Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote of No Confidence

After George Bush lost the poplar vote in 2000 but won the Electoral College, and therefore the election, there were outcries across the land from people who deemed the Electoral College system as undemocratic and antiquated. Some people argued there is no reason to have the Electoral College in our modern society, the basis for its existence outdated. This assumes the reasons our forefathers developed the Electoral College methodology is history, but honestly, their concerns are just as legitimate today as they were 200 plus years ago.

The Electoral College was proposed as a means of ensuring small states still had a say in Presidential Elections, assuring the President would continue to listen to the concerns of small states rather than focus on just larger states. While the size of the haul in California, Texas, New York, and Florida is substantial, a win on election night requires a candidate to carry other states. From a mathematical standpoint this is very important to listen the opinions and interests of every state in the Union. The nine largest states account for a little over 50% of the US population yet adding up the electoral votes from these same 9 states yields only 241, 29 shy of the 270 needed to carry an election, giving small states a place on the Presidential election stage.

Enough with the simple civics lesson on states' rights. Most people know the other reason our forefathers developed the Electoral College; they did not trust the common man. They feared a tyrannical candidate could and would manipulate citizens in a popular vote. They did not trust the judgment of the general population, people who could barely read their ballot, to make the right choice. Many are outraged when they learn our forefathers were so pompous and arrogant that they did not believe the people could not be trusted to vote intelligently. Some who support the abolishment of the Electoral College argue that citizens of today hold the intelligence and knowledge necessary to vote. While my feelings on the Electoral College are pretty neutral, the argument that the entire population of the United States is smart enough to vote makes me laugh uncontrollably; there are still plenty of common men (and women) who I don’t trust have the intelligence to make an informed decision.

Statistically speaking 50% of the population is of below average intelligence. Simple math, half the people are above average, half are below. This is not drawing the line where “smart” is, just the median. Campaign managers are well aware that people who are educated, involved, and flat out smarter will take the time to learn the facts about a candidate, formulate opinions, research voting records, and make an informed decision. These are not the individuals that campaigns focus their time, energy, and money upon. Instead millions upon millions of dollars are spent to sway the vote of the very same people our forefathers were fearful of voting in the first place.

Campaigns target the lowest common denominator; people who do not have the time or intelligence to perform the due diligence on the issues and facts to make an informed decision. They present half-facts or total opinions to mislead voters on how a candidate stands. As an Independent I received more political mail in one month then I’ve received Victoria’s Secret catalogs in a lifetime. Every person from every party sent no less than 4 to 5 mailers and each one spoke in vague terminology, requiring the ability to read between the lines. One candidate claimed to “support the measures necessary to decrease our dependence on foreign oil and lower the prices of fuel for you and your family.” Something we can all stand behind, right? Except after doing some research on the candidate these “measures necessary” weren’t focused on things I support like building renewable energy sources, increasing public transportation options, or encouraging the development of fuel efficient cars. Nope, the “measures necessary” was to continue our dependence on oil by supporting offshore drilling and Alaskan oil exploration. Another candidate aimed to “protect employee rights” which as far as I could tell by his record meant allowing pharmacists to stop filling prescriptions for birth control or selling condoms.

Very popular this year is the email forwards aimed at discrediting candidates. Most of these emails are filled with blatant lies that are easily disprooved. The issue is most people don’t take the time to research the validity of the emailed information and take the contents as fact. There are countless people basing their vote on misleading emails that are not monitored for libel defamation because they are not official messages from the campaign. Anyone na├»ve enough to believe that these mass-forwarded messages did not start at the keyboard of some campaign worker has obviously been living under a rock for their entire existence; campaigns love nothing more than free, effective advertising.

Not only is the “common man” manipulated by campaign tactics, apparently the common man is so clueless to the complexity of running a country that they think the best candidate is someone just like them. It might be important for politicians to understand the struggles of the common man, but the last thing we need is someone in office just like the Average Joe. I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t want the leader of the free world to be a person I can grab a beer with. Not that I don’t love and respect all the people I do beers with, but none of us have the knowledge, drive, desire, and perseverance it takes to effectively govern a nation. While these strange polls that make Ben Franklin do somersaults in his grave provide entertainment to some, they frighten me. There are actually people whose egos are so inflated that they vote for a candidate who is the kind of person they can watch a football game with. The qualities I look for in a person I catch a ballgame with are incredibly different then the qualities I look for in a person running our country. Candidates actually have to dumb themselves down at times because there are so many people who vote for the person they think is most like them. No wonder we have so many idiots in office. (Note: For a well written commentary on this subject, please take the time to visit The Katie Girl Project.)

