First, this post needs a little background.
Background study #1:
On a random August Thursday at work, spending some quality time on Facebook, I stumbled onto that Presidential quiz. You know the one. The one where you answer questions about social, economic, and foreign matters. The one that spits out a map of how much you identify with each presidential candidate. The one that tells you: “Here, we boxed you up into nothing more than statistics and this is who you should vote for. Thanks for playing.”
If I hadn’t been at work, and therefore nearly bored to tears at 0300 am, I would have skipped right over this Facebook post. Because I had done them before. I knew what they would say. My answer is always the same:
Congrats! You are socially liberal. Congrats! You are fiscally conservative. And, since it’s split nearly 50/50, we don’t know who the fuck you should vote for either. But best of luck to you!
And the answer was again the same on this boring August night. I was still socially liberal. I was still fiscally conservative. But I was finally given a third answer. An 80% match. To some guy named Gary Johnson, who I was embarrassed to admit to (as a well-read, educated, current news junkie) having never really heard of. And so I Googled him. And became intrigued. And then I let all of the feelings about these sorts of things marinate for a while.
Background study #2:
On a random September evening, I watched the first episode of The Newsroom, a show that was recommended to me by various people. The short clip below was in the first episode, and it is nothing short of phenomenal. It basically says, in about three minutes time, every political thing I had been letting marinate as I followed Romney and Obama tramp all over the country, promoting their ideas not nearly as often as I saw them belittling each other.
(In the scene, the three panelists are on a college campus. They have all been asked the question (by the blonde girl in the audience) “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” The woman panelist has been answering in liberal terms, the man on conservative terms. Jeff Daniels, in the middle, has, until this point, refused to seriously answer any questions at all, to the frustration of the moderator.)
P.S.-I think I’m going to like this show. Very much.
And so, with that as your background, let us begin.
Now, let me make one thing immediately clear. This is not a post about who you should vote for. As I stated above, my political reasoning is across the board because even I find my answers so, so , SO dependant on whatever specific situation we are discussing. I am still working out what I want MY politics to mean to ME. I’m sure as hell not going to waste YOUR time explaining what MY politics should me to YOU.
And really, this post isn’t even about “politics.” Not in the sense that I want to discuss policy, or candidate inadequacies, or binders full of women. This post is about me personally trying to find a way to still love a nation that has run out of answers in its current form. It’s about wondering why we aren’t fixing something that is clearly broken. It’s about why we are too proud to retract, and admit we are walking down the wrong path, and demanding we stop and check our compass.
I’m not saying that voting for Gary Johnson is the answer, just because that was the direction that my political quiz steered me. Vote for Jill Stein. Vote for Virgil Goode. Vote for Rocky Anderson. Do it proudly. What I AM saying is that voting for someone other than those who are too entrenched in the two-party system to see clearly anymore can only benefit the future.
But it is like wasting a vote, you say.
I get that. I was one of those people too. All of these ideas that have been marinating, you probably noticed, seemed to have happened in a short time period. In fact, the idea that I never was truly happy with a political party has been floating around in my brain since I first voted at 18 years old in the 2000 election. And yet, the fallacy of “wasting a vote” has colored how I have voted in every election since. I was not above this thinking, either. I understood it. But I have gotten to the point where enough is enough. And yes, this decision happened quickly. But when you finally find a candidate within politics that doesn’t feel even vaguely foreign, you excitedly jump right in. Compare that feeling to love at first sight. Who argues with that?
And voting for someone other than a Democrat or a Republican will feel foreign at first. And like everything when it is brand new, it will often seem unworthy of a fight. A waste of time. Why reinvent the wheel, right?
But wait. Let’s think of other examples of this. Other examples of when, to the majority, new-fangled ideas felt like a foreign language when English was working just fine.
Like letting women vote?
Like passing civil rights?
And even, here at home, like our very own marriage amendment?
Has anyone here in Minnesota that feels so strongly about defeating the marriage amendment (myself included) thought “well, it’s never really worked so well before, so let’s not waste our time”? Or, “you know, I think limiting the freedom to marry is wrong, but making my voice heard is SO much work.” No. When you want to challenge the status quo, and fight routine, and enhance acceptance, you dig in and find a way. How is this really, this presidential race, on principle, any different?
But politics aren’t broken, you say. It’s the fault of the other side.
Okay. Well. I’m very open to other viewpoints, but that just got you slapped. Twice.
