November 07, 2006


Nobody Saw Me Do It

I thought about it a few times earlier this year, especially after reviewing the names on the ballot. Today, I actually went through with it and didn’t vote.
Yes, such an abstention was perpetrated by me: a person who is certified to teach political science; a person who watches C-Span as often as others watch Good Morning America; a person who has probably politicized things that have little or no political meaning whatsoever; a person who yearns for deliberated political discourse. Wait—perhaps that last one has something to do with my frustration.
I’ve been registered to vote since 1996 and have voted in every election since that time (being neither Democrat nor Republican has meant that I have no say in the primaries). This time around I gave it considerable thought, but came to the conclusion that I’ve been spinning my wheels for an entire decade.
More recently, I’ve found myself disgusted for two reasons: (1) the magical e-voting machines, and (2) my realization that over the last 10 years, only about five percent of the candidates for whom I’ve voted have actually won an election—and those have been for my town council. In short, I might be accomplishing more by voicing my opinions on the Internet than by voting for a third party candidate.
I’ve been opposed to the electronic voting machines for quite some time, considering the negative aspects that range from minor things like initial cost and repair fees (the old-fashioned lever machines rarely broke and if they did, it was usually for a $5 cable that closes the curtain) to major negative aspects like their ease of hacking, their flaws (casting votes for other candidates), and their inability to allow for recounts. Earlier this year I did some research on the Diebold matter for an entire post on the topic, and learned that Rush Holt (D-NJ) pushed for paper trails via his bill HR 550, but the bill was halted in the House Committee on House Administration in February 2005. I then discovered that the chairman of that committee was none other than Bob Ney (R-OH), who recently pleaded guilty after it was discovered that he had been bribed by infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Coincidence?
My second reason for not having the urge to stop by the polling station today is a bit darker and probably rooted in the fact that I’m getting older, learning from things that I witness in the world around me, and I’m slowly casting aside my idealism that has given me an element of hope for the last few years. Sometimes moths are drawn to a flame and never learn no matter many times they’re burned; in my case, I think that I’ve not only learned to not get burned anymore, but I’ve possibly become burned-out.
I’ve learned that my views are in the minority of the minority because I’ve refused to adopt the talking points of both the far-right and the far-left. I don’t lay the blame for the 9/11 attacks on Saddam Hussein, but I don’t lay the blame on a giant conspiracy by Bush, Rove, and Cheney, either. I don’t deny the increase of Earth’s temperatures but I don’t subscribe to the idea that the only causes of global warming are manmade, namely the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels, and the evils of capitalism.
I don’t think that the oil companies are innocent from price gouging, but I don’t think that the Republicans have been in charge of setting the price of gasoline for the last 80 years. I don’t think that we should invade foreign countries to “spread” democracy, but I sure as hell don’t think that you should question the intelligence of the troops who are being forced to help spread that democracy when they’re obviously more intelligent than you. I don’t think that you should comment on intelligence whatsoever if you don’t have the ability to tell jokes properly—if it really was a “botched joke.”
I don’t understand why two gay people can’t call themselves “married” if they’re monogamous and loving, but two straight people can if they’re abusive and adulterous. I don’t understand how the burning of flags can be viewed differently simply because one might be Old Glory and the other has the colors of the rainbow. I don’t see anything patriotic about the Patriot Act. I don’t think that the tobacco companies have been honest over the years, but I don’t think that smokers were innocent victims who were duped by slick advertising (cigarettes have been called “cancer sticks” since the 1930s, for Christ’s sake). I don’t understand how the same ideology that claims to support free speech is the same one that pushed for censorship of music in the 1980s and the Fairness Doctrine for half of the twentieth century. I don’t understand how the same ideology that routinely calls for smaller, less intrusive government is the same one that pushes for bridges to nowhere and laws on kinky sex.
I do understand that I’ve become an outcast when it comes to wanting to debate or discuss political and social issues. Wanting to refrain from personal attacks during a conversation on politics is passé, and abstaining from using terms like “commie” or “fascist” has unintentionally pushed me to the fringe. Suggesting that the military should only be used for the defense of the nation has probably called into question my patriotism; suggesting that books with falsified information not be shelved in a library’s nonfiction section has probably called into question ties to fascism.
I do understand that we’re a polarized country with respect to ideology. I do understand that it seems as if the bulk of voters identify with those extremes. I do understand that double-standards are commonplace in our culture. I do understand that this Election Day I was feeling left-out and burned-out. I do understand that I’m along for the ride at this point and have to make the best of it. I do understand that things could be worse because at least I have the freedom to discuss this on the Internet (for now).
I do understand that life is about learning, and I’ve learned a lot over the last few years.