(This is part one of two. . .)
For the first three or so decades of my life I learned to think the way I was taught in the midwest, to view voting day, if I bothered to show, as choosing between the “lesser of two evils.” As a 50-something now, I look back on my upbringing and on the Civics class from high school, and I can see that I was getting opposing messages. Maybe they weren’t exactly opposing messages, but they were inconsistent, incomplete. The goal for everyone in the class was to understand the Constitutions of our country and our state in order to pass the class – pass the Constitution tests – so we could graduate from high school later on. The class didn’t impress upon me how important my role is or how, without me, without all of us as participants and watchdogs, none of it works.
A lot of young people are learning the hard way now just how important their voices are. For instance, in my admittedly flawed memory, the first school shooting was Columbine (20 April 1999). Of course, it wasn’t the first. There were at least 16 before Columbine. Since Columbine, though, there have been many mass shootings at concerts, theaters, churches, and schools, and increasingly, people mourn and then forget. Not the victims and families, people whose lives are shattered, of course, but we as a nation move on to the next shooting.
We have an entire gun lobby that exists to represent gun manufacturers who want only to sell more guns, and these mass shootings lead to more gun sales which leads to more mass shootings. But how can we connect sales increases to mass shootings when we have reached the point when we have mass shootings almost every day in this country? In 1999, the issue of gun violence in a school concerned everyone – it was a nonpartisan issue – but over time, the stances of the two parties have diverged more clearly than ever before (in my lifetime). On the one side we have the GOP which takes a lot of money from the gun lobby, makes excuses/blames violence on everything BUT everyone having easy access to any gun they want, prevents any research into causes and remedies for the gun violence crisis, and works to prevent any sensible gun legislation getting through. Hell, the GOP receives enough money to not even notice there is a gun violence crisis in the USA. Meanwhile, Democrats want sensible gun reform that includes research into gun violence and expanded background checks.
This gun violence issue alone has motivated a lot of young people to get involved in how decisions are made, and they’re finding that we listen to them. They have energy and drive, and literally a will to survive. They are involved because this shouldn’t happen to any child, and this one issue affects them every day so it’s the one thing that matters to them the most. Of course, that will change as they get older, but it’s likely this gun violence issue will always be in their top five. They grew up with it; they won’t want their own children to have to live it, too. Make no mistake, they will vote. This is hugely important to these kids, and they’ll vote accordingly.
How did we get to this point? to this crisis? to where kids are terrified to go to school because there is a very real possibility they’ll be murdered?
How did we get to the point where health care costs are so high that many Americans must choose between risking bankruptcy to get health care they or their children need or suffering terribly through their too-short lives?
How did we get to a point where our government, run by one party, currently the GOP, can kidnap migrant children and hold them as hostages, an atrocity in itself, in order to get us to pay for harmful concessions like a border wall and funding for private prisons? How are we as a nation at a point where we fund those private prisons to hold more people who are not criminals, people who did the right thing for themselves and their families, but whose lawful actions have been outlawed by this hateful and corrupt administration so that asylum-seekers could be labeled as “criminals?” and taxpayers roped into covering their indefinite imprisonment?
How is it that in 2018 we still have a disproportionate population of black, brown, and poor people in our prisons? How is it that white rapists go free but black rapists are murdered by the state?
How is it that in 2018 black and brown Americans, women and LGBTQ Americans, non-Christians and the poor in America, still have little or no protections from violence, harassment, and discrimination?
How did we get to this point on these and so many more issues? Apathy. Ignorance. Laziness. We sometimes take it for granted just how recently most of our citizens, women and minorities, gained the right to vote.
It doesn’t help that we have a two-party system in this country which leads, very often, to many or even most of us feeling (and being) unrepresented or under-represented. There are other parties, but none of them put up serious candidates, and they’d have to do some work to bring in the funding to have any power if they did. Until the USA changes this winner-take-all idea to giving a percentage of representation as a percentage of the total votes, this is the way it is, and we will continue to be ruled over by one over-powered party at a time. We will remain two-party until we fix it; pick from one or the other or you’re wasting your vote. Literally. I don’t like it. You might not like it, but this is what we have to work with for the time being.
