Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's fine if you don't like corporate agenda mushrooms. You don't have to eat them.*

This is what I imagine a corporate agenda mushroom would look like.

Moving this here from Facebook because Facebook is just hell to try to debate on. But I should probably try to make it into some sort of blog post.

But let's do a little background. So we have my buddy, who is always getting all up in my face and shit**, getting all up in my face and shit about how he believes that the two parties are working for the same corporate masters, and as such, voting is currently a futile act.

So it's a statement I agree with (corporate money is a major problem in US politics) and strongly disagree with (so don't vote). But it kind of sparked a response in me that I've been kicking around for a bit, as to why I'm a strategic voter instead of an ideological puritan. And this goes for non-voters (which I can't respect) and third party voters (which I can respect, but often strikes me as misguided) alike.

So let's break this down into two parts, first, why I have no problem voting for the "lesser of two evils" and second, why I feel the Democrats are usually the lesser evil.

A while back, I was discussing a past election with an acquaintance of mine. This acquaintance is usually pretty vague with their political beliefs, but always stressed that no matter what, they vote for some obscure party, and it takes a lot for them to actually vote for one of the big two. The acquaintance was obviously very proud of their voting purity, but when pressed as to why they do this, they couldn't really give me a solid answer, just that the two parties suck, so they couldn't vote for them. They wanted to tear down the system.

Now, I don't want to disrespect their personal ethics. But it did make me wonder. I thought back to the support for Nader in 2000, how close that election was, and how drastically different our country would probably be today if Al Gore had actually won that election. When it comes to values themselves, my acquaintance and I line up pretty closely on what we believe is right for the country. So it was confusing to me as to why, in an election that could possibly hand over power to the same group that had almost destroyed the country (this was 2008), they would still give their vote to a party that could only lose, instead of making sure that we didn't repeat the same mistakes we made in 2000 and 2004.

And then I wondered why I was the one playing it safe while my acquaintance, whose interest in politics isn't great, was the one trying to rebel. I mean, it should be the opposite, right?

But then I kind of stumbled on the answer - I think it's about ego. It doesn't really help anyone in the country if you vote for the Constitution Party, but it makes you feel like you've been true to your own ideals. And it's all fine and well to brag to people that you voted for that third party because you are going to shake up the system, man! But do you ever notice that the system isn't ever really shaken? It's going to take the death of a party to do that (and granted, we may see that soon). Even libertarians have to latch on to the GOP to survive, and they are the strongest third party we have.

And I think that's where I've kind of changed from my younger, more radical self to the half-assed politico I am today: I don't think I can remain stubborn in my ideals at the expense of people that are hurt by it. So these days, I vote strategically. And as a result, I tend to vote Democrat***. I do so because elections have consequences.

So to tie this into the discussion at hand, let's address what is a valid complaint - that the parties are both wholly owned by corporate interests. I don't disagree that they are, to an extent. For example, we are never going to see real change when it comes to regulation of Wall Street. The asshole gamblers that brought this country to its knees are free to do so again and again in the future, because no one will ever call them out. I think what a lot of the ideologues fail to realize is that this isn't breaking news. We know.

But at the same time, I'm going to place my bets with the party that at the very least, is still torn between becoming a purchased and well-groomed product to showcase the corporate brand and the one that sold out a long time ago. The Democratic soul is still up for grabs, and I'll tell you why I can state this with the utmost certainty: The union protests in Wisconsin.

Tell me who is doing the union busting in places like Wisconsin (and Indiana, and Ohio). Then tell me who is doing everything in their power, including leaving the state, to ensure that unions do not lose their collective bargaining rights (which would, simply put, destroy them). We know whose interests the Governor is serving - the extremely pro-corporate Koch Brothers spent a *lot* of money during the last election to ensure Walker had a good chance to win the office, and for good reason: Unions are pretty much the only obstacle at this point to the complete corporate takeover of politics, as they are the only organized group that has enough clout to stand up to corporate dollars. It was Democratic Senators that fled the state due to this attempt and although one could argue that they are serving the interests of the labor unions, you'd be hard-pressed to argue they are also serving corporate interests. Destroying labor unions is the main corporate interest in this country. And it was a Democratic President that threw his support behind the unions, something which he has been soundly criticized for. Will the National Democratic Party follow suit? We'll see. They do like their corporate money and are sometimes stand-offish when it comes to supporting unions. But they also like their union voters, so unlike the Republicans, they at the very least have a reason to not go a full-metal corporatist just yet (although if the Republicans successfully destroy the unions, they sure as hell will, won't they?) So let's not pick nits here. If Republicans were not the majority in Wisconsin right now, the unions would not be in danger. You can't honestly tell me that that is not a significant difference.

We must also remember, and this might seem a little off topic, the power of the vote. Money can be used to influence politicians, but it cannot technically purchase votes. The public can still hold their representatives accountable through their right to vote. Yet, there is one party in this country that is actively trying to suppress the votes of the lower and working classes, by putting all sorts of obstacles in front of them that wouldn't affect the upper class (removing same-day registration, voter id requirements, etc). And they are accomplishing this by scaring folks with trumped up tales of "voter fraud" which I have to give some props to for being the ultimate in psychological projection. So tell me which party it is that is trying to pass voter restrictions that will end up affecting those that already have little time or resources to partake in their right to vote (i.e. the working class), tell me which party is using fear campaigns in an attempt to suppress the votes of those people, and tell me which party has been fighting tooth and nail against it. Again, I'm not saying they do this out of the goodness of their Democratic hearts, it's because they know that this affects their own base. I don't deny that it is strategic. But it shows that at the very least, the votes of those that aren't corporate overloads still matter to some.

And those are just two reasons out of many that I have (I didn't even bring up the abortion issue, are you proud of me?). But I think they are pretty damn good ones, particularly when we are talking about the power of the people, and who is attempting to water down that power to nothing.

To sum up: Pretty much every person that has an interest in politics has gone through a stage where they felt political purism is the only true answer. At the risk of sounding condescending; we grew out of it. I am not interested in political grandstanding at this point. I lost the urge to make it about my ego years ago. So I'm perfectly fine with voting strategically, because I find even the smallest attempt to improve on what's happening in the country beats out patting myself on the back because I've refused to compromise any of my ideals. Perhaps you think this is wasteful. But it is no where near as wasteful as sitting back and letting them win merely so you can lecture everyone else about how you were so above it all when Rome fell.

*Sorry, you just had to be there (on the Facebook). I really hope that "mushrooms" can serve as a nickname for for the corporate agenda from here on out?

** No, not really. Just trying to be humorous.

***On the national level. Locally, I'm all over the damn place. A huge reason politics is such a mess right now is that we are pretty horrible at paying attention to our own state governments, myself included.


Brian said...

Awesome! I really have nothing to add. Just wanted to congratulate you on a well articulated blog post. I'll be following you in Google Reader too.

Shawn Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shawn Gordon said...

It wouldn't let me post - apparently my response was well over 4,600 words. I'll have to go back, retype it and I'll post to my unused Blogger or my tumblr... once I get the motivation to redo ALL that I wrote (damn you, word limits)

Stacy said...

I hate it when that happens. Well, if you get around to doing it again, throw me a link. We can have a blog war!