Friday, October 26, 2012

Planning for the election

Am I the only one desperate to put this election behind us?  Just imagine ... we'll be able to watch a YouTube video without getting interrupted by attack ads.  We'll be able to log into Facebook without seeing dozens of memes making fun of things we or other people believe.  We'll probably even be able to find other things to talk about besides politics!

You guys, it's gonna be great.

Meanwhile, I have to get ready.  Would you believe, I've never voted in an actual poll in a major election?  I always voted absentee before.  I first walked into a poll to vote for the Republican primary a few months ago.  Now what I know what our polling location looks like.  On the other hand, we were the only people there.  I imagine presidential elections are a lot more crowded!

A big problem with elections is that most people really do think of it as "the presidential election."  But in most areas, there will be several other things on the ballot.  Do you know what yours will contain?  I found a list of the people and issues I'll be voting on here.  Check yours so you're not caught flatfooted!

 Here in Virginia's Sixth District, we will be voting for one Senator, one Representative, and two ballot initiatives.  For senator, we can choose between George Allen and Tim Kaine.  For Representative, we can choose the incumbent, Bob Goodlatte, or the challenger, Andy Schmookler.  Our first ballot initiative is about limiting eminent domain.  Currently, the government may seize our property not only for public use, but to give to corporations in order to "stimulate the economy."  The referendum will limit the use of eminent domain to seizures for public use only.  The second initiative will let the state legislature delay opening its session for a week in case their usual first week contains a holiday.

The first initiative, I'll be voting yes on.  I think it's unfair to seize property from one individual and give it to another one with more money.  In fact I don't care much for eminent domain at all, though I do see the point where it comes to roads, for instance.  The second initiative isn't at all important to me, but if the state legislature wants holidays off, I see no reason to say no.

The senator and representative are tougher to choose.  I've been reading through their websites for days.  I don't just want to vote along party lines -- mainly because neither party represents me at all -- but the candidates appear that they do just vote along party lines.  Other than their party, there is very little to distinguish them.  One has rhetoric that will appeal to liberals, the other rhetoric that will appeal to conservatives.  So when one says, "The environment is Virginia's most precious resource," I nod my head and say, "Yes, definitely.  So I should vote for this guy."  But then the other says, "I want to make it easier to start up a small business and put Virginians back to work," and I say, "Oh, never mind.  Work is important too!   I should vote for him!"

George Allen seems like a nice guy.  But what in the world do I have to go on besides the fact that the rhetoric he uses appeal to me?  Sure, I check everyone's voting record at On the Issues.  But there are so many issues.  I watched a debate between Schmookler and Goodlatte and I seriously changed who I was favoring every time someone's time limit ended!  They both sound so intelligent, so sympathetic to my concerns, so willing to do the right thing!

And when it comes down to it, it doesn't even matter what they think or whether they seem like nice guys.  In reality, the only thing that matters is how they vote.  And I know how things work in the legislature.  No one says, "This law was defeated because Senator X doesn't believe in Y issue."  They say, "Well, this year the Democrats will get everything they want because they hold a majority in both houses."  It doesn't matter who the individual legislator is.  They all vote along party lines almost all the time.  This is why I was told that, even as a single-issue voter, I couldn't vote for a pro-life Democrat because he'd vote along party lines anyway.  It was better to vote for a pro-choice Republican because he could be counted on to vote where he was told to.

This, of course, killed any hope the pro-life movement had, because as soon as you vote for people regardless of whether they support your issue, you remove any incentive for them to support your issue.

There's just so much going into it, you know?  On the one hand, I want to vote for those who say things I agree with and not vote for those who don't, because I want to encourage them to say those things.  But that's no good if it doesn't match their voting record.  And I want to withhold my vote from anyone who supports one of my dealbreakers -- like abortion or unjust war -- but they ALL do that.  Every candidate supports at least one thing which I consider unconscionable.

The reason for this, of course, is that they vote along party lines, and no party stands for me.  This one supports killing unborn babies; that one supports killing unarmed Iranians.  This one says we aren't even going to bother fixing the deficit until the economy recovers (and it won't if they go on this way); that one says we should be worried about the deficit but is constantly voting for more expenditures.  This one voted for the PATRIOT act, that one voted for TARP.

