Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Casting at Monsters

I didn’t vote in last Tuesday’s elections. I could say that it was because I was incredibly sick with H1N1 Influenza and it would be true to a point. However I had already decided I wasn’t voting, even before I got sick.

I think it’s important for Americans to vote, and I think we do a disservice to our country and our American ancestors when we don’t exercise that right. But I also have a devil of a time with the voting process. I don’t mean the act of voting itself, though when I learned that we were trading out the mechanical voting machines that had been used around these parts for over 50 years for ballot cards you had to fill out by hand, with a pen, I admit to feeling that we’d taken a giant technological step backwards in the realm of votecasting. No, I mean that I have a hard time knowing who to vote for, and I have a hard time really understanding whether or not I’ve been pleased with their work after they’ve won.

On the local level, we have a Clay Town Supervisor and a Town Council. We then have a County Legislature overseen by a County Executive. Above that, we have the State Assembly and the State Legislature, along with the State Governor. I’m familiar with the roles, but honestly I don’t know who’s in nearly half of those positions. And I haven’t a clue what our Town or County representatives have done with themselves in the last few years. Did I like the decisions they made? Would I have liked them if I’d known what they were? Even if I had a list of votes they’d cast and orders they’d signed, I wouldn’t know why, so I’d still have a hard time being sure that I agreed with them.

But short of attending every town and county board meeting and listening to the arguments myself, how am I to know who’s really earning my vote? And then it gets worse… much, much worse.

In the last few years, election campaigns have lost all pretext of civility or even common decency. It’s all about attack ads here in the Northeast – attack ads that are so effective, I end up having to conclude that ALL of the candidates are bottom-swilling scumbags who I wouldn’t trust to pick up litter alongside the road, let alone govern me. That was especially evident this year, as northern New York (north of us, as far as I could tell) voted to fill an open slot for a representative to the US House of Representatives. Evidently this slot was a “big deal,” to the point where various state and national political figures weighed in. Various parties and special-interest groups bought hours upon hours of advertising time where they pointed out every conceivable flaw in the minions of hell who were apparently vying for this empty seat. If you believed any of the ads, you had to believe all of them, and if so you could only conclude that these people were monsters devoid of the least shred of human decency or even souls.

But should I believe the ads? And if so, which ones? And how could I know? You could make a full-time job out of debunking each candidate’s claims and counter-claims about themselves and their opponents, but when all’s said and done, it strikes me as profoundly likely that you’d come away with the same conclusion – that most politicians really are playing a big game with our votes and our taxes and our government. They’d almost have to be – because anybody who doesn’t play the game is going to get eaten alive by those other politicians who do play it.

So is that my only choice – to find the politician whose going to play the game to achieve the ends I find most desirable? Should I ignore the fact that he or she is a scumbag, on the grounds that at least they’re MY scumbag? That’s hard, and it’s disconcerting. Luckily I’ve got another year to think about it, but I don’t expect I’m going to like the answer any better then than I do now.

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