Attacking the other side is not a defense. And it’s not an offense, either. It’s a whiny, manipulative way to argue. I won’t stand for it, and we as a whole shouldn’t either. It allows the attacking side to take no responsibility for anything that has happened. Does it occur because bipartisanship is a problem? Yes, and we’ll get to that. But can you really have faith in a leader who led for an entire term and can’t admit to learning a thing? Because that’s how that statement comes across. It’s basically saying “Everything would be just fine if the other side had just shut up and voted with us.” It does not allow for any ownership. I want a President who says “Hey. Let’s take an honest look at the last four years. I think this worked well. This didn’t go as planned, and this didn’t work at all. Here is what I learned from that. This is the new direction I want to take these ideas.”
If we do not command that our President doesn’t bury himself in blaming in the other side, but admits his own failures, and offers a fresh perspective, how can we truly know that they have learned anything at all? Don’t we want to them to be learning? And how can we learn from anyone who does not admit to us what he has learned himself?
In that same vein, yes, bipartisanship is a problem. And the fastest way to remedy bipartisanship is to weaken the bipartisanship environment. Pretty logical, right? Research third-party candidates. Elect in different viewpoints. Let other sides be heard. Then, the personal responsibility to work across aisles and compromise becomes more of an individual issue rather than a party one.
Can you think of another arena in life where two disagreeing parties are left to fight to a solution? Coworkers who disagree are remanded to a moderator or superior. Even amicable divorces require lawyers. Prosecution and defendants are mediated by judge and jury. So why do we put politics on a pedestal?
And then there is the way that Democrats and Republicans treat you. Yes, you, as an individual human. Yes, you, with rights, and opinions, and the power to vote them in and out of office. They treat you like shit, in case you haven’t noticed. I said multiple times on social media early on in these campaigns that if either candidate could get through an interview without lying, they’d have my vote. I was 100% honest in this statement. This, of course, never happened. Neither made it through any of the debates, either, I’m sure you heard. Or, come to think of it, a commercial. So, neither Romney or Obama can look you in the televised eye without lying.
Now, obviously in the past, this mangled form of telling the truth worked. But now, with the social media explosion, this simply and clearly is no longer the case. People were LIVE COMMENTING on fact-checking statements from Politifact during the debates, you guys. So when did politicians decide that politics should require YOU to spend numerous personal hours on Politifact to really learn the truth? When did that become your job? And, most importantly, why isn’t it theirs? What is it about your “truth” that you find so scary, politicians? And why are we, the voting public, not trusted with it?
And so, they know that you know that they are lying. They also know you have the tools to realize this. So one can only conclude that they simply do not care. They do not care that they are lying, and they do not care to treat us like we deserve the truth. And what sort of level of respect does that show? Is that the treatment you deserve? Is this the treatment that you want to celebrate with t-shirts, Facebook posts and bumper stickers? Would you put up with this from a real life friend? Someone blatantly telling you, to your face, looking you in the eye, during every conversation:
“You don’t deserve the truth. You’re not good enough.”
It’s either this, or a more dangerous bet that they are making. A bet that, yes, while some of the population is well-read on current events, politically educated and is both willing and able to spend their free time search out political truth, the fact is that they pale in comparison to the number of people in America who are “stupid” and take everything at face value. Is that a bet that you, as a voter, are proud of your government making? Is that a bet that, as a presidential candidate, you would want your mindset to be in about the population you are hoping to represent? For them to be thinking: “I will not give adequate credit to the people of this country I want to represent. Screw the people who are too uneducated, lazy, or illiterate to understand my hidden meanings. I will win them anyways, and I will prevail.”
What a discredit to your country that is. I hope you find honor in being our leader, because I don’t find honor in you representing me.
And until someone thinks I deserve the truth, no thanks. Until your words are spoken with pure intentions, you are not “for the people.”
I’m not voting third-party because I think they will be president. But did you know that a candidate receiving 5% of the popular vote means that they are eligible for federal funding and equal ballot access? That this will open the doors to getting them into the televised debates, among many other benefits? Voting for a third-party candidate is not a wasted vote, it’s demanding the beginning of a new conversation. One that this country desperately needs to begin having.
So lets stop fighting each other. Lets unfuck our government. In the amount of time we spend discussing the current political misstep of the week, we could solve serious fucking issues. Children are starving, you guys. And not just on some desert in Africa. In your state. In your town. Probably no more than 5 miles from your very own pretty little home. College is unaffordable, and yet the number of jobs requiring a college degree continues to rise. Entitlement programs are going to go bankrupt no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office. People have been looking so long for a job that they have simply quit. This. This is where we can start. This should keep us busy enough for a while.
Gary Johnson said it best himself when, during the third-party debates, he said
“Wasting your vote is voting for someone you don’t believe in.”
So that is why I am “wasting” my vote this November. I hope you will consider joining me, or at the very least have been given something to think about. We have been nearly silent on this issue for way too long. And the only people who can make Washington listen? It’s us. The voters. It really, really is.