Well, here we are, approaching the end of an endless race. Seriously, it feels like I’ve been the unwilling receptacle of a streaming fire hose of political mind junk for a solid decade now, and that’s just for the 2012 election. If any of us are hoping to win something from the barrage of the 24-hour news cycle, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were us – and it just so happens that I am.
I think the whole race is about what we could lose, and more importantly, what we hope not to lose. I hate to break it to either set of proponents of the two-party system, but we’re in a lesser of two evils situation. I can make a case either way, but that’s not for me, since there are a million pundits working both sides right now – and for the past 800 million weeks. Given my baseline opinion of the only viable candidates, viable because the two-party system has an iron stranglehold that prevents any other parties from joining the race in a realistic way. Not that it matters; every one of the secondary party candidates can disqualify themselves quite handily, which leaves those of us who would otherwise cast a protest vote without a meaningful target.
Just for the record, I could write a huge honking volume about problems and solutions in the America of 2012. My poor wife gets the brunt of it. But in order to do that, I would have to use footnotes and sources and crap, and honestly, I just prefer to collect ideas and stuff them in corners of my head until they leak out as fiction, which is blessedly free of footnotes.
I suspect that a large number of my readers would happily argue the same side as I would, and that is the sad idea that we are rapidly turning into tiny, ineffectual cogs in a machine that is running out of control. I think the power elite tends to look at us regular citizens as vote batteries for attaining office, money batteries for our fantasy-based economy, and when we can’t be used in those ways, they simply hope to keep us from noticing what they are really doing.
Over the long term, these and many other tendencies coalesce into patterns. Just like the predicted course of a hurricane, the end result of the patterns can end up diverging wildly from where we expected. (I would note at this point how incredibly accurate the Sandy predictions turned out to be. Kudos to our Hurricane Forecast Center) I happen to believe that the balance point of the crossing patterns is relatively fragile, and our metaphorical storm can turn hard with a little push from chaos theory. To borrow another metaphor, our economic engine is way out on the limb, and gets bounced at will by forces that appear to have our best interests in mind only to the extent that we can go back to being fully charged money batteries for those same forces. As a bonus, if we remain happily engaged in the system, we make nice stable vote batteries as well.
As I write, nobody knows how this election will turn out. It’s that close. What does the sheer “dead-heatedness” of our political process say about where we are in this country? Some would talk about political polarization, and that is certainly true. Just looking at my friends on Facebook is enough to build a model for the extreme range of views of our people. I would argue that the statistics say more about the extreme poorness of our choices. It’s far easier to agree “on” something than “against” something. And that’s what we are doing as a nation. We are not able to see something that is clearly favorable to enough people to build a consensus, using good honest information, and so we fall back on the next best thing.
What is the next best thing? Well, that depends. For some of you, it’s easiest just to pick a single issue and decide on that. Anti-abortion says you’re buying Romney. Pro-choice and the stats say you’ll go Democratic more often than not. On the economy, it gets much more complicated to pick the wheat from the chaff. Now you’re forced to pick an economic model, and whichever one you choose means you get a whole truckload of other issues that go with it. What if, for example, you believe in a minimal regulation, free market economy, and you believe in a woman’s right to choose? Well, then you are stuck with deciding which part is the most important. And the list goes on until we have the near perfect polarization of opinion.
What if the belief is just not there? Obama generated a staggering amount of belief in his message four years ago, and we jumped in with both feet. Many of Obama’s believers have experienced bitter disappointed at the startling revelation that, OMG, he’s just another politician speaking from the most expedient side of his mouth. I’m not saying Captain Etch-a-Sketch is any better. He flip flops so often that the only way we will discover what he’s really about is to give him four years to show us. Until we elect our next President, we are stuck with nothing but belief to help us make the call. Obama has his sackful of vague promises, and so does Romney.
What if the party line is good enough? If you happen to believe that Republicans generally do a better job than Democrats, it’s not so hard to convince yourself that any candidate they toss will stick to the fridge like a well-cooked noodle. If you swing the other way, that’s fine too, because if you care to dig, you can easily find that neither party represents any kind of solution for the mess in which we find ourselves, and historically, both sides can lay claim to an endless stream of abuses.
What does it all mean? This grand, faith based, no-good-choice reality… Well, it means that we had all, as individuals, better think long and hard about how to get our own house in order. This country is our house – yours and mine. How do you want it to work? Do you want your leadership bought and paid for? Do we want to pay for Romney’s <cough> 47%, and if so, how do we really pay for it into the future? Are they the Free Shit Army, or brothers and sisters who deserve our care? Do we want most of our goods to be made in China, or do we want to build the best stuff in the world and worry long and hard about how to distribute it to our global customers? Do we want to play games with foreign dictators through loans and billions of dollars in aid, and if so, who can make a case for what we get for those dollars? (By we, I don’t mean the power brokers who set up the arrangements. I mean us.) Do we want to subsidize the entire world’s medical costs by paying the entire “pride of lion’s” share for every pill and procedure – and to live in place where one health problem can destroy a financial life? Do we want bankers to risk everything we entrust to them and then buy them out of trouble with our own tax dollars while none of them even miss a bonus check, much less go down with the legal ship? Do we want our laws and regulations to grow to even more absurd levels of behavior controlling complexity while we all live in fear of some kind of costly non-compliance? Do we accept our liberty being threatened by sneaky maneuvers that benefit corporations with person level rights while the Supreme Court is deciding whether we actually own what we buy? Finally, how do we feel about people who live in waterfront homes and flood prone areas, screaming for government help when a devastating storm comes through? I could go on and on, but you get the point.
It seems raw and cynical in a country of free people that I feel the need to remind myself that we are supposed to have a voice. We are supposed to have some level of control over our political destiny. Do we still possess our voice, our rights, our own thoughts? Or, are we slowly succumbing to a social assault that over years and generations has led us to point where we forget the basics. This country is ours.
As we line up to cast our ballots, some of us will proudly vote for our candidate. I’m a little jealous of those people, because I would love to be voting “for” someone. If I could find someone like that, I assure you I would be telling you who that person is. As it stands, I’m voting for the lesser of evils in my own personal hierarchy of important issues, and at the top of the list is the most basic, fundamental idea of this country of ours. Freedom.
I feel confident that if you start digging without prejudice, you could easily discover who is the biggest threat to fundamental rights and freedom. Thanks, Google!
For all of you, I pray for your own clarity and wisdom in the voting booth, and no matter the outcome, let’s all remember that the first and last line of defense for America is us – the strong, independent, thinking individuals who still have the right of destiny for our great nation. I suggest we hold onto it.