All this said, we know what system we have, and we’ve known about it for more than 200 years. There is no excuse for us not raising our children to understand their part in government and their responsibilities as citizens in this society we have created. We’re perpetuating the laziness and the apathy by letting this “lesser of two evils” trope continue. No more excuses. We need to teach our children why things are the way they are, and we need to impress upon them that things can be changed, that they have the power, the duty, and the obligation, to make changes as needed.
Among the arguments for how we got where we are today with Putin’s stupid, greedy, racist puppet and a complicit GOP in power you will find excuses about “wanting something new.” People fall for someone like Bernie or Trump because they’re different, not bothering to notice that both are terrible choices (for many reasons, some similar between the two). We need to take our own responsibilities as voters more seriously, get out of the “lesser of two evils” mindset, NOW, if we hope to get out of this mess we made and get to work fixing it.
Voting for the “lesser of two evils” suggests that Americans don’t have power over our own government. This is wrong. Even with this craptastic two-party system, we still have power but only if we use it.
Voting for the “lesser of two evils” also suggests that the parties are essentially the same. If you still think the two major parties are the same, you haven’t been paying attention since, at least, Reagan. (and you probably aren’t reading my blog as I’ve been pretty vocal about the differences, about not just trusting or believing me but getting out there and finding the information for yourself)
Keep in mind that choosing the “lesser of two evils” is still choosing evil. We have literally millions of people in the USA. We can do better; the vast majority of us are not evil, far from it. We’re misusing and overusing the word “evil,” applying it to people who, while they aren’t the perfect candidate in our eyes, are pretty darned close on most or all of the issues. Imperfect does not equal evil. We all need to grow the hell up and put ourselves and everything around us into perspective. (If you really think they’re all evil, it’s probably time to take a good, hard look at yourself.) Perhaps it’s just that the truly “perfect” candidates are too smart to run for office (who would want that job?!). Or maybe it’s just that we, as citizens, aren’t looking at facts behind candidates. Nobody is perfect; there is no perfect person, no perfect candidate. We’re using our hearts when we should be using our heads, making smart choices.
We still have people obsessing about the candidate who won the majority of the votes in the last presidential election. She’s a private citizen now, but people still claim Hillary Rodham Clinton is evil. Press them for support of it, and all they have are lies. Seriously. As supposed adults, they based their vitally important voting decisions on lies people have been spreading about her for decades. They couldn’t be bothered to take responsibility for their own choices. And they still can’t.
We had a fantastic candidate for the last presidential election in Clinton. She was imperfect, but she was incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in every area that mattered. She could admit her mistakes, for the most part, and learn from them. She’d been serving for literally decades. She’d done all her homework and had actual, workable ideas to help all Americans. Yeah, yeah, her husband is a rapist (allegedly), but so is the candidate who “won,” current president – not his spouse, HIM; he’s a rapist (allegedly). With the possible exception of the Libertarian candidate, HRC was the only major candidate who wasn’t getting help from Russia (partly because Putin was funding them all in the hopes the votes would be spread out enough to defeat HRC, whom he hates). She got the majority of the votes. She still lost for several reasons that include, but are not limited to, Electoral College being a terrible system, people falling for decades of propaganda designed to disparage HRC. . . And let’s not forget FBI Director Comey unnecessarily raising suspicions about her completed, resolved bullshit email investigation but not bothering to mention that Trump and/or members of Trump’s team were suspected of, and under investigation for, colluding with the Russians and actual election interference from Russia. And of course, there is the good ol’ sexism and racism of idiot Americans. Their choice was always obvious, though. They were never going to vote for anyone other than the most racist, sexist, whitest man they could find. Trump fit the bill perfectly for that minority. They didn’t care he is and was conning them.
