Why I'm Voting In This Election
First some background
I am 35 and I have never voted or even registered to vote before now, although I have followed politics closely for at least the past 17 years. Why? For several reasons, but there are two main reasons why I have observed from the sidelines.
Reason #1. There has never been a candidate who I believe deserved my vote. There has never been a candidate who was really concerned about the issues that have concerned me most. As an independent, I generally don’t ascribe to the philosophy of the Democratic or Republican Parties…but I do consider myself to be more of a Progressive. I will give consideration to whichever candidate has the best ideas.
With the 2-party system, there are a significant number of Americans (approximately 25%-30% of the electorate) who are left with the choice of picking the lesser of two evils. This is the game every 4 years. If there was a viable Progressive Party at the national level, or perhaps a viable Green Party, I would probably identify more with that platform, but I don’t have that option.
Reason #2. I have no faith in the American electoral system. None whatsoever. The structure of the American political system as a whole is too problematic. The 2 party system is inadequate for a Country with 300 million people. Also, the U.S. system of voting and campaigning is fundamentally unfair. Even a former U.S. President has stated that the U.S. election system did not meet basic international standards. Basically, I have never viewed the American political system, particularly the monopoly of the 2 main Parties and the way that it handles elections, as being representative of Democracy. It falls way short. So I have consciously chosen not to take part in such a flawed system. I have always vowed that I would never take part. In fact, I always believed that taking part in it would just add to the charade of making the election system appear legitimate. But this is why I consider my vote tomorrow as largely symbolic.
I had a hard time supporting Barack Obama. There are quite a few areas where I disagree with the Senator from Illinois. His approach to foreign policy- though better than the Cowboy approach of the Bush Administration- is still too aggressive, too expansionist, and too confrontational for my taste. This Country needs a clean break from the old Cold War Truman Doctrine. Unfortunately the Country is still stuck in that time warp and Obama is probably not the candidate who will radically change the Country’s foreign policy for the better. Foreign policy is one area where there is little difference between Republicans and Democrats.
Another part of Obama’s platform that bothers me is his fixation with the Middle Class, as if this is the only socio-economic class that exists in America. Are the rest of the people invisible to him? I have seldom heard him speak about what he plans to do to help lift up the Nations poor. He has a poverty agenda, but he has never made it a prominent part of his campaign. I’m sure a strong poverty agenda could be a liability for him, but sweeping the issue under the rug is a problem for me. At least John Edwards was brave enough to put this issue front and center - I don’t care about the man’s personal problems. I still believe that he had the potential to be a great President. He could have had as many mistresses as he wanted… The problem for Edwards is that his message didn’t resonate. There is a hatred for the poor in this Country… The nation despises the “least of these”. Obama was able to choose the right language and the right Mantra early on - The “Middle Class” and “Change”. “Poverty” and “Change” just didn’t catch on. But Edwards was the only candidate who put poverty at the top of his agenda and wasn’t afraid of the consequences that came with it.
My first trip to the polls will be more about voting against John McCain and Sarah Palin than voting for Obama. And I don’t mean to take anything away from Obama…he has run a pretty good campaign. It’s a symbolic vote to repudiate McCain and Republican politics of division, extremism, hate, and religious/moral hypocrisy. The John Wayne foreign policy must also be put back in the grave where it belongs. I want to be a part of making sure that the extreme McCain/Palin ticket does not get into the White House where they could do unimaginable damage. I just couldn’t sit out this time. I still believe that Obama is by far the better choice…. And there are a lot of reasons to vote FOR him than to vote against McCain. But I am more motivated to vote against McCain than for Obama.
