Licensed to Complain

In preparation for November 6th, I have dutifully surfed my way over to Minnesota’s Secretary of State website and printed out the sample ballot for my zip code. And the Googling begins. For many elections, I am ashamed to say, I voted a straight party ticket and went with all the incumbents for judges and unaffiliated public offices.

As a registered Independent and independent thinker, I can no longer rely on political party as a guide. After all, there are douchebags on both sides of the aisle. I’m not wasting a vote this year on a douchebag. People argue that their vote, in what has become a monied, two-party system, is wasted and I have often felt this – that my vote is useless.

As redistricting, voter registration laws and other political maneuvers screw with our system, we the people, seem to have less impact on the electoral college and its outcome. It is an outdated system, especially in an age where technological advances would make a popular vote easily managed. Although the phrase “popular vote” makes me think of a reality show – but really, what else is this? We’re just as likely to vote for a person who cries on TV because somebody broke up with them, as we would for someone who believes in education tax credits. That’s what “news-tainment” has done for us.

Regardless of my resentment of a system taken over by big money and gerrymandering, voting seems to be the very least I could do. As an American, I’m always on board with doing the least amount of civic duty possible. In an age when we’re supposed to be carpooling, recycling, buying fair trade, conserving energy, not buying from sweat shops and all the other things that would make us good citizens of our nation and of the planet, voting seems the simplest civic duty to fulfill. Show up at an old school gym, stand in line, fill in some circles, go home.

The voting experience has changed in the last few elections. Instead of chatting up our neighbors in line, we stare suspiciously, wondering whose side they’re on. Our state ballot is even more divisive this year, due to a couple of constitutional amendment questions. Yard signs are not only numerous, but every other sign, depending on your perspective, is offensive.

I despise the proposed constitutional amendments, especially since these seek to restrict the rights of others (marriage amendment and voting ID laws). The marriage amendment just baffles me. I’m heterosexual and married (we like to refer to ourselves as one man, one woman all the time) and I don’t get this initiative. There are a lot of lesbian and gay soldiers fighting and dying in our wars abroad. Preventing them from sharing the overwhelming bliss of fighting over where the spatulas in the kitchen go, is simply not a priority. Whatever your religious or moral beliefs, this is not an effective use of time, money or energy. State constitutional amendments that seek to limit, or restrict any citizen’s rights seem antithetical to the whole small government spiel.

The photo ID requirement amendment is worthy of contempt as well. Ostensibly it will require all voters to have photo ID, but the fine print on the ballot says the state is required to provide free identification to eligible voters. Um, how much is that going to COST? Estimates run anywhere from $10-25 million dollars. It makes me want to throw up a bit. This is the conundrum of being a fiscal conservative and a social liberal – both parties fail miserably on fiscal conservatism and the Democrats are barely passable on social liberalism (uh, didn’t there used to be other people besides the middle class?).

I have to cherry pick candidates from across all political borders to meet my bare minimum requirements. Then I have to talk myself into voting for the candidate, even though he or she talks about fiscal accountability in one breath, and how we’re going to improve our economy through cheap Martian labor in the next. Batshit crazy. The major political parties are just a little bit better at downplaying their Perot/Gingrich/Dean factors, but they’re there, just waiting to freak us all out when they’re elected.

The real reason I vote is a lesson from childhood and a story I’ve told before. Political discussion on the maternal side of my family was often heated and insulting. My mother and grandmother retained their British citizenship until the early 1990s, but they were very strident in their opinions about American politics. Finally, after hours of debate, my long-suffering, gentle grandfather would get frustrated and snap “well, you can’t even vote, so who cares?” The room always got very, very quiet after that. I’m owning up to the reason I’m voting. It’s my license to complain until the next election.

27 Comments on “Licensed to Complain

  1. Oh you’re SO licensed to complain haha it goes with the times no doubt. I’m glad you’re such an advocate of voting and yes times have changed. It’s never been more important, simply to preserve the integrity of our democracy.

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    • The last line of your comment is dead on: “It’s never been more important, simply to preserve the integrity of our democracy.” It almost seems like it’s the very last remnant we can hold onto, the one thing that we can prevent corporations and political parties from taking away from us.

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  2. Well said. Exceptionally written! You don’t need me to tell you that, but I just had to anyway. I couldn’t agree more if I’d written it myself and I’m embarrassed that I couldn’t have. You put my thoughts into words with Ginsu Knife precision today. Your keyboard is mightier than a sword.

