Friday, August 17, 2012

So... Should I Just Not Vote?

Yea, so that's the question. If being semi-addicted to political news has taught me anything, its that by the time the election for the president of the United States of America comes around this November, I will have grown so fucking sick of the circus that is our commercially sponsored facade of democracy that I probably won't give enough of a shit to vote. Now, everyone knows, or should at least realize, most people in this country don't vote at all. I get the feeling that the minority that actually does feels that what it is doing is really important. I used to feel that way too, but now I don't think I do anymore. I told myself that voting was one of the few methods in which we citizens are allowed to exercise our freedoms. This is true: we do have the freedom to vote. However, that doesn't mean it makes any difference whatsoever. And I'm not speaking from the "I'm just one person. What difference can I make?" perspective. I'm saying that literally, in practice and function, our presidential votes do not matter. I don't mean to sound pedantic, and I'm sure most of you already know this, but just to clarify:

United States Electoral College

Read up on that, if you're so inclined. If not, I'll skip to the important part.

Irrelevancy of national popular vote
The elections of 1876,[77] 1888,[77] and 2000[77] produced an Electoral College winner who did not receive the plurality of the nationwide popular vote. In 1824, there were six states in which electors were legislatively appointed, rather than popularly elected, so the true national popular vote is uncertain. When no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in 1824, the election was decided by the House of Representatives and so could be considered distinct from the latter three elections in which all of the states had popular selection of electors.[78]
Opponents of the Electoral College claim that such outcomes do not logically follow the normative concept of how a democratic system should function. One view is that the Electoral College violates the principle of political equality, since presidential elections are not decided by the one-person one-vote principle.[77]

A result of the present functionality of the Electoral College is that the national popular vote bears no legal or factual significance on determining the outcome of the election. Since the national popular vote is irrelevant, both voters and candidates are assumed to base their campaign strategies around the existence of the Electoral College; any close race has candidates campaigning to maximize electoral votes by capturing coveted swing states, not to maximize national popular vote totals.
Of course, however, we do directly elect our congresspeople, but even fewer people actually vote for them. Those that do are just taking it on good faith that their representative will see how their district voted in the Presidential race and put in a good word for them. That might be an oversimplification, but its probably not. If they don't vote likewise (the congresspeople that is), they might not get reelected for their next term.

Oh no! Poor congresspeople! They'll somehow have to scrape by on their $300k+/yr "consulting job" that they got after voting whichever way their lobbyist wanted all those times.

So, after taking a step back from all the manufactured excitement and outrage about what Obama said or what Romney said or Biden or Ryan or whoever-the-fuck, and reminding myself that I already know that voting doesn't actually matter, I just have to question why I should even participate. Besides some nagging sense of white guilt that I'm not taking advantage of a freedom that I know full well that people in other countries are dying for, is there any legitimate, concrete rationale for doing this?  Am I supposed to take this symbolic bone that our country is throwing us and be happy with it? I don't know, but I am sincerely doubting that I could even symbolically throw my support behind either one of the candidates currently running for president.

I mean, Romney is just out of the question. There is no man alive who more perfectly embodies a spirit of having no fucking clue not only of the struggles of poor Americans, but of people who just aren't sickeningly rich. Now I don't like to choose a candidate based solely on personality, but comments he's made like how he's not worried about the poor because "there's a safety net in place for them" show so clearly that not only is he completely devoid of any compassion, but he's unaware that there is even a need for such an emotion to begin with. Whenever any reporter dares to call him out on some pesky facts or tries to circumvent his talking points, he becomes frustrated at their insolence and makes an exasperated face like he just watched them jerk off in his throne room. There is no more adequate analogous figure for this man than Thurston Howell III of Giligan's Island. He's trapped in a land he doesn't understand with people who aren't all infatuated with how much money he has, and he has no useful skills except for throwing his wealth around in order to get what he wants, which is more money. I have no idea why this person is even in politics, except maybe to make his rich friends even richer, but let's face it, you don't have to be president to do that. And besides, at least Thurston Howell sometimes had a sense of humor.

Then there's Obama. Despite the fact that he has thrown the middle class a couple of corporate, watered-down life rafts like healthcare and signed on to gay civil rights issues that everyone besides old people, zealots, and racists have been on board with for years, his administration is still responsible for continued and repeated actions that are morally reprehensible. Sure, he's ended combat operations in Iraq (leaving behind thousands of other troops and military contractors), but the fact is that he authorizes drone strikes in sovereign nations on innocent people every day. He is responsible for targeted assassinations without trial or due process, claiming the executive branch saying so is all the authorization one needs. Is this as bad as the illegal wars and wholesale slaughter of civilians under Bush? No, its not. And obviously, he gets a pass for Bin Laden, but still, how can I bring myself to vote for someone whom I know is guilty of continuing the worst of this country's imperialist policies? In addition, he continually supports nightmare legislation like the NDAA and has yet to actually close Guantanamo like he promised. If Romney is Thurston Howell, Obama is Tony Soprano. You really want to like the guy because he legitimately cares about those close to him and tries to make sure they're taken care of, but when he leaves his home to go to work he does terrible things.

It's like, "Hey, you kids OK with your healthcare? Good. Now daddy's gotta go order some assassinations without congressional oversight." So forget about that.

I knew it was dark times indeed when I had to seriously consider if I would vote for Ron Paul were he to get the nomination. I agree with about half of his ideas, such as "stop spending all our money on wars" and "protect our civil liberties", but the other half of his agenda is to systematically dismantle everything the working class has fought to earn for the last 100 years. Obviously I don't think that Medicare and Social Security are flawless programs that don't need any fixing, but Ron Paul wants to revert the country to an entitlement-free time when "folks just helped each other out" from the good of their hearts, I guess. That's mostly the system that the entirety of human civilization had been operating under for all of history, and yet strangely there was no such thing as a middle class until America in the 1950's. So let's just ask all of human history for the last 10,000 years how well voluntary systems of public welfare work out.

Spoiler alert: it doesn't. Without minimum wage, worker protections, and regulations on the power of business, there is no middle class. This isn't conjecture, its history. Quote Ayn Rand all you want, but a society with no funds for the public good doesn't equal some kind of heroic capitalist utopia, it equals feudalism. Sorry, but I've got the history of every nation on earth to back me up on this. Anyway, this is besides the point since Ron Paul isn't in the running anyway.

So what am I supposed to do? Choose between the self serving capitalist tyrant or the promise-breaking centrist war hawk? Is there even a lesser of two evils to choose from? Maybe the entire system is evil. In that case, wouldn't I be evil for participating? Maybe I should just sit this one out.