Much of my motivation came from the introduction of Sarah Palin. The idea that the Country could be put in the hands of someone so clueless and unqualified is troubling. It’s mind boggling how the nation doesn’t have a system in place that would have prevented her from even becoming a viable choice for VP. I believe that there should be minimum standards in place. But it was her comments at the Republican Convention that got under my skin… especially her remarks about community organizers. Her behavior since has stirred up more racial hatred and fear than I have ever seen in my life. The string of reports that have surfaced over the last few months are the worst since the 1960’s era. When John Lewis stated that their behavior reminded him of the nations ugly Jim Crow period, he was speaking from the heart. And she is supposed to be a unifier? McCain is going to be a uniter? Give me a break.
The Palin choice didn’t surprise me. I have known McCain to be irrational and one of the biggest warmongers in Congress. He’s dangerous. But his choice of Palin did remind me of just how reckless he could be if he actually became President. McCain is not someone you want in office in a standoff with North Korea, China or Russia or during any other volatile situation. He’s a military option first, sanctions second, and diplomacy third type of thinker. That’s the narrow sphere that his brain operates in and it always has. He knows little about economics, little about the Constitution and the rule of law, little about the complex social/cultural fabric of his own Country and the great diversity we have here, nor does he understand education, the problems surrounding healthcare, and the major problems that the Country faces in the years to come and the fundamental changes necessary to deal with these problems.
In order to motivate his base, McCain chose to appeal to the worst of America…not only by choosing Palin, but by dividing the nation into little parts… by pitting one socio-economic group against another, one culture against another, one region against another, one race against another…..etc. Yes, these divisions would exist even without being highlighted by McCain/Palin, but a candidate for President shouldn’t exploit these conditions for political gain….whipping up fear and hate….even to the point of creating an environment where the opponent has to worry about someone harming him or his family because of the fanning of these old flames.
I also didn’t like the idea of Sarah Palin telling me how Un-American and Unpatriotic I was…. Or that there are pro-American regions of the Country and Anti-American regions…and suggesting that anyone who wasn’t white or who didn’t live in rural America was somehow unpatriotic. Both of my Parents are war veterans, as well as a brother, and a long list of uncles. I lived all over the Country and the World as a youngster, because my Parents went where they had to go to defend the Country….it wasn’t all that great spending my teen years overseas. It wasn’t all that great wondering if a Parent or brother would return from Gulf War I alive. And for that little twit to tell me that I was Un-American… because I wasn’t privileged enough to be White…that was the last straw…even for me. This woman has no idea what the military family culture is like… she doesn’t have the slightest clue….although they always try to play the role of pretending to empathize… pretending that they are really pro-military. I’m tired of these people and their phony patriotism. Why did it take reporters to uncover the conditions at Walter Reed Hospital and other facilities…and to uncover the problems with Healthcare in the military? That’s just one of many examples of their phony patriotism and their hypocrisy.
This will be a symbolic vote against all of the Republican nonsense over the last 14 years. I just hope the rest of the electorate gets it right this time.
Does this symbolic vote mean that I will vote in the future? Probably not. Because the fundamental problems with America’s voting system and political structure will remain the same. No candidate is even proposing changing it. That’s why this is a symbolic vote only….not something that I put much stock in. The vote in this Country will continue to be pretty empty without a system to adequately protect it…without real choices for voters, as long as we have a lack of voter education (leading to a situation where voters don’t make informed decisions), without media reform as it relates to elections, as long as we have a 2 party monopoly that controls everything, and without new campaign finance rules that will fundamentally change how candidates are elected…. Nothing will really change. The U.S. political system will continue to be the same corrupt, depraved system that it has been throughout much of its history. I still hold the belief (and will always believe) that taking part in such a system in any meaningful way is simply adding to the charade. I’d simply become just another zombie adding legitimacy to a broken system. But there comes a time when things get so bad that you have to put your faith in something. Even when you don’t believe in the political system, you have to believe that perhaps the will of the masses is so strong that evil won’t be able to prevail this one time.
So no, my fundamental outlook on American politics has not changed. But the sense of urgency is so high this time that even I have to step out on Faith. The fact that i’m even voting is pretty amazing.