Current Smarts: Voting

My dad is Patriotic. Wait, I should have written it like this: CAPITOL P-atriotic. He used to read excerpts from newsletters written by Dobson and Schlafly at the dinner table. He sent me to John Birch camp. He gets tears in his eyes when he talks about the founding fathers. No, I’m not saying you have to be a die-hard Republican to be patriotic. I’m just saying my dad is both.

I can’t tell you how many times we talked about how great America was because it was a democracy and the people got to make the choices that shaped the direction the government went. And I believed it. Pretty much all of it. Until something happened. I turned into a teenager. And because I associated my father with being Republican, and based on that alone, I couldn’t support them anymore. I started watching the debates on TV and I didn’t like them. I turned into a Democrat just to be rebellious.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, while married and living abroad, with my (then)husband fighting the wars and skirmishes that I had no control over (even as a Democrat!) I spent a year or so hating Clinton and wishing for a Republican president. The Germans didn’t want us there. We didn’t want to be there. As far as I could tell, we weren’t doing any good there and I didn’t understand what took so long for us to downsize our presence there. And then, we were downsized and it sucked even more than before because we had to drive twice as long (2 hours in no traffic) for just about any military type service. There was just no pleasin’ me. But, as I understand it, we still have a presence there and probably always will, just like we will in every country we put our people in. We are the friends that don’t know when to go home.

Somewhere during the 90s, I got a bad taste in my mouth about our government and how it worked. Or, didn’t work. I didn’t like the futility I felt in wanting anything to change. I didn’t see how anything could be changed. And I just kind of turned myself off. It didn’t seem to matter who was president or running the house.

In the late 90s, I had a very personal experience with our healthcare system when I tried to get help for my waning mental condition and found that in order to get well, I’d have to move out of California and continually debate my way to proving that I was incompetent in order to qualify for help. Which I eventually did. But it was dehumanizing and for months my depression was mostly about not feeling like a whole or worthwhile person after repeating just how incompetent I was day after day after day. Thankfully, I got the help I needed and am one of the lucky ones. However, my anger and frustration with our government and its Systems is pretty overwhelming. And then you have this war. And Bush being reelected. And why do I even get out of bed in the morning?

All of this is to tell you: I’m not a voter. The last time I voted was in 2004, and I hated it so bad that I immediately tried to purge it from my memory. It feels so WRONG and CONDESCENDING to find out at 1pm that your state has already been counted for one candidate or another when you haven’t even VOTED YET. Futility. But, I still went and cast my vote for the losing team.

By the time a party-approved candidate gets elected to any government position they have made so many promises, accepted so much money from special interests and scratched so many backs that it just seem so altruistic and naive to believe they are still working ‘for the people.’ How could they possibly? And if my only choices are two people that have been ‘party-approved’ and I don’t believe in them, where is my recourse? Why is it always the guy I don’t like or the guy I don’t like more?

I’ve been so ashamed to talk about this. Partly because of the way I was raised and partly because I do so appreciate living in a country where we have a certain amount of freedom. And I think the thing that my soul bridles against is that it feels to me that this whole voting thing we do is a charade, a game, a way for the powers that be to placate us (the little people) into thinking we are doing something, anything, when really we are just spinning our wheels. I also believe that if you are going to complain about something, you better be prepared to do something about it. Stop whining and change it. But in this case, I can’t figure out how to change anything, which has created some kind of immobility on my part. But, if the entire country was filled with people like me, nothing would ever get done and there would be no hope. So doing what I’ve been doing, not voting, can’t be the answer.

I went looking online to see if I was alone in this. I mean, I know that one of the main refrains we hear is that half of America’s people don’t vote and a close second is the youth of today don’t vote. Remember Sean Combs and the Vote or Die/Rock the Vote campaign? He got an additional 4 million voters in that demographic to come out and vote but everywhere you listened, they talked about how that campaign did no good and it was a waste. An additional 4 million votes were a waste? Then what good does my one vote do?

This guy thinks that voting is actually un-American. This guy is celebrating not voting 42 times. . I can see their point, but I don’t agree. Author Jane Haddam has some interesting views in her series. James Clingman wrote something wonderful in the Baltimore Times Online. A few years ago the Center for Voting and Democracy held an essay contest. Here is what the ‘youth’ had to say about why we don’t vote. Steven Hill, in 2002, writes that the youth not voting has nothing to do with them being apathetic, since the trend is for them to be more involved in the community than ever before. This article/class outline talks about how important each vote is going back as far as the election in 1824-25. Here is a frustrated Conservative. Proving that this is in no way a new problem, here is an article from 1976 which includes a nice breakdown of percentages for the time. Also, I didn’t realize that you were fined in other countries for not voting. Australia had a 97% voting turnout (in 1972) in part to avoid paying a $15 fine each. Youth Noise is trying to entice the younger voter. Apparently you can text your friends with voting messages. And they have edgy taglines:

“These are edgy attempts to raise awareness and bring young people into the site and get a better understanding of why it would be important to vote in the midterm elections,” said YouthNoise CEO Ginger Thomson of the ad campaign. By edgy, she means taglines suggesting young adults don’t vote “Because I like rich, old, white men telling me what to do,” “Because I like 90% of my paycheck going to taxes,” and “Because I’m so homophobic I can’t even touch myself.”

There is good information on the AARP’s Don’t Vote site by state. And if you live in California, Easy Voter has your info.

Do you vote? Why or why not?