The more I talk to people about the electoral process, the more dysfunctional and abusive the entire process seems.
Take George Bush. (Please! *rimshot*)
We have a ridiculously abusive president who enacts ridiculously abusive policies. I doubt whether many people (who are likely to read this, anyway) would argue with me on that point.
So what did we do, in 2000, when the ridiculously abusive patriarch engaged in widespread election fraud and stole the election?
We blamed the extremely small percentage of voters who voted third-party-liberal, who might otherwise have voted for Gore. Basically, a lot of people ignored the abuse that was happening in front of them because (I assume) it was too terrifying to believe and investigate, and instead created a scapegoat to attack. (Which also overlooked the entire way that the electoral college system works. Not to mention the fact that when they were actually allowed to complete the Florida recount, a year or two after the election, they found that Gore did actually get more votes than Bush. And the fact that very few media outlets even carried this story and nothing happened about it.)
It's like a giant dysfunctional/abusive family. We turn around and blame the victim because acknowledging the giant fire-breathing pink elephant in the room is too scary. It would require real change, and we're not ready for that.
This election is even worse. People are so afraid of getting burned that they're turning on each other ahead of time. On one hand, I enjoy the festive mood that I find among Kerry voters. I like the idea that people are putting aside their differences in order to defeat Bush. And I appreciate the many people who are trying to get Amnesty International to monitor our election, and the people who are going to polling places to make sure everyone gets to vote, and the people who are working extra hard to register voters and encourage everyone to vote. We've made something good come out of Bush's tyrannical reign, and that's very important. And pretty impressive.
But on the other hand, I think that people can get too invested in "anybody but Bush." Somehow, "anybody but Bush" doesn't really mean "anybody but Bush." It means, "I will settle for anybody but Bush for president, so I'm going to vote for the least distasteful person who has a chance at beating him." Or "the person I like the most who has a chance at beating him." And that can be a risky proposition.
If you really like Kerry, or if you think he is in fact the best candidate running for the position, then it's great. But if you think that some of Kerry's policies and positions are fucked-up and abusive too, then it's only so-so. And if they happen to be positions and policies that are important to you, then basically it's a choice between the abusive person and the seemingly less abusive person. It's become Hobson's choice: you can either vote for the abusive government that will behave in ways you don't accept or approve, or... the Republicans.
Of course, there are differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, and there are differences between Kerry and Bush. But while I think that the Democrats are more likely to listen to my objections if I oppose something they do, I also know that they do a tremendous number of things that we don't see or oppose because we trust them. Clinton bombed Iraq weekly, and that information was much more difficult to get than the information about Bush's bombings, and I never knew of any activism around it. I only found out about it during Bush's war. There are trade-offs either way, and the trade-off I perceive with the Democrats is the awareness of and opposition to their more heinous actions. And that scares me, too.
The problem I see with "anybody but Bush" is that people get into this dysfunctional dynamic with it. First of all, it's code for "you have to vote for Kerry!" And I don't like code. But mainly, it turns into this weird scapegoating. People who voted for Nader last election are now attacking me for saying that I might vote third-party. It's like any abusive family: we get attacked, and then instead of refusing the attack, get sucked into the dysfunction and start attacking others for the same behavior. Like getting attacked for voting Nader, and then deciding that those people are right and attacking others for voting that way in the future.
The bottom line in that situation is that Bush's election in 2000, and his subsequent actions, were not the fault of the Nader voters. They were his own fault. His election was supported by the Bush voters but even they weren't to blame for his actions as "President." He was, and his handlers and his cabal and whatever else is going on up there. The voters and other citizens of the U.S. and now the rest of the world are the victims in that situation, not the abusers. And the more that powerless people scapegoat each other, the more he can get away with.
The same is true in this election. If I vote for Peltier, or whoever, I'm not voting for Bush. I'm tired of the illogical, blaming rhetoric that says that a vote for anyone but the Democratic candidate is a vote for the Republican candidate. And I remember all the Republicans for Nader in the 2000 election, and I remember Perot, and all that stuff. But more importantly, I'm tired of being handed a load of bullshit by a party that doesn't have my best interests in mind in order to manipulate me into (1) doing what they want and (2) taking the blame if they fail.
People can say whatever they want about the zero-sum game, but it doesn't make sense to me. First of all, the argument seems to be that if someone who would otherwise vote for a Democrat votes for a third-party candidate, then that's taking a vote away from the Dems. But if someone who otherwise wouldn't vote votes for a third-party candidate, then that's fine. So how do they even know how or whether I would have voted? How do they know why any of the third-party voters voted the way they did? (I would also say that we should be using the non-mainstream parties to get people excited about voting and get them involved for the first time, but that's another story.)
