It’s time to change the system at the root.
Seems like this election year, the people are more obsessed than ever with their presidential candidate. More than that, the tone is panic, induced by the possibility of the other being elected. Everyone on Facebook has become a political pundit. Seems like everywhere I turn, someone is telling me how to vote by cutting down the other nominee with great urgency. But it’s a familiar panic, a familiar reasoning, and for those of us who really don’t want to simply hit repeat, there is just no good option in front of us.
It’s a familiar panic, a familiar reasoning.
I came into voting at the age of eighteen, for the race between Al Gore, George Bush, and Ralph Nader. The previous eight years under Bill Clinton crafted my concept of American democracy. Bill Clinton lost the popular vote, but was elected to the highest office with 43% support. He was a moderate aiming for the southern vote. Ross Perot, the insurgent candidate, drove a wedge into the binary paradigm with 18.9%, but mostly grabbed votes from Bush, whose three consecutive terms of executive power were conceded to Bill Clinton.
The public tone, in 1992, was for something different, but the progressive movement was futile, as the votes had clearly been cast conservative. Clinton is regarded as the usher of the neoliberal movement, the corporate-friendly bomb-dropping Democratic Party which hardly resembles the party of The New Deal.
By 2000, there was some overall excitement for the future, and it was genuine optimism. I think people stopped worrying. The millennium offered a sense of rebirth. Economically, the times were pretty good, expenses were low and jobs were plentiful. Presidential campaigns were still moderately financed by today’s standards and the media covered the campaigns with half the zeal you see today. Voter turnout had reached an historically low trend around 50%.
Ralph Nader was the insurgent candidate, and he represented The Green Party, with a progressive agenda set on taking up the issues that Bill Clinton failed to. Al Gore was less charismatic than Clinton but was a sitting Vice President in good times with a focus on environmentalism and continued economic growth. Seemed like an easy win.
Gore narrowly earned more votes than Bush. Nader earned about 3% of the popular vote, proving that American voices were asking for a progressive government. But in the world of binary politics, President Bush won the highest office and initiated a very different vision for America. We cannot know how different the world would be today if we simply honored the popular vote.
I was greatly leaning toward Nader, as today I lean toward Stein, but my reasoning at the time was that so long as Gore was polling neck and neck with Bush, I would give it to Gore. I was genuinely worried about a Bush presidency. My worries were vindicated, and the hard truth that pro-establishment Democrats can’t admit as they blame Nader for blowing the election is that a mere 0.5% more Democrats in a handful of Florida counties would have swung that election. They also haven’t challenged the electoral college, which is seen as illegitimate in the eyes of many political scientists. Not to mention a terrible voting system in Florida.
In 2004, I found myself willing to vote anti-Bush again for John Kerry, while again leaning Nader. After voting Obama in 2008, I almost stopped paying attention, in part because I believed in him. I thought he was the good shining above evil, not the lesser. By 2012, I believed he was the lesser. Now I regard Obama as part and parcel to the evil.
The Democratic Party is seen as the new conservative party, under Hillary, while the Republican Party is seen as a new fascism, under Trump. There are some genuine supporters who love these characters as people. I don’t mean to belittle their affection. I am not resisting it and want to honestly respect their choice to back the person they back, be it Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Stein, or Johnson. If we cannot listen to the voices then we are deaf to democracy.
This election has revealed a serious need to revise the way we select our candidates, the way we finance them, the discussion of topics, the crafting of policy, and so on. Each to their own focus. But the big takeaway right now, as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are set to become our predominant focal point until November, can’t come down to choosing the lesser of two evils, once again.
We don’t really need to dispute this much, that both candidates are seen as untrustworthy by a large number of people. Most people don’t really want to vote for these candidates. Let’s just take that for granted and move away from our faith in the Presidency altogether. There has got to be a new way of governance.
The tone of our political discourse right now reflects an epoch of American decline in morale, economic power, and international legitimacy, while our military has stretched to the limit of its realistic capacity, failing strategically in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet our panic over Hillary Clinton on the one hand, and Donald Trump on the other, is the primary motivation to vote. Whoever is passionately anti-Trump will end up voting for Clinton. Whoever is passionately anti-Clinton will end up voting for Trump. The people are not really voting for their candidates, they are voting against their fears.
The people are not really voting for their candidates, they are voting against their fears.
There are parliamentary systems that provide more representation for minority parties than this binary system of American democracy. But this too is very old. A new way seems right in front of us. The technology and science is right there to demonstrate what is best for the Earth, for humanity, than this arcane selection of a handful of policymakers entrusted with all the power of our collective nation.
Personally, I’m convinced that democratizing the workforce, making every publicly traded corporation a worker-owned enterprise, would change every meaningful aspect of the American democracy as we know it. But it would require an extraordinary commitment by the real people engaging their employers, rather than a solution from Washington.
My attention is too focused on the different possibilities available to us for this great democratic experiment than to worry about who anyone else is voting for. Back in 2011, a friend of mine said ahead of the reelection of President Obama, that one choice or the other was a bet against a long-term demise or a fast collapse. I didn’t see it then, but I see that now.