We were this close to having the best candidate we have ever had, literally ever, in that office getting shit done. Instead, we’re right back where we were in the Republican cycle of breaking shit, polluting the country, defunding schools and health care and veterans, giving their rich friends tax breaks and other perks on our dime, and running up the national debt. As a bonus, this time we get to add in treason to the list of shit to clean up. Then a Democrat has to come in and clean up the mess, reduce the debt, maybe get us out of another recession, another war,. . . so that a fucking Republican can go right back in and fuck it all up again. This is not how you progress.
We’re not taking steps forward. We’re wasting all of our time trying to keep from slipping too far into the past.
It’s as if it’s not obvious to the humans of the United States that we’re all humans, deserving of equal rights and opportunities, regardless of gender/religion/skin color, etc. Even Reagan used the “Let’s Make America Great Again” slogan back in 1980, alluding to some great and glorious past we should want to go back to that does.not.exist. We have a party of people who want desperately to take steps backward. Of course the mediocre white men want to go back. In the “old days” they looked much better than they are, by comparison. But those are the old days. News flash: we live in 2018, and the majority of America does NOT want to go back. We are still feeling the pains of growing. We’re still fighting for equality, for opportunities, the entitled already enjoy without even realizing it. The mediocre, entitled white boys have lost their battle to time so they can either step up their game or be left in the dustbin of history with the other idiots and bigots.
They want to drag all the rest of us, kicking and screaming into their imagined, glorious past. We cannot let that happen to ourselves or to our children.This is what we’re fighting for, people. This is it. This is our chance.
We need to stop thinking in the old ways, fighting old ideas rather than working on new. We are better today than we have ever been, smarter, better educated, more aware of and sensitive to the world around us, more compassionate to those who aren’t exactly like us. Enough “lesser of two evils” think/talk. Enough falling for this luxury some idiots (white people, generally) think they have where they can “make a statement” or use the old “of two evils choose neither” bullshit at the polls. I mean, you can if you’re going to be silly, but know that until we have a system other than our “winner take all” two-party system, a vote for anyone other than one of the two major parties is a wasted vote. Yeah, you didn’t make a statement; you spoke into a vacuum, flushed your chance to be heard down the crapper. And for the effort you put in, you could have voted for the person of the two you thought would be better. Since you didn’t vote for him or her, you basically voted for the other, the one you least wanted. You played yourself and screwed us all in the process. That’s not something to be proud of.
Remember Al Gore? and Hillary Clinton? Yeah. Valuable votes that could have literally saved lives were wasted in both those elections, more than enough of them to prevent people who would and did do serious damage to the USA from getting into the White House. But no. Their wasted votes got us W. Bush who put us into a recession, and based on a lie, ran up a huge death toll and bill for his invasion of Iraq. Wasting votes (combined with other irresponsibility) also got us Trump. I don’t think I need to point out the situation we’re in right now because of that greedy, incompetent, narcissistic, traitor. Huh. That’s the nicest thing I’ve called him all week. I must be mellowing in my old age.
Anyway, let them try to convince you otherwise, but this is the system we have, and a LOT of people WANT you to waste your vote, not just Russia. The GOP has to gerrymander, collude with Russia, purge voter rolls, charge poll taxes, and in other ways suppress the vote, especially of minorities, in order to maintain a majority anywhere. They want you to waste your vote if you lean “liberal” and/or Democrat. The last thing they want is for you to vote for the one person, the Democrat, who could defeat their candidate.
Democrats are less likely to try to get you not to vote because, let’s face it, if they can get people to go out and vote, Democrats tend to win.
