All Rights Reserved © 2001 Thomas W. Day
The 2000 election was full of little lessons. I hope you, my fellow Rats, learned a couple of them. If not, that's what I'm here for, your personal cultural and political education service.
From the political commentators to high school teachers, I keep hearing people chant how the results in this election prove that "every vote counts." Maybe I'm math-inhibited, but it seems to me that this election proved the opposite is true. First, somewhere between 1 and 1,500 votes in Florida will offset almost a million votes nationally. The electoral college was put in place to make sure that individual votes wouldn't count for much. That slimy bullet-stopper, Alex Hamilton, insisted on the electoral college as a barrier between the ruling class and the rest of us. This election demonstrated that "principle" very clearly. A handful of rich, retired people will decide for the rest of us who gets to bumble his way through four years of the Presidency. And they'll do that the good old fashioned way, by choosing a group of political hacks to vote for the minority of citizens who voted in the general election. King George would have been happy with this system.
If anything will teach kids that voting is a waste of time and thought, this election will be remembered for decades. If anything will keep the rest of us occupied doing something productive instead of wasting time at the voting booths, again, it's this election. That's not the right lesson to take from a stolen election, but it's one that is likely to override all other lessons.
Second, in Y2k the election system has shown itself to be amazingly corrupt and incompetent. Mostly incompetent. In Florida, the "hand count" is mostly a process of finding ways to toss out ballots. Especially mail-in ballots. The only kind of mail-in voter who would jump through all of the hoops that are required to submit a valid ballot, is the kind of person who is either a fanatic or someone who doesn't have anything else to do for a three or four days, while away from home. We're talking rich retired people, vacationing at any of the places those people vacation or volunteers in the armed forces. In other words, either the idle rich or the unemployable. Not the crowd the rest of us want making national decisions. The recount was stifled by a tiny group of radical right winger terrorists who scared the volunteer recounters into quitting before the job was half-done. So much for a federally monitored fair election.
If the voter made it to the polls, she was faced with a document that was laid out to impress those guys who hide pictures inside of a collection of colored dots. Using punch cards, which, in Y2k, don't exist anywhere else in the world except on ballots because of their known mechanical and accuracy problems, and stone tablets, each state tried to confuse as many people as possible so yet another election would be decided by random chance. Voters fought their way through a gauntlet of public service drones to be faced with pages of unimportant local government decisions and an array of obsolete document styles.
And if our hapless citizen went to the polls with a conscience and more than twelve braincells firing, she had to contend with the media professionals and "educators" chanting "don't throw your vote away." Which means, "don't think before you vote, just vote." There are as many as a dozen sets of candidates running for the President's office in each election. While the Demolicans don't represent anyone but the people best represented, regardless of politics, the rich and powerful, the other candidates are us. And, no, they're not the enemy. If you can find a meaningful difference between Bush and Gore, you have a lively imagination. But you can definitely see a real difference between Buchanan, Nader, whoever the Libertarians ran this year, and the rest of the non-Republicrats who tilted at this political windmill yet one more time.
Americans' sick fascination with sports must have bled into politics. The root of this argument comes from gambling, Vegas politics, and most gambling is sports gambling. Anytime you bet on the loser, you lose. Any vote not cast for the winner is a wasted bet . . . vote. Here's how those people vote: they read the odds, the polls, and vote the way the polls (bookies) tell them the other people who are equally civically-disabled are going to vote. Don't you wish these people were around in 1776? We'd still be wearing powered wigs and worrying about the queen's health.
Actually, that same crowd was the majority in 1776, in 1812, in 1941, and they're still here, today. There will never be a shortage of foolish and conservative cowards in the world. They reproduce faster than rabbits and just as thoughtfully.
Of course, this simplified republic of the rich is good for . . . the rich. The NY Times reported that fewer than 600 people contributed $90,000,000 of Bush's initial $100,000,000 campaign treasure chest. More recently, it was reported that the top 100 political contributors have contributed $1,000,000,000 in the last ten years. Think that tiny group of "super patriots" is expecting something in return? If you decide the lesson in this rant is that voting is hopeless and democracy is a lost cause, you're missing the point. The point is the system is a mess and it will stay that way as long as the majority voters stay uninformed, apathetic, and impotent. If we want to hang on to our democracy, the only way to do that is to offset the power of money with the power of the majority will. The place to start is at the polls, every election, every time we're given the opportunity to voice our will and opinions.