Sunday, March 23, 2014

Voting

Partly because I did not become a U.S. citizen until age 27, voting has always been a problematic experience for me. You get indoctrinated with the idea that all responsible citizens must vote, yet I am rarely able to muster much enthusiasm for any candidates, and, more significantly, I have little idea what, if anything, they would do in office or whether it would in fact be good for society.

There are exceptions, though, such as Bernie Sanders, and he presents a different set of problems. As a socialist, he comes closer to my political beliefs than most, but in reality he seems to be an ineffectual political leader in Washington, because he is so far out of the mainstream that he has no power base there. Thus, if you only want to hear pointed speeches that you agree with, he's fine, but don't expect any positive changes to come out of it.

Part of my cognitive dissonance is related to the fact that I have moved around quite a bit over my life and have never had a sense that I belong to any particular community. I don't feel very English, nor do I have an American identity after living here for 57 years. I didn't say the pledge of allegiance in high school, and I have always found phrases like "the American dream" slightly repugnant. Besides this, I am an ideas person, and politics is a messy process where emotion plays a greater part than reason.. Politics doesn't attract people who interest me.

The only political candidates that I've ever spent much time assessing have been the presidential ones. In hindsight, that was a waste of time. I voted for John Anderson in 1980, Ronald Reagan in 1984, skipped in 1988 because I disliked both George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and Jill Stein in 2012. In any case, I don't think that any of the presidents elected in my lifetime were good presidents. That isn't entirely their fault, though, since the political system itself has many shortcomings.

What I am trying to decide now is whether to continue voting. There is a lot weighing against it. Unless a much stronger candidate than any who has emerged since Franklin D. Roosevelt runs, I may skip voting for president. On the other hand, I may make a token vote for Bernie Sanders if he runs for president, though he could never win and would probably be a disaster if he did win. I will continue to vote in Vermont elections, because they are more palpable, and I tend to agree with Vermont politicians more than the politicians elsewhere.

I will definitely vote in all Middlebury elections, because there is a real community here with which I'm vaguely connected. We recently had a classic town and gown tussle over the ceding of land to Middlebury College in exchange for funding for a new town hall. The local anti-intellectual farmers had signs up on our street encouraging people to vote against it, but we voted for it, and it passed, though it is still being challenged. When the deciding vote is 955 to 731, you can make a difference as a voter. And the results will be visible.

As noted in earlier posts, I don't think that democracy in the U.S. works. That has a lot to do with the fact that it was designed as an alternative to monarchies and despotic systems in which people are oppressed. In the developed world, democracy has evolved into a problematic system because of its incorporation of capitalistic principles that have taken on the characteristics of a virus. Try as they might, the Founding Fathers were unable to write a constitution assuring a permanent balance between democratic governance and economic gain. The virus has mutated and now seems to have a stranglehold on the political body. In this regard, Vermont is faring better than most states.

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