Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Voting Reality

I just came across a Facebook post linking to a Glenn Greenwald article titled, "Vote Obama – if you want a centrist Republican for US president." Knowing Greenwald's work, I declined to read the Guardian article. But I did rebut my Facebook friend who'd commented on his post with, "I've been saying this all along."

My response:  "Sure, you can say that. But if you DON'T vote Obama, you'll have an extreme right wing conservative Republican to take his place. And you'll have no one to thank but yourself."

The reality is that, whether we like it or not, we participate in a two party system.

I picked up a book that everyone should read, but unfortunately it's out of print. Still, look for it on Amazon or a used book store... maybe even the public library. It's called "Why I Am A Democrat" written by Ted Sorensen. The same Ted Sorensen who was President John F. Kennedy’s special counsel, adviser and speechwriter. And the main reason why I responded to my friend the way I did, was eloquently written by Sorensen just 11 pages into his book, published in 1996, at the height of the Newt Gingrich controlled House of Representatives. Substitute a name here and there, and it could have been written yesterday. I'm including it here because no amount of paraphrasing can do it justice. (Emphasis mine.)

...I have always deemed it an obligation of citizenship to cast a vote for that better major party candidate, however deeply disappointed I may have been for some of his positions or actions and however skeptical I may have been about any likely improvement.
I understand why many people find voting the lesser of two evils objectionable. But it is necessary to remind ourselves that voting for a third-ticket candidate with no reasonable prospects of victory can only help the "more evil" of the two major candidates become President.
Nor are the two presidential candidates ever equally "evil" - or equally "good." Any voter who reads or listens with care can discern important differences in how they would behave in moments of crisis and in whom each would appoint to high office, important differences in how each would lead and would react to the failures and frustrations of leadership. In some election years, these differences may seem small and the choice unappealing. But a choice must be made.
Moreover, Independent candidates - with or without temporary tailor-made third parties - who say they are "above" politics or who substitute personal piety and pleasing platitudes for hard decisions on controversial political issues are usually either naive or hypocritical and would almost certainly be doomed to failure in the Oval Office. Deadlocks and delays in Washington and the inadequate response to knotty problems like the decline in family economic security are not simply the result of failed personalities, waiting to be reminded by personal strength and charm. I do not want to be "rescued" from politics by a white knight unable or unwilling to balance a ticket, make a deal, form a coalition, compromise a policy, trade a favor, and displease a lot of people. Politics, with all its need for reform, is still the fiber with which democracy is woven, the grease that enables the wheels of government to turn, the cement that binds a diverse and disparate country. Most members of Congress will not long listen to a President who constitutionally lacks the legal authority to lead without them and politically lacks the practical tools to lead with them.
If an independent or third party candidate - or, worse yet, several of them - did in fact win enough states to block an electoral vote majority, for either major party nominee, the President would be chosen by the House of Representatives on a one state, one vote basis, a surefire route o an undemocratic, bitterly divided process that would leave the winner with a faint mandate and a fragmented nation.
There is still another option for disaffected voters: stay home on election day in order to send a message of protest. But that "message" is not distinguishable from those sent by 100 million others, most of whom are not protesting or disgusted or disillusioned, but simply too busy or lazy, too ill informed or unconcerned, too tired or far from home, to go to the polls. Disappointed protesters failing to vote, only help the candidate whom they would most protest, while increasing within their own party the proportionate influence of those who disappointed them.
So with respect to all the Greenwalds and the Hamshers, et al, the choices are not the same. Listen and read what President Obama is talking about. Listen and read what the prospective Republican nominees are currently talking about. How can you say they're both the same?

Can we please stop with that "both sides are the same" meme? Look at any of the Republican candidates and ask yourself if any of them would have repealed DADT, passed health care legislation, ended the Iraq War, passed consumer finance reform, and the myriad of other things that have been accomplished under President Obama's watch. It's a no-brainer, folks.


Anonymous said...

Obama "ended the Iraq War"?! In what universe do you live? The troops left on the timeline set by Bush. Obama tried to extend it but failed because Iraq refused to continue to grant immunity to troops.

Broadway Carl said...

President Obama honored the agreement that neocons like Cheney and their ilk were all too willing to reneg on, hence the right wing criticism and wingnut freak out at the announcement.

Iraq War over. On Obama's watch. End of story. Deal with it.