Monday, November 06, 2006

Politics - Why Vote?

The AP just ran a story, titled, “Why So Few People Vote In The U.S.? In it, they cite Curtis Gans, who is Director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University. The story quotes and paraphrases Mr. Gans:

"We've had the fragmenting and atomization of our society," Gans said, driven by the 500-channel TV culture, the interstate, strip malls, abandonment of farms and the rise of the Internet. "All of those things have undermined community."

He goes on to blame the politicians and their attack ads along with a lack of clearly defined choices. This is something I truly hate to see: Thousands of dollars invested in a study that justifies itself with lots of brouhaha when the explanation is really very simple: America is not a Democracy. And the voters –perhaps only subconsciously—are aware of that.

I say subconsciously because –despite the Orwellian method of hammering the “cradle of democracy” message into our heads from birth, Americans sense, but hate to admit openly, that we are not a Democracy but an Oligarchy.

Two parties is not a Democracy. If 220,000,000 eligible voters --more or less-- have only two candidates to choose from, it's a guarantee that the majority of voters are not going to be happy with either one. What's truly amazing is that even 40% of voters bother to turn out.

The electoral college is not a Democracy. Nobody I know actually understands this system. The only thing that I truly understand is that it somehow permits the plurality candidate to lose.

A partisan Supreme Court which decides “constitutionally” how an election is to be resolved is not a Democracy. If the decision made in 2000 was actually based on the constitution, how is it possible that our sacred document could be interpreted so radically along party lines? Given such obvious partisanship, the U.N. should have been called in to take the streets of D.C. under marshal law.

Electronic voting machines are a threat to Democracy.

Lobbyists are a threat to Democracy.

Lack of voter turnout has nothing to do with strip malls nor internet, nor 500 channels on satellite nor trousers that hang down to reveal teenage underdrawers. The majority of voters either sense or actually know that their vote really doesn’t count. They know that the Coke or Pepsi choice has little or no reflection on their own demographic interests. They know that even if the candidate they resigned themselves to vote for were elected, that more powerful interests than their own would subvert any promises made during the race.

Those who feel the most confident about their interests being seen to --i.e. the wealthy-- are those who have added influence to insure their needs are a priority. The rest, --i.e. the poor and middle class-- who supposedly have the majority and therefore the power under a Democracy, are forever being swept aside.

In Europe, where I live, there are at least a half a dozen parties to choose from in most countries. Often they must form coalitions and make compromises in order to push their own interests. It’s a very different Democracy than the bipolar model in which Americans alternate between 8 years of conservative agenda and legislation and 8 years of a slightly less conservative agenda and legislation.

Sure, in some states, there are a few Independent or Libertarian candidates. But, what good does it do to vote for them? Any true change would call for drastic measures at the highest levels of government. You’d think that if the government has the wisdom to break up monopolies in business, that they would apply the same sapience to themselves. But, we all know: There’s a fat chance of that happening any time soon. So, really, Why vote?

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