Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Voting is Not Like Buying A Pair of Shoes or A New Car

Three odd things I have recently noticed (again) when people talk politics, both in the media and in private lives:

The first has to do with the idea that voting is just like buying a new car or a pair of shoes!  If you decide not to make the purchase, you won't have to pay for it.  So it's all OK.

But voting is NOT like buying a new car.  If you don't vote in a political election you get someone ruling over you anyway, and if that person causes havoc the fact that you didn't vote for him or her makes no difference.  The consequences are there.  You pay for the shoes or the car and someone else picks them out for you.

It's also true that the American political system throws a humongous number of votes down the toilet and then flushes it, while happily telling us who the winner in each state was.  I get that voters become discouraged about that, but the answer is not to take a consumerist stance.

The second odd thing has to do with judging political candidates as "deserving" to lose because of bad campaigning or bad debate performance or similar ultimately non-essential aspects. 

Even that is OK if the task is to judge campaigning performance.  But when someone happily crows about a candidate "deserving to lose" they might spend a minute considering the fact that the political platform of that candidate then also loses, whether it deserves to lose or not, and that all those whom the platform would have helped more are among those losers.

I think both of these odd things (and several others) have to do with a confusion between our role as consumers and as citizens.  The former gets practiced all the time, the latter not so often.  But the media is not helping when they focus on the horse race aspect of politics.  The underlying policy questions are the crucial ones, after all, and I, for one, prefer to have a clumsy performer of the platform I prefer to a slick performer of the platform I frequently visit in my nightmares.

The third odd thing is not about voter or journalist behavior but about the way politicians offer us false dualistic choices.  For instance,  the Republicans tell us that women want jobs and a better economy for themselves and their families, not reproductive rights.

But reproductive rights don't clash with policies which push for jobs and such.  Indeed, providing women with reproductive rights is almost costless, as policies go, and the provision of free or subsidized contraceptives to poor women would save the government money in the long run (thus decreasing the deficit!).

We are asked to look elsewhere, pretty much.

Perhaps at the awfulness of the government subsidy to public television and radio?  The money that could be saved by killing Big Bird is miniscule.  The loss of information and childhood education would have an immense cost.  But the killing of public television is dear to the conservative hearts and the hunt goes on and on. 

The same reason applies to women's reproductive rights.  Conservatives don't want women to have those rights, and that's why women are told that they must choose between jobs and reproductive rights.  Because the Republicans don't want women to have the latter.