad candidates. Another problem is that there’s no NOTA option, and not all states have a write-in option, AFAIK. But people can still show up to vote for whatever offices have a candidate they can support, and skip the president.

    If you decide to stay home, I wouldn’t look down my nose at you, because it’s not your fault that there’s no NOTA option. It really pisses me off that we can be backed into a corner and almost forced to vote for terrible candidates, but that’s the way the system is set up and maintained.

  12. Mardé Says:

    Interesting comment, DD. I think I do agree that we may have reached the point where we’re not a representative democracy. I hear your lesser of two evils arguments too. But of course I don’t think Obama is evil. He’s far from perfect, yes, but evil? He’s human and he wants to win an election. Also, do think of the alternative: McCain. Are we going to pull an election of 2000 type thing and get the wrong guy elected because we didn’t vote, or as in the case of 2000, voted for a Nader? While we’re waiting for positive change to come about by not voting, etc., the real world may go downhill so fast it may never recover. Again, I say, look how Bush got elected in 2000. Thanks, Ralph!!

  13. Mardé Says:

    Well, good old Howard Zinn has a very good memo out today addressed to Obama and McCain, not that the powers that be will heed it. I suppose neither one would get elected if either one heeded it. So, what’s our choice?

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