People often say they don’t vote because there are no good candidates, but there are no good candidates because the good ones are eliminated early in the game. Egotistically voting for a person who you can grab a beer with partnered with the manipulation of the unintelligent and uninformed is partially to blame for our lack of choices in elections. People are choosing to elect candidates who remind them of the guy next door, or the girl they had a crush on growing up, rather then the most qualified and experienced individuals. Our state and national elections are no better then the popularity contest of an average student council election where the nerdy geek gets beat out by the dumb jock. People continuously write off the nerdy geeks, the very people who possess the intelligence and insight to manage a city, state, or country, as socially inadequate or weird and then complain that their ballot choices are limited.

Until people take their voting seriously, understand the issues, research the candidates, and give the process more time and energy then they do choosing a meal at Applebee’s, then we’ll never have top notch leadership in our nation. Stop reading email forwards, mute the commercials, and throw out the political postcards. Take the time to visit The League of Women Voters or On the Issues to learn more about who you’re voting for. Take the issues tests on Speakout Vote Match or Glassbooth to see which candidate aligns with your personal beliefs. Don’t be common; be informed, not influenced.

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
- Winston Churchill


Nursedude said...

Take away the Electoral College, and smaller population states like the Dakotas, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, etc become a total non factor in the election season. Candidates would spend the whole time in New York, Florida, California and Texas.

mark said...

Well said Chelle. Whether you respect them or not, the "founding fathers" were on track with the idea of the electoral college. Keeping in mind among them were slave owners, self serving opportunists and political mudslingers - research the Jefferson campaign for presidency and you'll find our current negative ads are in keeping with a 200+ year tradition - they were correct in discerning the potential for mob mentality within the electoral process.
While no system is perfect, imagine a system where the minority rules and you don't even elect the leader of your country. Living in Canada and experiencing parliamentary rule, I'll take the U.S. system. However, I will give a tip of the hat to Canada for having more than a two party system in actuality.
While pure intelligence and ambition are not the best hallmarks of leadership neither are such criteria as you rightly point out, such as, "someone I want to drink a beer with" or "someone who talks like me." Our democracy was intended to bring forth candidates who possessed wisdom, who were well informed, who made decisions not based upon polls but upon what was best for the democracy and who were willing to serve their country, not the other way around.
If you want better candidates then serve your country and do your best to bring them forth and support them.
For those who don't vote today, let me remind you of your civic duty. My wife and I as expats have limited voting rights and have to work each time to ensure our ballots are sent to us and that they are received and counted - either by fax or mail. No, we cannot vote by e-mail in elections (only in primaries). While millions worldwide cannot vote you have the privilege to live in a country where you can vote. Please don’t neglect nor abuse this privilege.
Chelle, you also make an excellent point about truth verses rhetoric and becoming a knowledgeable voter. There are no excuses not to do this. Be informed and Vote!
Brought to you by Patriotic Progressive Lutherans living in Canada who are related to and staunch supporters of Chelle and her husband. This blog post comment was not approved by nor paid for by Chelle.

Nursedude said...

To Mark's point. There maybe just two parties, which can be like voting for the skunk with one stripe vs. the skunk with two stripes. That said, at least we don't have to deal with coalition governments, unlike Canada, France and the UK, to name but a few.

litchic said...

loved this post, and thanks for the shout out! what i found even more disturbing than e-mails circulating with smears about individual candidates, were the text messages sent out suggesting that obama supporters should wait until today to vote. ah!

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Pastor Mark- Thank you for your well said and well read comment. And above all else, thank you for your support and endorsements.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

In a multi-party system it is less likely to have one group exercise their majority rights, shutting out the oppossing opinion altogether. Government is about compromise and 3 or more parties does at least force compromise upon elected officials to get anything done.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Litchic- I enjoyed telling some of my conservative friends sending out the "democrats vote on Wednesday" email that they thought they were innocently passing a forward, but in actuality they were committing voter fraud which is a felony.