Tuesday, March 06, 2012

So, this is election day

I plan to do my usual duty today and vote, but the older I get the more I realize that voting is to politics what picking a boat ramp is to a fishing trip. What matters most is what happens on the lake, and too many people get way to excited about boat ramps. In the end it really does not matter which ramp you take as long as you have a boat to steer.

I wish I could get as excited as some and encourage friends to go vote while extolling the virtues of the ballot. But I cannot. The choices seem slimmer than ever and the process seems devoid of enchantment. While winning candidates may not always be preselected and assured, the agenda and the policies are already won, and most of the time they are not predisposed to favor the common good.

Lord knows it's not that I do not appreciate the idea of free elections, but our elections seem to recede from the concept of freedom every year the cash cows of campaign finance get fatter. George Carlin judged our elections about as significant as choosing paper or plastic, and I don't believe his judgment was too harsh.

Elections can either be stolen rapid-fire by dictators, seized by shock-and-awe juntas, or they can be slowly tortured toward death by 1,000 slices. The US system seems to tilt toward the latter. Candidates are dragged down to the bottom by campaign finance and masses seem more attuned to voting for American Idol than for an American future.

So, perhaps we get the candidates we deserve, and I should not be so harsh on the candidates fielded. All I know is that I identify more with the large majority who do not go to the polls on days like this, and primarily I see through the eyes of those who conclude that their votes do not make a difference. Let the cheerleaders pronounce the slim margins in election results as evidence that elections do matter. As if your single vote for paper, sending plastic packing tilts the scales towards a balance of power.

The real question is not the margin of victory but whether there was a real difference in the governing philosophies of the candidates at all. Allow me case in point or two: the very slim margin between the due process/torture/detention policies of George W. Bush and those of Barack Obama; or how about a Metro Nashville School Board that seems to have become more conservative even after Republican home-schooling ideologue Kay Brooks was voted off (Brooks would have voted to privatize service jobs and she favors charter schools).

The real action of politics happens not on election day but out on the lake: it happens every other day between now and next election day. That's where we can make more of a difference as long as we stay politically attuned, active, and engaged. If you believe you should go vote, then vote, but I will not try to convince any wavering souls that there is come-to-Jesus power in the ballot.

Obviously, I am not a devout believer. If you are looking for motivation for today, sorry, but you will not find the daily devotional here. I simply go to vote like I mow my yard: because I should.


UPDATE: blogging former CM Jamie Hollin has a more nuanced take than mine on whether voting matters this Super Tuesday. Voting for president: doesn't matter. Voting locally: not a game changer; his one caveat: voting for judges today does matter as "the last remaining direct influence one can have in local matters of autonomy".

I have to acknowledge that Jamie Hollin's 2-vote win over Pam Murray for the District 5 council in 2009 may have been one of the few elections that I can remember where local voting made a difference in governance. Compare Hollin's council record to Murray's: the differences are stark, and we were all better off with Hollin than with Murray.

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