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 It is an outdated system, especially in an age where technological advances would make a popular vote easily managed.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.