Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
In my former life as a “dancer,” one of my more frequent song picks was “Jaded” by Aerosmith, because A) Aerosmith and those types of places are like peanut butter and jelly, and B) it was an attempt at humor. I got a kick out of it, anyway.
This election season, though, my preference for the song seems particularly apropos.
I am jaded -– jaded by the whole process, jaded by the media coverage, jaded by the unhelpful, popularist rhetoric. So jaded, in fact, that I was one of those much-maligned undecided voters right up until the last minute, at which point I became part of a group even more ridiculed –- I voted third party.
I voted for Gary Johnson, but not because I wholeheartedly agree with the entirety of his platform. I voted for him as a matter of simple physics. If you want a northbound whale to go northwest, you don’t push northwest, you just push west. I don’t think that a purely libertarian country would really work, but I don’t like the liberal entitlement rhetoric that was ubiquitous this election season, either. Obama is swimming north when I want him to go northwest, so I pushed west.
And, all right, I did it in protest. My own little way of saying “fuck you” to the establishment.
I’m no fan of our current electoral college system, obviously. But I’m even less a fan of everything leading up to the actual casting of ballots. I hate that our choices are preselected for us, and most people don’t even seem to be aware of it. We are presented with a false dichotomy like it's normal.
And that makes sense, because we’ve been a two-party system for a very long time. But even within the two-party system, we are presented with preselected issues that are given outsized attention while other issues are flat-out ignored. And in this era of unprecedented communications technology and access to information, there’s just no good reason for this to keep happening.
Unless it’s all rigged, which of course it is. Not the result, mind you -– but all the debates and discussions leading up to that result. What a shame.
I don’t understand how any individual can be seriously expected to choose one of the two main candidates given the limited amount of information culled on each of them. I am privileged to be among those whose life marinates in law and politics, and I have time and resources with which to explore the issues on my own and draw my own conclusions.
But for the majority of America, knowledge of the issues is limited to what is presented by the media. And to say that they’re dropping the ball would be the understatement of the century.
Perhaps the ridiculousness of all this is most apparent in the recent presidential debates. Canned questions, canned answers, canned rhetoric. No specifics, ever. Mitt Romney’s “five point plan” that doesn’t actually illuminate anything. Barack Obama’s hedging. Mitt Romney’s hedging. All of the changing-the-subject personal attacks. The trick of bringing almost every single question back to JOBS and the ECONOMY without ever, ever cutting through the bullshit and laying out particulars.
How shameful that in this modern era we still adhere to a debate structure of what, two hours? An hour-and-a-half? Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney purport to be the face of change. They both insist that this is a pivotal moment for America, one in which we determine the future of this country, a future that will be a marked departure from our past.
Fine, I buy that. But then why aren’t they doing more to really convince me of their positions? Why am I being asked to blindly trust what is force-fed to me by a political machine that churned out Dubya just a short time ago?
When FDR took Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting era to a whole new level with his New Deal, he knew that he was going to have to convince the public that his revolutionary plans had merit. The New Deal was a huge leap away from our traditional values of private charity, personal responsibility and little to no social safety net. FDR knew that he was going to have to sell it, and sell it hard.
So he did –- he got on the radio, that newfangled technology of the time, and engaged in a series of Fireside Chats. Having lost the use of his legs, he sent his wife Eleanor around the country to be his eyes and ears. For a long time, she wrote a daily column addressing the controversial topics of the time. She wrote “My Day” six days a week from 1935 to 1962 -– can you imagine if Michelle did this today?
Together, Eleanor and FDR won the public over. And all it really took was communication (and meritorious plans, obviously).
Today, we have better communications technology than ever before, but all we’re really getting is sound bites. I brought this up to a friend, and his response was that Obama is much too busy to emulate Roosevelt’s chats.
“Are you serious?” I replied. “FDR was fighting World War II, combating the Great Depression, instituting sweeping social and economic reforms, and he still managed to get on the radio and begin his 15 to 45-minute addresses with his conventional opener: ‘Good evening, friends.’”
I think it’s a travesty that while the horribly misleading “Women get paid 75 cents to the male dollar” statistic was trotted out during the debates, no one questioned the propriety of ordering the execution of an American citizen without due process. No one questioned the appropriateness of ignoring the War Powers Act and engaging in Libya. No one asked Mitt Romney to explain his view of federalism that allows for Romneycare but forbids Obamacare. No one asked why we’re still engaging in a war on drugs that is primarily motivated by the Prison Guard Lobby and the Police Unions -– pretty suspect, no? No one asked what the candidates would do about the teachers unions that are retarding the progress of our education system. No one said boo about all of the blatant crony capitalism.
No one asked these questions, because the answers would upset people. And when you’re in it to win it and there are only two of you, you have the flexibility to tailor these debates to ignore the hairy questions and focus instead on a much more black-and-white, red herring “War on Women.”
When there are only two of you up there, you can say things like “I love teachers!” with a straight face. Because no one will call you out on it, because the other guy doesn’t want to answer the tough questions either.
Think of how dramatically different the debates would be if we just put a whiteboard and a marker up on that stage with them and asked them to actually illustrate the specifics of their respective economic plans.
Think of how the tenor of discussion would change if, instead of just the two of them, the stage was also peppered with bipartisan economists and lawyers who could interrupt with specific questions whenever one of the candidates tried to hedge. Think of how different it would be if we just allowed third party candidates to be up on that stage!
But the debates are designed by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which was founded in 1987 by -– you guessed it -– the Democratic and Republican parties. There is exactly zero incentive for them to design a debate that would actually challenge the candidates with tough questions and that would include bipartisan intelligentsia capable of calling them out on their bullshit.
So it continues to be presented to us as though we have only two choices, and the key issues are only the ones talked about on TV. This is false, and damaging.
If Obama wanted my vote, it was up for grabs -– all he had to do was convince me. He didn’t. Mitt Romney didn’t either, for the simple reason that he refused to get into specifics with his economic plan and also I think his reliance on the military industrial complex makes him a no-holds-barred warmonger. I find both of these candidates to be little more than performing robots for their respective parties. There is no substance here, only sound bites.
In closing, I offer a little bit of positivity. I truly believe that both candidates want the best for this country. I truly believe that they are both extremely intelligent, capable men. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either of them, but I don’t think either of them will ruin this country.
I don’t hate the player, I hate the game -– and the game needs to change if we ever want to really know who and what we’re voting for.
You can follow The Conservative Feminist on Twitter @The_Rionator.