Tuesday, January 29, 2008

52 Weeks Down - Week 34 - Vote Your Conscience - And Tell Everyone Why!

My formal apologies to readers in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa etc... for running this column on the late side for you. I used to live on the NH/MA border, and my assumption is that anyone who gets to vote early has to work hard not to be a tremendously educated voter - the candidates basically stand in your yard yelling at you until you agree ;-). But as most of the nation heads to the polls for super-Tuesday, it is worth thinking a little about voting.

I know a lot of discontented people who feel crappy and powerless, disheartened and angry at a system that regularly disempowers them and seems to be heading towards fascism. And I know a lot of people who accept the "participate by not participating" notion. But unfortunately, not voting doesn't operate like boycotting commercial products - that is, there's no evidence at all that I can find that not participating makes us more powerful. And while it is absolutely reasonable to be angry about our crappy choices, that doesn't mean that we can say "oh, I don't want to vote for the lesser of two evils" - we have only to look at the last eight years to know that the difference between "kind of evil" and "Gets drunk regularly with Satan" is pretty huge.

Your vote won't make a legitimate third or fourth party in the US. It won't get you a candidate who will enact radical environmental changes, in likelihood - although it will certainly get you something better than what we have unless you vote for Romney or Guiliani ;-). If you live in my state and vote democrat, already sold to Hillary Clinton, your chance of getting, say, Oprah elected in a write in campaign are ridiculously low.

But there is something you can do if you vote that makes an enormous difference. Tell people how you make your choice and what issues matter most to you. I got polled last week, and when I told the pollster that my first concern wasn't even on her list - it was climate change and energy policy she said, "Oh, I've started getting that. I think they may even make that a choice on the next poll." And the impact *there* is potentially greater than we think. Take a look at this post of Greenpa's:http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/2007/11/iceberg-moves-again-and.html discussing the changes in public perception of global warming issues. Obviously, they are slow and too slow - but they are coming. And the hope of the next president, whoever he or she is, doing anything about it depend on the perception that we care, that we're willing to do what's necessary.

If you have a candidate you care about, that's a great reason to vote - I hope you do. If you don't have one you care about, vote for the lesser of two evils. And if you are struggling somehow to figure out what that is, vote anyway, and hang around after and get polled, or talk to the news people. Answer the phone when those polling places call. Write it on your blog - you can still say "the process sucks" while saying "and I'm trying to make a difference anyway."

Recently someone argued with me that none of the little things we do make a very big difference. That is, someone hanging their laundry or composting their scraps is just a tiny drop in a very big bucket. For some of us (some of us live in swing states), voting is like composting, a little drop in the bucket - but the net effect of each drop, and moving others to understand what we are doing, is filling the bucket, however slowly.

Happy voting!



annette said...

I am reminded of a bumper sticker I had in the last election - "Kerry sucks less". I was persuaded to vote for Kerry, who I didn't like at all, on that basis. This time, I think Obama sucks less - possibly even significantly less. Having read his first book several years ago (before he was even running for Senator), 2 things jumped out at me:

1) He's extremely intelligent (wouldn't THAT be a nice change!) and

2) He at least started out with good principles, and stood up for things I believe in and admire.

Now I know he's been in the Senate for 4 years, and has largely sold out to our corporate overlords like every other candidate - BUT I still have a sense that there is some kernel of principle left in him. I'm not convinced that Hillary Clinton EVER had any principles and I'm dead certain that she has none now.

And there's one more thing - As Caroline Kennedy pointed out in her endorsement of Obama, there is a whole generation of young people in their teens and 20's who are finding him inspiring. I think probably almost anything that brings young people out of political apathy and into the political process is a good thing.

And frankly, if the contest ended up being McCain vs Clinton, I think I would have to vote for the Green Party. If you look at the voting records of McCain and Clinton, there is precious little to distinguish between them.

Anonymous said...

I am gonna disagree with this premise.

My drop is going into the Green Party bucket - so no primary voting for me on SuperTuesday (my b-day no less).

In a solidly blue state that will go landslide for a Dem, my vote doesn't sway the primary (Hillary will run away with this state) OR the November electoral count at all. I do think my vote counts though - I vote for my ideals just like many voters. And while a Green won't ever be president, my vote can make it more likely to get the Greens on the ballot for other elections down the line (county, state, and town/city races). Races they are more likely to win and more likely to make a difference.

So my vote is important, just not for the election I am voting for - yet. And I don't have to gag as I choose between a rich (white/black/brown/green)(man/woman/robot) from one of those two parties. Pragmatism has its place in states with close races, but elsewhere idealism can rule the roost.

Rosa said...

One nice surprise the Republican primaries may still offer us is the prospect of both candidates being less evil than what we have - McCain at least believes global warming is being affected by human activity, and needs to be acted on.

Some Republican in my family are having what has traditionally been a Democratic problem - picking which candidate offends them least. It's fun to watch, in a scab-picking kind of way.

BoysMom said...

Personally, I'm hoping for a brokered Republican convention. I find it very hard to believe that anyone not a Democrat will be the next president, but wouldn't a brokered convention be entertaining?
I'm supporting Ron Paul. I don't like the wars (terror, drugs, Iraq), I don't like corporate welfare and I suspect the vast majority of low-but-not-no income folks could get by if they just didn't have taxes (I know we could've back when).
Yes, Paul won't do much for the environment, but neither will he stand in California's way as Bush has, and he would open things up so people could easily sue corporations for environmental damage that harms them--he's said so. Probably only the lawyers would get richer, but think how much better corporations would behave if they thought they were about to get hit with class-actions for causing global warming. I'm not seeing anyone else still in the race who wants to kill corporate protections and welfare like that.

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