Sunday, November 02, 2008

An Exhortation to Voters

Normally, Isoceleria does not touch politics with a ten-foot pole. And indeed, even though this entry is about the election, it still does not offer any views on political discussions or policies.

I'm very, very worried about what the two-party system is doing to our elections in this country. Not since 2000 at the most recent (perhaps earlier than that) has a presidential election actually been about two candidates. Back in 2004, I heard pundits describe the election as a "vote of no confidence in Bush" instead of an election between Bush and Kerry. How many times, for example, did you hear the following?

"Hey, who are you voting for?"
"Definitely Kerry."
"Oh yeah? How come?"
"He's not Bush."
"Well, that's true. But what do you like about Kerry?"
"He wouldn't have gotten us into this war."
"Be that as it may, we're in this war now. How does Kerry plan to handle it?"
"We wouldn't have fought it in the first place."
"Yes, I understand that. Are you saying you're voting for him based on what he would have done, rather than what he will do?"
"I'm just voting for him because he's not Bush."

The 2004 "vote of no confidence" failed. And I firmly believe that that's at best a very weak function of John Kerry and his policy statements. The Democrats could have thrown Howard Dean, or John Edwards, or anyone else, on the ballot. It wouldn't have mattered. Kerry voters didn't like Kerry; they disliked Bush.

Now that it's 2008, that mentality has far from disappeared. Consider what's become a typical conversation now:

"Hey, who are you voting for?"
"McCain, I guess."
"Oh yeah? How come?"
"I'm scared of Obama."
"Okay, but what do you like about McCain?"
"His policies are better than Obama's."
"Yes, but are they good?"
"Well, McCain definitely wasn't my first choice. I'd rather have seen (Giuliani/Huckabee/Romney) on the ballot."
"So why are you voting for him if you disagree with him?"
"I'm just voting for him because he's not Obama."

We haven't made much progress. This time, instead of an election between McCain and Obama, we have a "referendum on Obama". By all accounts, that referendum is about to succeed. And again, even if it had been Giuliani, or Huckabee, or Romney, it wouldn't have mattered, because this election is only about Obama vs. Not-Obama.

One additional factor that's peculiar to this election is race. It's obvious that there are people voting for Obama only because Obama is black. And it's obvious that there are people voting against Obama only because Obama is black. I'm not sure which one is more racist. But there's equally as nonsensical.

Take-home message? If you truly, honestly believe that either Obama or McCain is going to take the country in a good direction, then yes, by all means, vote for one of them. If you don't believe that; if you dislike both of them; if you disagree with both of them so thoroughly that you believe neither one of them is going to take us in the "correct" direction, then don't feel pressured to vote for either of them. Vote for neither. Write yourself in. Go for a third party.

Vote on November 4th. But vote for the candidate you like, not against the one you dislike.

Currently listening: Perfect Symmetry, Keane


Samantha said...

Ah yes. Exactly what my sister and father did. They disliked both candidates, so they both wrote in Ron Paul for this election.

Zach M. said...

Matt let me see if I understand you correctly. Ahem ... are you in fact requesting that the American voters vote intelligently? Really? How dare you insist that voters have a comprehensive understanding of what exactly they're doing when the cast a ballot for a certain candidate; rather than choosing at random, choosing based off of race or sex, or choosing because one is more eloquent than the other! Oh the audacity sir ... shameless!