The first election I got to vote in was 1992. That was the one Bush Sr. lost to Clinton. I remember how excited I was. I felt like I was really making a difference and like I was really making a contribution to society. I was young and my political ideology was still being formed. In honesty, I voted for the wrong candidate then, at least I did based on who I am now.
I’ve been a political fiend my entire life. I watch all the news programs, read internet sites about candidates, politicians, their positions, their beliefs, their short comings, I watch the debates, hell I even tune into the conventions. I’ve always viewed primary elections as playoff time in my world and general elections as the Super Bowls. Anyone who knows politics will tell you local elections make the real difference but in my opinion the national elections are the exciting ones. I guess it’s the difference between high school or college football and the NFL.
Sadly though I just can’t get excited anymore. I find that there are no longer people out there who are trying to get my vote. There’s no candidate working to secure the electorate he doesn’t already have. Instead, we have two political parties, both beholden to special interest groups who have their base, play to that base and then work electoral maps to get just enough districts and just enough states to pull off an election—all without trying to articulate how they’d help anyone who isn’t in their base, all without trying to reach across the middle of the country, all without trying to understand what the other guy is thinking.
It’s easy to wrap yourself in the flag and God, it’s easy to talk about America being the greatest nation in the world, it’s easy to say the other guy is going to screw up America and by screwing up the good ol’ USA also screw up the world. It’s harder to study the other guys point and realize there are some good points in what he’s saying, maybe even recognize that he holds some of the same ideas you do and just acts on them in different ways. It used to be that everyone believed there ideas were right but they were willing to listen, to bend, to compromise. In fact, they had to compromise or nothing would get done. Now though, everyone digs in their heels before they even have a meeting. I’m not even going to talk about what everyone is disagreeing about because it makes me sick—providing healthcare to those that can’t afford it, school lunches and education, whether homosexuals should be able to marry, come on, aren’t we better than that? Shouldn’t everyone have these simple things? Really it doesn’t matter though. We now have politicians who would never try to see it from someone else’s point of view, politicians so entrenched in their thinking they’d never put on the other guy’s shoes let alone walk a mile in them. Can you see Rick Santorum saying, I understand a homosexual is a man and has a basic desire to be married and start a family? No of course you can’t and to be fair, you can’t see Harry Reid saying let’s get rid of the union money in elections.
This isn’t the type of column I usually write and it’s not really right for so close to the end of the year, I have a different one coming out for that next week. It’s just how I’m feeling right now—disgusted by the process of what’s become acceptable as elections, saddened at the vanishing middle of America, maddened by those that call strictly conservative thinking the providence of Middle America. I’m angered that no one wants to work for my vote. I used to be excited by the process, I used to want to participate. It’s not me, I still want those things, it’s the system that’s changed. It’s the machine that no longer wants me to be a part of it. I’m still going to vote but I vote by ruling out people now not from the excitement of being part of something bigger than myself, someone who fought to include me. That’s democracy I guess: Ask not what your country can do for you, in other words, shut up and pull a lever.