Thursday, November 08, 2012

I was wrong: people really are content with our political system

Looks like it's time for a mea culpa.

It seems Americans are overwhelmingly content with how our political system is functioning.

I believe there were only four candidates who were on the ballot in enough states to form an electoral college majority. Democrat Obama, Republican Romney, Green Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

If you wanted a candidate who represented real human beings (presuming you didn't consider corporations to be such), if you wanted someone who opposed militarism and if you wanted someone who opposed corporate control of government, there were only two choices: Stein and Johnson. They were very different candidates but they were the only candidates who were pushing those fundamental conditions needed to make America into a true republican democracy.

I thought the time was right for a decent smaller party showing. People were very lukewarm about Obama and Romney. The last few years saw some very significant grassroots movements in the Tea Party (which we forget really was grassroots originally before it was hijacked by the far right money machine), by Occupy movement and the Ron Paul insurgency inside the Republican Party. This was anti-establishment discontent we hadn't seen since the days of the Vietnam aggression. Johnson and Stein were two very active, substantive candidates. They were aggressive in their use of social media (whose influence on politics is vastly overstated but in the face of a media blacklist, it was the best they could do). Each represented a significant demographic: true small government advocates dissatisfied with Republican hypocrisy on the issue and progressives disillusioned with Obama's complete abandonment of their agenda. I knew the media blacklist would be a significant barrier but I still Johnson and Stein had a reasonable shot to get 5 or 6 percent of the vote between them.

They actually combined to get 1.3 percent of the vote; all smaller candidates only combined for 2 percent. Now, 1.3 and 2 percents were orders of magnitude greater than the amount of media coverage they received, but it was still only 2 percent who voted for real change of some sort or other to our political system. 

Thus 98 percent of voters voted to fundamentally preserve the status quo.

Americans complain about divided government but elected another divided government.

Congress has an approval rating of 21 percent but 90-something percent of incumbents were re-elected, as is usually the case.

People complain about both Democrats and Republicans but over 99 percent of members of Congress will be of those two parties.

Everything bad piece of public policy Americans complain about was enacted by Republicans, Democrats or, more often, both. Every 'onerous tax,' every 'job killing regulation,' every billion wasted on corporate welfare, every war of aggression that you complain about was enacted by one or both of the parties supported by 98 percent of the voters.

From this, I can draw one of two conclusions. Either Americans are actually fairly satisfied with the functioning of our political system or they are unhappy but aren't really interested in doing anything about it. Either way, the incessant whining is not compatible with either of these two options. If you're happy, why are you whining? If you're unhappy, then go beyond whining and try to do something about it.

I was wrong. I believed people when they said they wanted certain things or held certain values. But I guess was wrong to assume they'd vote for those things or values. And of course, some truly did. But from what I can tell, most didn't. Most voted against a candidate, not for one. That's their prerogative. And I'd be wrong to say I don't understand the reasoning. But I simply fail to see how change will every happen if only 2 percent of the people are willing to make it happen. 

Or maybe they really don't want it to happen. Maybe they are not interested in any sort of real change on the federal level. So be it. I accept that's democracy. Just quit whining when you get what you choose.

Now people need to take the next step and quit whining about what they don't want or are not willing to change.

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