Saturday, August 07, 2010

I Chose Not To

I made a conscientuous decision a few weeks back. I chose not to vote. It's the first time I've missed a primary or general election since August 2000, when I didn't know I was supposed to cast a ballot then (I had voted in the Presidential Primary in February and didn't realize the other primary was in August for state and federal candidates).

It's not anything major. Right now I'm leaning toward not voting in the fall, which even though that isn't major either, a general election bears greater weight than a primary. Even that would not be newsworthy in and of itself.

It is cliche to be "disenchanted" with our political system, or just our politics. But I am. It's nice to think that I can somehow distinguish myself from anyone else, but I'm only human. I can only react to what is real and what I know.

I can thank the writers at "Freakonomics" for the beginning of this, and the aftermath of the 2008 election for the second part. I read an article from one of their blogs that was reproduced for the book's 2nd edition that talked about two economists who were embarassed to see each other at the polls voting. Why? Because in terms of economics, the vote you cast individually does not change the outcome of an election.

It is very rare that an election has a 1-vote difference. It has never happened in a popular vote in a Presidential election (even the winner in the Electoral College has to win 270 votes out of 538 to be elected President, a minimum two-vote difference). I'm unaware of any state Governor having won an election by one vote (although Marcus Morton won the Governorship of Massachusetts by two votes in 1839). I could be wrong, but no sitting US Senator since 1917, after the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed, has won his/her seat by one vote. The only US House seat won by a one-vote margin happened in Buffalo, NY. In 1905.

Even as I write, there apparently was a one-vote victory in the GOP Primary for the 1st US Congressional District in Michigan, with Dr. Dan Benishek edging out State Sen. Jason Allen by just one vote. That will however change as a recount HAS to take place. That's my home district by the way.

The other elected offices? Have there been one-vote victors? Certainly. For sheriff, city council, commissioner, drain commissioner, and township clerk, etc. You get the picture. But those are small potatoes compared to the size and scope of Congressional, Gubernatorial, and Presidential elections.

Had I voted, let's say in the Republican Primary, I would have voted for Rick Snyder. I probably would have voted for Jason Allen because I am familiar with him, and I don't lend credibility to the Tea Party movement, as they've backed Benishek. So the outcome would have been a tie in that race, but not for long as recounts would have probably one candidate a narrow lead, even if it was only by less than 100 votes. Races that close have to be recounted for the sake of the election's integrity.

On the other hand, if I had voted in the Democratic Primary, I would have voted for Andy Dillon, who was trounced at the polls. Since you can't cross over in primaries, I would have had only a few choices in the remaining offices because there aren't a lot of Democrats who run for office in northeast Michigan/Montmorency County.

Now, the 2008 aftermath. I voted for McCain. It wasn't a vote for Sarah Palin. I was less skeptical of her in 2008, for sure. I have to admit, I read up on her before a lot of others and had initially thought she might make for an interesting VP candidate. I thought she would add some spark to the campaign, which they got. Ever since, I have become to think of her as someone addicted to celebrity (and probably milking the presidential speculation for all it's worth even though she'll never run).

You can blame McCain for running a poor campaign, but truth be told, George W. Bush cost him the presidency. Twice. I voted for McCain in 2000. I was a McCainiac. I had secretly hoped Bush would have lost in 2000 so that McCain could have ran in 2004 (because in either 2000 or 2004, McCain would have likely defeated Gore given the economy).

Barack Obama would have been an afterthought. The media loved him, but they loved George W. Bush the same way in 2000. It's the same way they seemed to like Clinton in 1992, and Reagan in 1980. These things have a way of swinging back and forth.

But they were clearly biased towards Obama the last time around. I thought very little of Obama. I thought even less of the Cult of Obama. The posters, the graphics, and stencils with the profile at the perfect angle with words like "Hope" and "Change." Barack Obama is NO AGENT OF CHANGE.

When I looked back on the 2008 election, I think, why is my generation so enamored by this guy? To me, he's another Bush. Plain and simple. Partly due to forces beyond his control (like historical and economic). But really, he's not this radical departure from the Bush years.

Today I don't hate him. If I give in to practicality, I'd vote for him over Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee. But I hated the way the media let him define the election and define McCain without allowing McCain to return the favor. All they did was link a decorated Viet Nam war veteran to a draft-dodging prepster simply via party affiliation.

McCain stood in the way of many of Bush's initiatives, even when his popularity was in the 70s and 80s back in 2002 and 2003. Aside from the Iraq War, McCain had opposed Bush on his tax policies, embryonic stem cell research, prescription drug benefit program under Medicare, campaign finance reform, etc. McCain did more to oppose Bush than any Democratic leader on Capitol Hill. And we all listened Obama link McCain to Bush and allowed ourselves to believe him.

So I didn't drink the Obama Kool-Aid. Maybe it's not the system, just our state of politics that has disenchanted me. We're called "Millenials," but maybe a better name is Generation Suck.

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