Our Political Process is Broken

…and I was happier when I was apolitical.

Elephants and Donkeys, Oh My!

Balloons Filled with Imported Hot Air from Washington D.C.

Until 2004 I didn’t care about politics. I didn’t vote and I didn’t care what happened.  I believed that my vote didn’t count for anything except in the local elections (thanks,  Electoral College!). However, I came to believe that the country under Bush was worse off, and I had to take a chance to change that. I became a rabidly active voter and began to care deeply about the process. I’m rethinking that stance.  Election Day is nearly over except for sweeping up the celebratory messes. Voters have been bombarded with ads for months now—both negative and positive—to the point that most people are fed up with the process. This year I decided to get “the vote” out of the way early and submitted an absentee ballot.  Before voting I sat down with the Voter’s Guide published by the Dayton chapter of the League of Women Voters and did some research.

The first thing I was confronted with was four (!) candidates for the office of U.S. President. I knew about Obama and Romney but hadn’t heard of Gary Johnson (Libertarian candidate) or Jill Stein (Green Party). I’d seen no advertising for these people and wondered if they were national candidates or simply contenders in Ohio. This led to a web search that took me to the Politics1.com site. They list nearly 130 candidates for the office of U.S. President in 2012. Some of these people have “ballot status” (they’re on the ballot with the Republican and Democratic candidates) in multiple states; some are in only one state and still others are running as write-in candidates. I wasn’t aware there were so many different third parties—from the “America’s Party / American Independent Party” to the “Socialist Worker’s Party.”

You might recognize a few of these names—the “Peace and Freedom Party” have Rosanne Barr (yes, the Rosanne Barr) and Cindy Sheehan as their candidates. It really gets interesting when you look at the list of ‘Independent, Other, and Write-In Candidates without Ballot Status in Any States.’ These people depend mostly on word-of-mouth to target voters unsatisfied with all the other choices who would write their names on the ballot. Just think—you could vote for Santa Claus (his real, legal name), President Emperor Caesar, “Mad Mike” Hughes, “Sophia the Logos,” Love-22, “Mad Max” Reikse, “Average Joe” Schriner, and someone named “Da Vid.” There are a lot of normal-sounding people in this list as well but I don’t think they stand a chance. According to her website, Sophia the Logos is the sole proprietor of “Nuclear Cold-Fusion a Divine Light Energy source” that “activates and reprograms DNA.” If she’d been elected, Sophia could’ve purged the corruption in Washington’s old guard with a mass DNA reprogramming session. Think of the possibilities!

Going further into the available candidates I ran across a number of races for County Sheriff, County Engineer, County Coroner, and a lot of court judges where there was exactly one candidate. These are usually incumbents. The text under the job description read “This is not a contested race. No other candidates filed to run for the position.” Something seems fundamentally wrong with this–elections are about choices. If I thought the county coroner had done a crappy job and had ruled too many deaths were caused by blunt trauma from desk staplers, I should be able to choose another person to replace him. With only one candidate I have no choice other than to withhold my vote, which wouldn’t matter because their job is assured.  I understand that a lot of people aren’t dying to be a coroner but still…

Alternate candidates in an election create an interesting dilemma for the voter. They don’t have the advertising resources or party backing that mainstream candidates enjoy so they can’t purchase lucrative ad time. They’re usually unknown until their names show up on the ballot, meaning they can’t be researched and an informed choice made while you’re at the polls. The mechanics of our political system effectively locks out anyone other than party candidates unless they do something particularly newsworthy. So what can a dissatisfied voter do in order to express themselves in our flawed system? Let’s look at the possibilities:

1)      Don’t vote at all.  Despite my belief that my vote simply doesn’t count for the presidential race, I believe it still matters in the races for Representatives, Senators, and State and local races. Withholding my vote completely will affect a much wider swath that I’d intend to do. Not to mention voting is a privilege and not a right, so you shouldn’t waste the opportunity.

2)      Vote for the alternative candidates. The problem with this tack is that people other than the mainstream candidates have no realistic chance in hell of winning.  If you then vote for the underdogs, you might consider your vote wasted (as I would). This would also mean that, if you didn’t like either candidate, you’ve lost your chance to elect the lesser of two evils. Keep in mind that voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.

3)      Abstain from voting for those you don’t like but vote for those you do like. People who don’t like to leave things incomplete will hate this option. If there’s no competition for an office, only one choice on the ballot and you don’t like the candidate, then don’t vote in that category. This is the best move for your conscience’s sake–at least you’re not enabling evil.

4)      Become the enemy. Get involved in local politics and work your way up the chain in one of the major parties. Run for that coveted seat of power yourself and win, and then abandon your campaign promises and constituents to enact your own agenda. Oh wait, that was the problem with many Reps and Congressmen in the 2010 election class…

Well, now that the madness has passed we can all take a stress-relieving deep breath and get back to our everyday lives. At least until the next election cycle.

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