Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day 2010

Today is election day. I strongly urge to go out and vote. I say that no matter your politics - one of the most important things you can do as a citizen is to actually voice your opinion at the ballot box. Unfortunately, most of us, as private citizens, don't have the kind of money to really influence our politicians. We don't have the social pressure either. What we do have, however, is a large group effect - that is to say, the one power that we do have is to vote into office people we like, and do not vote for those we don't want. Now, the sad thing is, in most races you're going to be choosing between the lesser of two evils, and for the foreseeable future, that's the nature of the game.

So why vote? Well, it's your one true option for putting action to your opinions. It is the rare one of us that is invited to speak in a public forum, and much less than that are invited to appear on TV (in fact, most of us are far too moderate and reasonably-minded to get on TV...we don't make for good ratings). So, aside from standing on a street corner or attending your local poetry jams, you've got the option of voting your conscience, and thus, in some small way, holding your politicians accountable. The real trouble comes when your only other option for an office is so, so much worse...to my mind, that recalls Harry Reid and Sharron Angle. I've been highly disappointed with Reid most of the time...but Angle...Best of luck, Nevada.

Let's consider a little bit of the atmosphere today, and what it could mean for the future, after the jump.

By almost all the polls out there, today is supposed to be a bloodbath for the Democrats. They're expected to lose the House and potentially the Senate (though probably not). A lot of the governor races are close, and the news is slightly better there, but in many cases, slightly better means, "You might not lose!" How has it come to this? Two years ago, Obama rode on a groundswell of voting and actually captured a lot of young voters. The Democrats rode into power as well in 2006 and have stayed in power for four years. For Democrats, in this day and age, that's pretty good. There's a reason why there's a mantra about the Democrats always finding a way to screw up their own election, clutching defeat from the jaws of victory, and all that. But how did it happen?

Well, first an interesting point. According to most polls, people actually prefer Democrats to Republicans, in pure opinion. When you start asking people which way they're going to vote, though, most lean Republican. What does that mean? Well, on the face of it, it means that even though most people don't prefer the Republicans, they're tired of the Democrats, and in this country, that almost always means you have to vote Republican. People are angry - they see the economy as stagnant, unemployment too high, and a lot of people feel that Obama focused too much on the grand ideas (health care and the like) without first fixing the economy.

That's an interesting point, and one that I go back and forth on. One the one hand, I'm incredibly disappointed in the financial reform bill - it's got too many loopholes and does nothing to actually fix the underlying system. On the other hand, now that we're living in a country that requires a super-majority to get anything passed (wait until the Republicans take control again...that word will more than likely disappear for the simple reason that Democrats don't have the sort of party-line unity Republicans can muster, and a lot of them are actually pretty willing to compromise. I mean, seriously, check out the Rep's "YouCut" website. They maintain records of the voting on their issues, just check out the numbers), it's unlikely that Obama could ever have gotten anything near good enough through Congress. That's disappointing, but it's the world we live in. So, Republicans get to crash the economy and then blame Obama for not fixing it fast enough and use the crash itself as a platform to get re-elected. It's a bit sickening, really. They also get to use the TARP funds, which were the previous administration's idea originally, to hammer at Obama and the Democrats in general. Now, I'm not a huge fan of TARP. I realize that some bailout was probably necessary, but I don't like how the money was handed out, with not strings attached.

So we have an angry populace upset with the way the administration is handling the situation, who are likely to vote the Republicans back into power, regardless of their previous record. This seems like a dangerous situation, and if they do gain power again, I'll guarantee that their first order of business is eliminating everything the Democrats have tried to get passed since they took office. Farewell, any thoughts of a regulated health insurance industry, farewell financial regulation, farewell any sort of fiscal responsibility (not that the Democrats have really got a hold on that either, but letting some of the tax cuts expire would be a pretty smart move. The other, smartest move, that no one is willing to make - cut the Defense budget. It's way...way...over-bloated, and for what?)

Unfortunately, we can expect the House to go Republican, and maybe the Senate as well, and then watch whatever small baby steps in a more liberal direction we've taken in the past few years get immediately cut off. And then we have to ask, what will the Democrats have learned? If they decide that their problem was that they were too liberal, and they should be more like the Republicans...well, that's just a sad, sad state of things. Especially considering that many of the seats in the House that are up for grabs are more "moderate" Democrats, this would have been maybe their first chance to actually present a good, liberal, face. The other thing that they may learn is that when they say they're going to change the system, to fix some of the most basic problems, maybe they should actually make that case, forcefully, and often, until the myths and lies from the opposition party are actually exposed. Offer the hand of compromise, yes, but at this point it's rather clear the Republicans want nothing to do with you. John Boehner is gloating right now that this is not the time for compromise, and if they win, you can expect none of it from the Republicans. After the first few times they smacked your hand down (and let's be honest...they did it on basically everything you ever brought to the floor), well, maybe it was time to move on without them. I know which one is more likely, and sadly, I think it's the worse choice.

This doesn't have to be the case, however. Only around a third of the eligible voting populace is actually expected to go to the polls today. It's only a little past noon on the East Coast right now, and you have time to go and make your voice heard. Massive effects can be made by small individuals, each taking part in a collective action, so, I implore you, exercise your hard-earned rights, and vote.

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