Thursday, November 6, 2008

wasting your vote...

Current mood: insubordinate
Category: News and Politics

Wasting Your Vote
by Mark Jeantheau,

Wasting Your Vote — The Voters' Choice in 2008:
Darth Vader, The Emperor, or Luke Skywalker

Election Day 2008 is coming. Perhaps you lean right and have a case of Baracknophobia, or you lean left and think McCain is insane-in-the-brain. There are indeed some differences in how the two candidates present their platforms, but underneath all the talk and sniping, whichever of these two candidates gets elected will largely continue Business As Usual in the US, merely taking slightly different paths to the same end—the further entrenchment of corporate power and further support for the rigged system by which the rich get richer during good times and let the poor pay for the elites' mistakes when their leveraged investments go south.

During the primaries, the few Democratic and Republican candidates who talked about real issues honestly—Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and John Edwards—were all run out of the race by their corporate-dominated parties. Ralph Nader, who ran as a third-party candidate or independent in 2000 and 2004 and is now running again in 2008, has been even more forthright about the country's most important problems, most notably the issue of corporate dominance of the federal government and corporate hegemony in American life. But Nader is beyond even being considered a long-shot for victory in November, and writing-in a candidate like Kucinich or Paul or Edwards seems like a no-impact approach. So, one really has to pick between Obama and McCain, or it's just wasting your vote, right?

Feel the Power of the Force

Hmm. Let's imagine for a moment...

Let's say we're going to vote in a galactic political contest—the 2008 Election for Supreme Ruler of the Universe. The Republican candidate is the crusty, creepy Emperor from Star Wars. The Democratic candidate is a convincing upstart named Darth Vader. In this scenario, though, the public is convinced that the Emperor and Vader are on different sides of the issues. In reality, of course, they work towards the same purpose but with different techniques. Your only other voting choice is a third-party candidate named Luke Skywalker.

Election 2008 environmental voting

The media pundits pronounce that Skywalker has no chance of winning. This strongly implies that to avoid "wasting your vote" you must vote for the Emperor or Darth Vader, right? But would it not also be a waste of your vote to give it to either of the voting for Skywalker makes a statement of protest, a small finger-poke in the chest of The Powers That Be to say "I don't like your corrupt system and I'm not gonna vote for either of your henchmen."

Back to Real Life

The Star Wars election metaphor maps rather easily to the actual 2008 election: McCain/Emperor, Obama/Vader, Nader/Skywalker. The specifics are different, of course, but the overarching themes align quite well: There are two establishment candidates (McCain and Obama) and one anti-establishment candidate (Nader). The differences between the two establishment candidates are minimal compared to the stark contrast between either of them and Nader, who asserts correctly that "the establishment" the other two men yearn to preside over is a cesspool of corruption. Without a plan for radical change—sweeping reform of campaign contributions, elimination of corporate lobbying, and a breakup of corporate media—the establishment candidates' promises of change are empty, and the differences between their platforms are minor.

Those who favor McCain will surely protest that he is a great hero, a patriot who only has this country's best interests at heart. His actions and recent rhetoric tell us that whatever patriotic feelings he has in his gut, his brain has been co-opted by the same dark forces that have steered things in such a calamitously wrong direction over the last eight years (and, to some extent, the eight years before that too, when Clinton championed disastrous policies like NAFTA, media consolidation, and repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which laid the foundation for the current financial crisis).

Those who favor Obama will insist that here, finally, is a candidate for real change. But Obama does not oppose corporate power, and his solutions to our energy crisis include more nuclear power plants and support for the mythological "clean coal." He should be supporting massive investment in and conversion to truly sustainable energy technologies. He should tell us the truth about our energy future—that reductions in total energy use will be required (i.e. we will have to undertake "lifestyle changes," a verboten topic in politics). But Obama is not really about true change; the best one might say is that he's merely "less bad" than McCain on some issues and will go about destroying the planet more slowly.

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