It is possible that some candidates of a given party are better than others.  I know there are pro-liberty candidates up for election -- but are any of them in Virginia?  I don't know; I don't know how to find out.  I do know Bob Goodlatte co-sponsored SOPA, a very anti-liberty move if you ask me.  But I only know because John told me.  It's not like he says so on his website.

I consoled myself in the presidential elections with the knowledge that the president doesn't make law.  But you know who does?  Legislators.  And they're just as bad.  I'm finding this choice is even harder than choosing whom to choose for president -- because there are fewer options and less information available.

Yet my choice could make a difference.  I believe both of these elections are tossups.  What if I vote for Goodlatte and he helps pass some awful internet-censorship law?  Or what if I vote Schmookler and he helps run us into economic collapse?  As far as abortion goes, how do I know which choice will result in fewer abortions?  That's not a trick question.  Of course the Republican might vote for some abortion restrictions.  But will it prevent total abortions?  For instance, the partial-birth abortion ban didn't prevent a single abortion.  It just caused abortionists to choose other methods.  It's a way for legislators to gain pro-life cred and for voters to feel that they really made some progress by preventing a particularly nasty way of killing babies.

Meanwhile, Democrats are constantly insisting that the only way to reduce abortions is by making sure there is enough help available that mothers will never need an abortion.  Which sounds great except that women do still get abortions for non-economic reasons, and anyway, I'm not sure it's actually possible to provide so much aid that being a single mother won't be a financial burden anymore.  Considering the sheer number of single mothers, if all of them are on welfare, who will pay into the system?  But if they aren't all on welfare, that means every single mother has to do two jobs, all the parenting plus all the wage-earning.  Free daycare might help, but it doesn't solve the problem.  All the same, I'm sure more help might reduce the number of abortions, which is something the Republicans haven't managed to do in all this time.

On a third hand, if better economic conditions would help prevent abortions, hadn't we better try to fix the whole economic system rather than do a patch job?  And to do that, won't we need to balance the budget, end the Fed, and have a stable currency?  And neither party wants to do that.

I don't want to be one of those people who walks into the poll only thinking of their presidential choice, and they pick random candidates for the other offices, based on their party affiliation or even the sound of their name.  If I am uninformed, I won't vote.  It's that simple.  Unless I have some clear idea of who would be better, it is unfair to the other voters to walk into that poll and skew the numbers by voting based on a hunch, a prejudice, or a poorly-researched opinion.

But I really could make a difference and I really do want to vote.  The problem is, the current situation makes it very difficult to know whom to choose.


Belfry Bat said...

I'm tempted to say "this democracy is broken; please send it back to the factory" --- without, I must hasten to add, the least bit of smug, smirk, nor snark; for you may recall that my own home democracy is rather limp. It's funny you mention roads in relation to Eminent Domain, for if you'll recall The Napoleon of Notting Hill...

Only, I can't quite remember where "the factory" was; maybe they've closed since then?

Belfry Bat said...

(oh, it's s.g.o.t.s, of course ... I keep forgetting about those radio buttons...)

Mary said...

I too look forward to IT being over! :) This particular election season has been exhausting. So much contention and hostility. And we're supposed to be the United States. Not the divided states. Hopefully when this is done, both sides can find a way to work together? Is that too much to hope for? I hope not. Here in Oregon, we vote by mail. The voter's pamphlet came in the mail 2 weeks ago, and our ballots came last week. So many referendums to research and so many candidates and opinions to know! I think i know who i want.. but there's still time to change my mind. (These days, i do that a lot.)....

Sheila said...

I know, Mary. I feel like we're falling into the trap the parties and candidates have laid for us, trying to make us think we disagree with each other, and painting the other side as horrible and scary. What WILL the world COME to if the other side wins? There might not even BE another election, etc. etc. When in reality, I probably agree with every single one of my readers, liberal or conservative, more than I do with any of the candidates.

Yes, s.g.o.t.s., it is quite broken. I would like a new one please. Jefferson knew democracies tended to degrade, which is why he said a little revolution from time to time was a good thing. That's why we have so many enumerated freedoms that are supposed to make it possible for us to change the system when we need to. Unfortunately these freedoms are undermined more and more so the system is very difficult to change now. You'd better believe the leaders of this country don't want a revolution; they don't want anything that would upset the nice little setup they've got.

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