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Two Evils

December 17, 2011

Like the rest of my generation I try to remain apathetic towards politics. I usually take the cynical view that I can’t make a difference anyway, so becoming agitated about politicians and politics won’t do me a bit of good. Politics is like sports and presidential elections are quite similar to the World Cup. It’s four years between any American giving a shit. Obviously I’m talking about your average American here, not the rabid politiphiles that yammer like penguins at a party.

In the back of my mind, I’ve always found it slightly ridiculous that there are two teams, as it were, in American politics. Of course, when I was a kid it seemed reasonable and made sense and I only cared enough to ask my mom which team I was on. But growing up and discovering the complexities of adult life and modern living, it can only be described as a farce to say that all of the people’s interests can be boiled down to these two gargantuan parties. Despite what I tell myself to maintain the emotional distance I need to keep from going insane, politics is nothing like sports. It is not as easy as saying I like the guys in the red shirts with the elephants on their jerseys or I’m supporting the blue-clad lads with the donkey for a mascot. If you can look at one of the two major parties and identify yourself wholly with one or the other then you are not being honest with yourself or you have made a backwards decision, modeling yourself on the party rather than choosing the party that is right for you.

Ask anyone. Walk out on the street and ask anyone passing by, young, old, white, black, rich, homeless, drunk or sober. Ask them and they will undoubtedly tell you that politicians are liars. They are dishonest and shifty and underhanded. They have little to no interest in their constituents unless it can get them votes. It is a universal and it is an old truth. It doesn’t matter what party: politicians are liars. It is similar to the public perception of lawyers. Of course there a couple of good lawyers, honest and true, and I’m sure the same holds true for politicians as well, but on the whole they are not to be trusted.

They have little incentive to be honest. Mr. Smith could never have made it to Washington in reality, at least in the reality I have grown up in. He would have never have raised enough money to mount a campaign against his rivals. Sure, he may have had more individual donors, working people that believed in him and gave to his cause whether they could afford to or not. But his rival would have the backing and the infinite supply of funds provided by big business and global corporations. His rival would have the money to saturate the public perception with an image of Mr. Smith as a bumbling stutterer without the savvy to navigate the treacherous straits of the political arena. Mr. Smith would try his best: shake hands, kiss babies, show up at community events, attract volunteers to man the phones, put up as many yard signs as he could afford and give as many interviews as he was asked for. But the poll numbers would still show him behind. His campaign manager, a veteran political strategist, would advise him that he needs more money if he really wants to win. After a few nights of soul-searching and possibly prayer, Mr. Smith, in his earnest desire to help the constituents, agrees to meet with the big business types that can fund his run for office. He agrees to ally himself with a party in order to pursue his goals. It is in this moment that Mr. Smith, the earnest do-gooder with a genuine interest in making the world a better place, it is the moment of acceptance of the way things are that Mr. Smith ceases to exist. His life becomes a series of compromises made to get elected so that he can help. But he never has the time to push for the social change that needs to happen because as soon as one campaign is over, that is when the next one begins. The big business he has cozied up to does not like his ideas about the importance of the poor, elderly and the working class and in order to maintain their favor he must temper his language and actions. The party he has allied himself with does not agree with his views on education and healthcare and they stymie his efforts to push legislation through, going so far as to threaten the funding they have allotted him through various loopholes and “Political Action Committees”, which at best can be described as washing machines for donations. They threaten to recant the endorsements of the party leaders. In order to stay in office, Mr. Smith must satisfy the whims of those that put him there and to defy them would be to commit political suicide. Of course by now he has forgotten why he wanted to be in office in the first place and only remembers that he wanted to be. His good intentions rot along with his soul and he becomes a prune-faced tool of the moneyed backers he swore at one time to fight.

Of course, the voters could have chosen the other guy, the guy who had no problem shaking hands with the bloodied hands of global corporate bigwigs and embraced his party’s line like glutton with a bucket of fried chicken. But what would it have mattered? How is one party better than the other? Can the voters really share core values with one prostitute over the other?[1] The interests of both parties in our country ultimately rest in the hands of the same people, those with money. I am not saying it is bad to have money, I am saying it is ridiculously ineffectual in a representative democracy to let such a small percentage of the population hold such a large sway over the outcomes of our elections. It is ridiculous that we allow them to continue to perpetuate this charade of choice, when it is obvious that choice has very little to do with it. Think of the choices you have to make in your life, be they big or small. Does it ever come down to just two? Does it ever come down to just two nearly identical choices? Don’t say Coke or Pepsi because you have about a thousand other choices of cola than that. It is like a person saying “I am not going to go to Starbucks anymore. I don’t agree with their politics. I am going to go down the street to the Seattle’s Best Coffee.” Both are owned by Starbucks. The choice was negligible. We would be better off having a computer randomly select office-holders from qualified pools of candidates. Or throwing darts at a board. Or letting loose a thousand balloons with candidates names on them and shooting them down. Whichever comes down first the winner.

What is the point of all this, you wonder. You have probably heard all this before. You have probably said all this before. Politicians are worthless and Republican or Democrat is just picking between two devils. The point is this: there is another choice. We can vote them all out. We can vote for whoever we want. For reals. That’s the way it works. If we all wanted Johnny Depp to be president he could be. If you wanted your hot neighbor to be your representative in the city council, they could be; start a write-in campaign. Voting for people that are not part of the two parties is not a dumb idea. Although I’m sure you’ve heard otherwise. But you hear otherwise from, you guessed it, the two parties. Voting for the person that most represents you and your beliefs, that is a good idea. If everyone voted that way, we might find ourselves a lot better off and not constantly puzzling over the fucking idiotic decisions that come out of the halls of power. What would be the worst that could happen? A bunch of the two-partiers get voted out? Not so bad. Maybe some new people that haven’t had the integrity sucked out of them come to power? That sounds okay to me. I for one am sick of believing that it doesn’t matter and nothing can be done and I must vote for one of the two evils. I can vote for whoever I want and I am going to. No vote is a wasted vote if you are voting for what you think is best.


[1] I am in no way denigrating prostitutes, except perhaps by comparing them to politicians. A prostitute is much more honest than a politician.

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