No doubt we need to revamp this system – NO! we do NOT need a Constitutional Convention so do not fall for that. We need to get rid of the Electoral College, stop treating businesses as people, and to hold our politicians accountable. We need to set term limits for Congress, greatly reduce their benefits including retirement, put the kibosh on “contributions” that look an awful lot like bribes to me, put limits on when and if former member of Congress can serve as lobbyists, and revamp the Senate – two votes for each state? no matter the population of the state? No. No. No. We need to redraw it so Senators represent roughly equal groups of people, not states. Or assign a number of senators based on the population of that state. That old system is a leftover that was set up to be sure the slave states, mostly rural, had high representation. That needed to go more than one hundred years ago. And we need to set up a system wherein we vote for the parties/people we want, and each are represented by the percentage of the vote they get. (This idea always makes me think of parliaments.)
Neither of the major political parties are going to get excited about changes that could cause them to have to share power, but we also can’t continue with this system if we hope to get anywhere as a people. As it is, the parties, even the minor ones, cater to straight, white, Christian men leaving the rest of us to make due with what is available. More on that in the next post.
I’m not saying members of both parties don’t engage in corruption (Democrats in Illinois, for instance) or that they don’t both engage in gerrymandering. I’m not saying members of both parties don’t take bribes, even from the gun lobby; their income should NOT come from lobbyists. We’re already paying them. If it’s not enough, don’t do the job. Both parties are based on some fairly racist and sexist policies that need changing, but only one of those parties has shown any sign they might be open to changing that. The parties are, after all, made up of flawed human beings, but there are tendencies from the groups in both parties that lead me to believe that while they both aim to get the votes and loyalty of a portion of the white male population, one of the parties, the Democrats, could make some gradual changes that would attract the rest of us, give us a reason to be loyal to them, and also do a lot of good for America and Americans.
With attention and engagement from so many frustrated and concerned voters, this is a good time for the parties to make positive changes. All of our eyes are on them. Those changes would not go unnoticed. (end, part one – second part, tentatively titled “Representative Government” coming soon)
(Thanks so much for giving me your time, for reading this. I know how valuable your time is!)
Some of the links below are more closely related to the topics in the (forthcoming) second part, but I’m leaving them here anyway:
My Patreon, if you are so inclined. Your support is much appreciated!
Link: “A Half-Century Battle for Voting Rights” – by Brian J. Trautman at Consortium News
Link: “Gen X rebounds as the only generation to recover the wealth lost after the housing crash” – by Richard Fry at Fact Tank, PEW Research
Link: “Poll: only 28 percent of young voters say they will certainly vote in the 2018 midterms” – by Tara Golshan at Vox (thanks for this, James!)
Link: “Rhode Island Dems in uproar as party seeks to oust three progressive women” – by Alex Seitz-Wald at NBC News
Link: “What Pro-Life Democrats Want from the DNC” – by Clare Foran at The Atlantic
Link: “Democrats should start accepting pro-life liberals like me” – by Patrick Day at Vox (including this only because it helps to make the point that the Democratic Party does NOT represent women, will easily set aside our rights for whatever a white man wants)
Link: Gun Violence Archive
Featured photo is a meme I had to do some work on. I did not take the original photo. Feel free to share it, of course. I’d like for you to share the post along with it, but I don’t feel the meme is “mine” enough to be possessive of it.
Photo of voting activists in Mississippi is from Freedom Summer 1964. I do not know who the credit goes to for the photo. If you do, please let me know.
The Your Vote is Your Voice comic is by Ben Sargent. I cannot read the information on the actual comic and have been unable to locate more specific information about that panel.
TL;DR: We need to stop thinking of voting as a chore and exaggerating the pros and cons of each candidate, regarding them as a greater or lesser “evil;” very few of these people are “evil” or even close to it. We need to impress upon all Americans how important understanding the issues is, how important voting every chance they get is, and how important it is to vote in the system we have (winner-take-all) rather than in the system we’d like to have (a representative system where votes count no matter which party they go to, perhaps something resembling parliamentary system). Votes for third parties are a waste, an abuse of privilege, in the system we currently have; they translate to a vote for the candidate the voter wanted least.
#GMLesserEvil #Vote #NoConCon