Quite often, when discussing politics and the long-running issue of how the majority of Americans don’t ever vote, the suggestion of compulsory voting is brought up as a solution. The argument is simplistic, indicating that because money is such an influence on politics that if more people participated, it would somehow negate the effect of the money people on elections. There are a couple of false causality loops playing into this theory, in that an argument is made that (correctly) points out that younger people tend not to vote, younger people’s issues are generally not entertained by politicians who follow messages put out by money (generally older and richer voters) (correct), and that if we enable more of those younger citizens to vote, we’ll see change (which I will sadly state is a falsehood, no matter how much I wish it were otherwise).
You see, part of the problem with elections in the U.S. is that our field of choices for who to elect is extremely limited, and ironically enough, limited to those who have money to get their message out there. If you’re not a representative of either of the two national parties (Democrat or Republican), you’re most often a marginalized candidate that is seen more as an outlier, or, worse, as a joke candidate. An example is Jimmy McMillan of New York City, who was the leader of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party. As you may suspect, his party had one issue, specifically rent being too damn high, and pretty much a list of other thoughts that no one paid any attention to. He was completely marginalized, and even though he might have had a real message that people should have listened to, he was considered a joke candidate, and his party as well.
If you consider that type of party to be a joke and think that more realistic third parties are better, just remember the examples of both the Reform Party (led by Ross Perot) or the Green Party (led at one time by Ralph Nader). Both candidates (and their parties) were considered disruptive to the mainstream parties, and thus, both men have been completely ostracized by their original parties ever since, unless they endorse the majority candidate of that party, and then they’re ignored again.
So, the point is that if you’re not voting for one of the two main parties, then you’re basically wasting your energy because very little gets accomplished outside of that sphere.
But those who are part of those parties will tell you that you should contribute because somehow those two parties will somehow represent you. But do they?
When I look at these dynamics, I usually ask myself a couple of questions of the candidates and their parties. Being in serious financial debt because of student loans, I ask myself which candidate will do something about that problem. Most often, the Republican will state that students put themselves in that probem, so why should they do anything to help? So, their response to that issue, to health care, to keeping food safe, well, they generally don’t care and will throw out some feel good statement like “the market will fix itself”, “a rising tide lifts all boats” or my favorite one: “Those who need help just need to lift themselves up by their bootstraps and do better.” Yeah, those are all positive responses to real situations (yes, that’s sarcasm). So what issues DO they actually deal with I might care about? Taking care of veterans? Used to be a huge one for the Republican Party. Turns out they’re really only interested in “helping” veterans while they’re still fighting wars, and quite often not even then, as we discovered when Republicans ran companies that ripped off the Army for food supplies during the Gulf War (which was never actually accounted for), created companies that profited heavily from war administration costs, like security and logistics, and when questioned, used political leverage to stop those questions from being further asked. Unfortunately, these days Republicans seem to be mostly interested in financial things that benefit very wealthy people, so after all the flag waving, I tend to avoid a lot of their rhetoric that doesn’t actually seem to be all that productive.
Which leaves me with the Democrats that historically have been on the side of the people rather than the rich. Well, somewhere around the 1960s, it was figured that this dynamic wasn’t going to remain because those Democrats started seeing government office as a place to make money rather than a place to do good government work and redistribute the money back to the people. The Republicans, usually happy in state governments (which kept them close to home where their big businesses were) started to see that money, too, and began funding PACs that fed a machine that brought more and more Republicans into national politics. Now, we have a Congress that is completely controlled by the rich class (the Republicans) and a good deal of the other side now pretty damn rich as well. What it means is that as both parties try to compromise with each other (which they’re not very good at doing these days), they side with anything that helps big business and rich people get richer. Let’s face it. The poor aren’t being sent to Washington, and when they are, they don’t stay poor for very long as they take advantage of all sorts of avenues for fueling wealth (even stealing if the opportunity arises).
But are Democrats out to solve the few problems I mentioned earlier? Like student loans? Nope. When it came time for them to do something about this, they sided with the credit card companies and the banks, just like the Republicans did. As for students, they basically threw them under the bus. Health care? Well, the Democrats were all for Obamacare, before they were against it, I suppose, but they haven’t done anything to actually fix it, letting it just run pretty broken, patting themselves on the back for passing it without first reading it and kind of hoping that it results in good things. An example: Passing the Affordable Care Act meant more people got insurance, but no attempts were made to get those insurance companies to be a lot more useful to those now under that insurance. Like me. I am under the same insurance now that I was under last year, but for some reason my insurance company has decided that it no longer pays for a drug I need to survive. With it, my condition improved. Without it, my health is completely falling apart again. Appealing is like shouting into the wind and hoping for results. Those are the kinds of things that no one is dealing with, so yeah we’re getting health care, but not actual care about our health. And most people won’t say anything because they’re thinking they got health care, but once they need to use it, they’ll find out they don’t really have it, and probably die before anyone can determine there was a problem.
So this brings me back to voting. How does voting for literally the same candidates that were decided for you before you ever had a chance to input your thoughts somehow equate to more democracy? Answer: It doesn’t. Right now, the Democrats are fielding Hillary Clinton for president. I never voted for her. I never supported her. She was a secretary of state because she was previously a senator. She was a senator for a state she didn’t even live in because her husband was previously president. Before that, she was someone’s wife. Good for her, but that’s not vetting a candidate. It’s choosing the most convenient name on the docket because we’re too lazy to actually find viable candidates who stand for something.
Is she for fixing student loans? No idea. She will probably never bring them up, unless there’s a path to victory for doing so. Does she support veterans? No clue. That’s the kind of candidates we get, and Obama is now telling us we need to participate more and vote for these kinds of people to somehow become more democratic. Sorry, but I just don’t see it.
And don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike Hillary Clinton. I just don’t know anything about her and hate that the only time I’ll find out is when she’s already deadlocked into the nomination.
In the words of the renowned philosopher Forrest Gump: “That’s all I have to say about that.”