And second of all, we have the electoral college. I live in California. In all likelihood, our horrifying governor aside, our electoral votes are going to go to Kerry. It's not going to be a question of whether I vote for Kerry or Peltier or Bush or anything else. And I am, I think I can say with some assurance, not representative of any group of voters... even if we had a huge number of third-party voters, it is unlikely either that they would not be voting for Kerry this year, or that their numbers would sway the state in any direction overall.
One of the things that I hear people saying is that there is going to be election fraud, so we need to vote for Kerry. This makes very little sense to me, because the election fraud I've seen usually involves people's votes not being counted or people not getting to vote. Granted, the votes that seem to get counted might push us over the edge between Bush clearly winning and Kerry being able to fight the power, as it were.
But if I want to make sure that all the votes for Kerry get counted and he gets all the credit he deserves for that, there are much more direct, effective, and appropriate things for me to do than to vote for him against my conscience and hope that it gets counted. I can study as much as I can find about election fraud, try to find out how to tell when it's happening, and if Bush seems to be stealing the election, get involved in the counterattack. I can write things that inform others about how election fraud happens and that list the evidence that we already have that Bush is planning it. I can send those things to people at different newspapers, magazines, websites, and television news programs, and ask them to spread the word about what is happening and to investigate it in ways that I can't. I can donate money to the groups that are organizing to fight these things. And I am already doing many of these things before the election even occurs.
There is just so much about this election that copies a dysfunctional, abusive family system. Of course, that's what our country is. But it's so blatant this year. And there's so much bizarre future-tripping. If I vote this way, what if Kerry doesn't get enough of the popular vote to give him a clear mandate to contest the election results? How is that even the question? What if instead he gets enough of the popular vote that he wins by a landslide? What if Diebold rigs the entire election and none of our votes get counted anyway? What if the election has always been rigged in many places, and large portions of it have been an illusion for decades if not longer? How the fuck should I know?
The only things I can know are what I believe in and who I think would be the best candidate. I can also know who I think will win, and I can know a few things about the ways in which election fraud is conducted - and I can find out quite a bit more, I think. But I can't even know whether my own vote is counted. I do know, or at least it is my opinion, that my vote is not the deciding one in any Presidential election. No matter what happens I am a part of something bigger than myself. Which is good. Even if my chosen candidate wins by one vote, I am only a part of that. That one vote is each vote that is cast, which is why it's important to vote.
But I also think it's important to vote honestly. To me, the question on the table in any election is "Who do you think is the best candidate for this position?" Or "Who do you want to win?"
Okay. What I was going to say was that the question on the table was "Who do you think is the best candidate for this position?" In which case, my answer would be Peltier. Although I intend to review the reasons to vote for Kerry and see if my answer changes. But I'm not interested in second-guessing the entire process and deciding that such and such might happen and in that case the question would actually be "Which of the major candidates do you want to win?" or "Do you want Bush to win?" or "How is your electoral college going to vote?" or "Who do all your friends like?" or "Do you really think we're counting these?" and therefore answering that question instead. That's lunacy. And a lot of people are convinced that one or another of those scenarios are the case and therefore the question is this or that, but they can't all be right... and I am not willing to play weird government mind games, ever. I know too much about weird government mind games already.
If the question is "Who do you want to win," then I could see a slim space in which I could ethically vote for Kerry. Elise, on the other hand, offered the wisdom that "In an election, the question is the best candidate. What we have tomorrow is a plebiscite. All we are really doing is voting YES or NO on Bush." That's how I tend to see my vote: if I'm not voting for Bush, I'm not voting for Bush, regardless of whether I vote for the default candidate or someone who can't get in.
And Elise backs me up on this: "if you're in a state where it's going to be close, then voting for someone that is not going to come anywhere near winning essentially means you're ok with the Busheviks staying in power. But if you're in a state where it won't make a difference, then you're basically just voting for federal funding in the next election."
So... yeah. I'm tired of all the liberal left mind-games. I'm tired of the misdirection. I want to fight for everyone to vote the way that they actually want, to vote honestly with their conscience, and to have functional and effective ways of fighting any government official's abusive actions. I want to end this era where we vote for someone who might not suck too bad out of fear of the person we think will suck horribly. I am tired of America's all-or-nothing, narrow addict thinking, where we focus on the immediate election as if it is going to be the causal factor in everything, as if we can't participate in the political process after that. As if we're not going to take to the streets if Bush OR Kerry does more messed-up things overseas, or here. I want to see us put every part of this into perspective, and recognize what we can and can't do about the election, about the war, about healthcare, and then do what we can. I'm tired of people fearmongering and scapegoating and sticking their heads in the sand instead. I'm going to vote for the candidate that I think would be the best, that I would most like to see win. And I'm going to work to find a way to make everyone that they have the same freedom in four years.
I welcome comments on this. But try to keep the name-calling, threats, and inflated rhetoric to a bare minimum.