Wednesday, October 31, 2012

So, Now What?

Most of you probably assume I’m voting for Obama, given the breakdowns I gave of him and Romney the past couple of days. Not so fast.

Our political system is broken from stem to stern. I don’t mind how much money gets spent. Why shouldn’t as much money be spent deciding who runs the joint as is spent advertising beer or gasoline? The issue is where the money comes from, and how much accountability those donors demand. We’re in an era of openly transactional politics, where, too often, you get what you pay for, and the long-term interests of the country as a whole get short shrift.

When I first became politically aware, the great debate in America was how best to take care of those who most needed it. Now the debate centers on whether we should take care of those people at all. The parties have hardened their positions and changed the rules to make it harder to find common ground. The voters complain, blaming the other side more every day, then dig in to support their favored positions, hardening the partisan lines.

What is really needed is a more parliamentary form of government. Five parties would do nicely. There would be the Tea Party on the extreme right, a counterweight just as far to the left, then basic liberal and conservative parties, and the Libertarians. No party would have enough votes to pass anything on its own, but no party would have enough votes to block anything on its own, either. They’d all have to work together.

That’s not going to happen. The existing parties have things too good for themselves. What can be done by the average voter, who may lean one way or the other when discussing whose fault it is but can agree this is a mess? How can a message be sent to say we’re not happy?

Don’t vote for either party.

I’m not saying stay home. That’s not a protest; it’s abdication. I’m not saying throw out all the incumbents. That will only create a Won’t Get Fooled Again scenario. (“Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss.”) Pick minor party candidates. It doesn’t even matter so much who they are, though if you find someone who aligns well with you, go for it. Your candidate won’t win, but your vote won’t be wasted if enough of us do it. If the major parties see other parties are siphoning off four or five times as many votes as usual, they may have to sit up and take note.

Don’t be stupid about it. This is best done in election where there is no real contest. We still have to live with the results of our actions, and you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face. (See “Conservatives who voted for Ross Perot, 1992” and “Liberals who voted for Ralph Nader, 2000”) Pick your spots. I live in Maryland, where Mitt Romney has as much chance of winning as he does of becoming pope. My House and Senate races are no contests, as well. Since my vote doesn’t really matter in that context—we know who is going to win—I might as well try to say something with it.

I looked at my available options and will vote for the Green candidates in each race. Not because they’ll win, or even because I want them to win. I’ll vote for them because I don’t have a better way to show I have had enough of the status quo.

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