November 2, 2012


Does anyone vote for things anymore, or do most folks vote against things? In an increasingly polarized world, it is perhaps not surprising that many people vote according to what they fear rather than what they want.

So, we're in the culmination of another US Presidential election cycle. I find myself in the usual condition of not particularly liking one of the candidates and being dead set against the other. There are some other-party candidates I do actually like, but in our peculiar election system, not voting for a candidate you don't really like, can be a vote for the candidate you cannot stand.

Some of the news stories are very amusing. On the one hand, the Republican Party has been championing voter identification laws, even though there has never been any voter fraud that this would prevent (OK, 10 cases in as many years in a nation of more than 300 million people). On the other hand, several Republican Party officials are under indictment for voter intimidation and election irregularities.

In their single-minded attempt to ruin, delegitimize, invalidate and slander the Obama administration, some politicians will go to any lengths. Some of these lengths are actually illegal and many others are just bad for this country and its people -- for example, trying to ensure that the employment statistics do not significantly improve by stonewalling (filibustering) every piece of jobs creation legislation brought for consideration. They argue that the harm done now will be offset by the great good that will be realized when Obama is out of office.

OK, but what is so bad about Obama? The most obnoxious answer, given by some people, is that he's black, but let's set that aside. He seems to me a most wishy-washy President, who has accomplished comparatively little, compared to his election promises. He certainly has not been a fire-brand for socialism, or any of the other slanders that Fox likes to label him. His administration inherited a colossal mess from the Bush Administration, including two foreign wars and the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Despite a hostile "just say no" legislature, he's done fairly well in responding to the challenges these disastrous legacies posed to his leadership. He has certainly succeeded in not making things worse.

And what is the proposed solution to Obama, the one proposed by the opposing party? They propose to bring back the Bush Administration again, but with more intense ideological conviction. The very policies and operations that created the colossal mess in the first place are now offered as a cure for what is left of the problems they caused. How does that work exactly?

In some cases, Fire Departments will set fires to help put out fires. They're called controlled burns. Sometimes they work. They deny the fire sufficient fuel to sustain itself and it goes out. Some of my friends suggest that Romney/Ryan are such a controlled burn. They think that their policies and programs will make things so much worse that there will be no alternative other than real change: i.e. revolution. Well, I hope I don't see revolution of that kind in my lifetime. I have no desire to see 28-105 million dead Americans, with whoever is left alive in possession of whatever is left of this continent after such a conflict. Some people have a desperate, romantic illusion of a better world from the ashes, but I do not.

It is true, as John F Kennedy said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." And I think that Citizens United and many other things in our recent history have made real, meaningful change, of the kind that is necessary, next to impossible within the context of our current political system. This is why I am in favor of some real and meaningful changes to the political process that can take the lid off that pressure vessel and allow it to come to an equilibrium of change that avoids catastrophic civil war.

The 1% group at the top of our pyramid of wealth will have to accept a worse deal. We are facing a situation just like the one that FDR faced in 1933. His administration ushered in a bushell of change to Federal, State and Local government. But those changes were all within the context of the existing system. When many were calling for the elimination of banks, corporations and many other major institutions, FDR's road was a compromise that kept most things the way they were. Oh, he was vilified by the right-wing media, but his programs for people made him so popular that the rich and powerful had to give way. Those compromises brought about the wealthiest, best educated and most secure generation of Americans we have ever had in our history.

And, I think, that is the essential thing missing from our current conundrum: compromise. Few of our leaders will work together to create something that is a workable solution, unless it means they get this, or don't get that. It ties their hands and their minds, and makes them part of the problem instead of being part of the solution. They become the candidates people vote against, while voting for people they don't really like or agree with. This is how voter apathy happens, which is something we need less of, not more.

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