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    • Thank you! Writing about the election when we’re so over-saturated was a tough decision, but it’s on my mind. I suspect many of us want to throw up our hands and give into malaise, but as Pete pointed out in his comment, we have to do our part to preserve the integrity of the process. And honestly, most of us are complaining about politics anyway – it’s nice to stay legit in that particular freedom!

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  3. Great post, as always 🙂 When I read:

    “After all, there are douchebags on both sides of the aisle. I’m not wasting a vote this year on a douchebag.”

    I started laughing so hard, my co-worker looked at me like I had six heads. It’s so true… the political scene is inundated with d-bag’s. It’s too bad.

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    • I’m afraid I date myself by using the term, but it’s still a favorite of mine. I’m also fond of “peckerheads”, “wankers” and “jerkwads”, but need to save those up for future posts where I can continue my sophomoric rants. Thanks for checking in and giving me a laugh – there’s no joy like freaking coworkers out with inappropriate outbursts.

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      • I’m big on “idiots,” “morons,” “dickwads,” “pinheads,” “jackasses” and the ever-popular, always-useful “assholes!”

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  5. That’s a remarkable point. We get the right to complain in this country about our political situation and that’s a right not given to many. Just wish there weren’t so many reasons to complain so much!

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    • I find it frustrating when people go on and on about how horrible everything is and then say they not going to vote. It’s childish and as effective as children holding their breath in a fit of pique. That’s fine if someone doesn’t vote, as long as they keep a cork in their pie hole for the next 4 years. I like to keep my options (and mouth) open, so I’m voting!

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  6. I wholeheartedly agree with your reason for voting! It really bothers me to hear people complain and complain and when asked they instantly respond that they haven’t and won’t vote. Thanks for expressing it so well.

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    • Voting is the one act that we all can do, regardless of politics. Plus, they serve non-partisan cookies at our polling location, so we walk away with more than our civic pride!

      Thanks for checking in and commenting!

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  7. Good for you! I think it’s pitiful that so many people in this country aren’t even registered to vote; or if they are, they just don’t vote.

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    • It’s hard to understand why a person would willingly cede what little power they’ve actually got. I like my power – I may be Don Quixote running at windmills, but nobody can say I didn’t make an effort!

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  8. I think it’s great that you know what you want and what you believe and yeah, you have to earn that right to complain. In my country, a lot of the ones who complain first are those who don’t even pay taxes. That sucks, not fair to those who pays a whole lot of taxes and those who actually participate to vote.

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    • We’re having a bit of a tax debate in this country, but the ones who usually don’t pay are the loophole happy rich or the working poor who don’t make enough to qualify for the lowest tax bracket. Undoubtedly we need tax reform and campaign reform in this country. But voting, that’s an equalizer you can’t overlook and it’s free.

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  9. Brilliant. And I so appreciate someone else using the term “batshit crazy.’. It is so on point but my son keeps telling me that it makes me sound old. Then I tell him he’s a d- bag. He says Douche nozzle is the popular term now. Who knew? Semantics can really mess ya around…
    🙂

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    • I tried on some new terms like “foshizzle” and THAT made me sound old. Some things I’m okay leaving to the next generation. I’ll be groovy, down with things and totally awesome until my daughter starts pretending she doesn’t know me in public.

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  10. Right on the money, I so totally agree! I’ve long thought technology now enables us to manage a one-person, one-vote system. There are some challenges, but I think they’re all surmountable.

    George Carlin had a bit ranting that it was only those who didn’t vote that had the right to complain. It’s one of his few (perhaps only) routines where I think he was completely, totally, utterly wrong.

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    • I’m not sure how it would work in terms of representation:population for Congress, but at bare minimum, national offices should by popular vote.

      I love George Carlin, but never heard this bit about voting. I’d have to disagree with him as well, although I imagine that I’d still laugh at his take on things.

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      • If I recall, the Carlin bit comes from his “angry period” in the 90s. He seemed to hate everything, and some of his shows from that time are hard to watch. His razor wit flails at everything; no discrimination. His last half-dozen or so shows before he died, he was back to the post-hippie attack dog Carlin, and his razor had more purpose and direction. I have always missed the hippie Carlin, though. The Hippie-Dippie Weather Man was one of my favorite bits of comedy. “Forecast tonight: Darkness, clearing by morning.”

        I think states could still be represented in Congress by population, but maybe not by district? Or maybe Congress should be represented by social groups. The employees of major industries would be more heavily represented, whereas their employers much less. And I don’t mean “auto workers” so much as “manufacturing workers” and “retail workers” and so forth.

        I would so love to see a truly representative government, one that truly was of the will of the people, and the technology certainly does exist to implement it.

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