October 18, 2012

Pensées dans l'isoloir

Everything just sounds more deeply philosophical in French.  It translates as "thoughts in the voting booth," and concerns that quiet moment, when one is all by oneself facing the ballot, and your brave and independent pronouncements about voting for a third party candidate are at last put to the real test.

So much to think about.  So many pensées.  Have I made myself a victim of my own "false equivalence," that easy cop-out favored by the Mainstream Media (those sycophants you often call the Lamestream Media in your snarky moments)?  Is it just too easy to say that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are indistinguishable politically, that voting for the lesser of two evils is nevertheless voting for evil, that third parties with actual real, helpful ideas can never break through to relevance and power if election after pitiful election we keep saying to ourselves, not this time, there is simply too much at stake?

Certainly these are conundra worthy of Voltaire and Descartes.  

One begins with the electoral facts.  California's 55 electoral votes are cast on a winner-take-all basis. There is not a snowball's chance in hell that anyone other than Barack Obama is going to win the Golden State.  Plus, I know that my vote is worth 25% of the vote of a pickup-driving cowboy from Laramie, Wyoming.  Wyoming has the constitutional minimum of 3 electoral votes (matching its two senators and one congressman) with a population of 563,000.  California's 55 electoral votes are based on a population of 37 million, roughly 74 times larger than Wyoming.  Yet the electoral votes are only 18 times as many.  Since we do not have direct election of Presidents by popular vote in this country, my vote is not what it appears to be in the first place.  It's a diluted ballot that I cast; thus, as far as symbolic votes for third party candidates are concerned, California is a nice safe haven to exercise one's conscience (and if it's not safe, whoever in the United States indulges himself in an act of conscience?  Certainly almost no one in the White House or Congress.)

There is a good reason that the Obama and Romney campaigns do not waste their money running expensive TV ads in California.  I hear about these "hard hitting" ads in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, but I never have my focus on "Big Bang Theory" disturbed by actual viewing.

Thus, a voter in California who worries a lot about how he votes, as a matter of reality, is engaging in a form of electoral grandiosity.  The die is cast; the fix is in.  Maybe the national polls talk about "razor thin" margins for Obama, a lead within the "margin of error," it's currently "neck and neck" at 47% all (that was actually the last number I heard - rather ironic, because I imagine, Venn Diagram-speaking, that there is a huge overlap between that 47% and the 47% that Romney despises).

I can assure you, however, that the campaign honchos do not look at those national polls.  They're irrelevant.  Ohio and Florida, Ohio & Florida, Ohio/Florida: color in the rest of the states red or blue, and just hold the elections in Ohio and Florida.  I'd hate to be a voter in Ohio: I'd be so tense every four years.  Here I take my place among the voters of a state with one of the worst-performing educational systems in the country (its glory days as No. 1 long past), casting my vote upon a sea of votes from millions and millions of uninformed, functionally illiterate, easily-manipulated (remember Proposition 8, anyone?) fellow citizens.  Please: give myself a break.

On the merits: I would rather see Obama win, and I'm fairly sure he will.  Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans, however, believe any longer in the American Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  That is not false equivalence; it's just the way it is.  For a person like me, a "process liberal" as opposed to a "substantive liberal," my enthusiasm for the voting franchise took a major hit during the Misrule of George W. Bush, and virtually all of Bush's most repugnant, anti-Constitutional positions have been continued, and even expanded by Barack Obama.  (I don't know if you've noticed, but Barack is just not real original.)  Both parties appear content with the awful ruling in the Citizens United case.  Mr. Obama peeped about it in one State of the Union address, and that was it.  The big telecom companies were just granted final immunity by the Supreme Court from their complicity in all of the warrantless wiretapping of the Bush (and Obama, of course) years.

On and on.  Both candidates are warmongers, both will overspend on the defense budget forever, both will kowtow and cater to the interests of Wall Street over Main Street (it's where the campaign cash is).

But, but...yes, I know what you're going to say.  What about abortion and gay marriage?  What about those Supreme Court appointments?  This is the ratio decidendi (basis of decision) of all elections, isn't it?  This is actually what the Presidential election is about: not tax policy (the President doesn't decide tax policy, the Congress does); not the "war on terror" (there's no difference); not the "budget" or deficit (the Obama Administration doesn't even propose budgets anymore); not environmental issues (both candidates are against the Earth); not nothin'.  Abortion, and in recent years, gay marriage.

Look, I wrote a screed on the effect of overturning Roe vs. Wade a long time ago.  Such a ruling does not mean that abortion is everywhere illegal in the United States.  It just means that you can't get an abortion in a Red State. So weigh that in the balance.  You have to travel from Texas to California.  My mother did that (not to get an abortion - to get the hell out of Texas).  Texas is a good place to get out of, for whatever reason.  

Should the rise of actual alternatives to the Two Party Duopoly system, with its thorough corruption and ossified inability to adapt to a changing world, be forever held hostage so that women in an unfortunate situation do not have to travel from Texas to California?  Nothing is perfect in this world, after all.  Perhaps we could organize the modern equivalent of the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad for women who need to travel to escape the ideological slavery of their judgmental, religious fellow citizens.  That, in fact, would be an excellent plank in a Third Party Platform. You have to take a few chances to get anywhere.

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