The dark side of voting

In the end, very few eligible voters actually turn out to participate in our elections. There are many reasons why they don’t. Some people are just too lazy. They have other things to do that day. Then there are those like my late friend, the brilliant political philosopher Sebastian De Grazia, who used to tell me, “I don’t know enough.” Here was one of the most brilliant academics and political scientists of all and he claimed he didn’t know enough to vote. He was right. You’ll never really know enough about the dirty deals to vote intelligently.

Because the game is so loaded and so many things are going on that we don’t know about, the most cynical among us simply say, “I don’t vote, it only encourages them.” Our politics are so dependent on money, so dependent on what Woodrow Wilson would have called, “Secret deals secretly arrived at,” one wonders, “What’s the point?”

We are appalled at the strident, frequent, obviously phony appeals. We scratch our heads and we don’t know who to root for. The manipulators send out the cheerleaders as well as those who try to scare us half to death by appealing to our competitive and fearful natures. They warn us that unless we pay up, the other side is going to win. Everything is strategic. The enemy is advancing. The consequences will be catastrophic. Our e-mail in-boxes are filled with personal appeals for support and money. We are told by the biggest recognizable political names, “I’m begging you for the money,” Or, “Bad news, we’re losing.” It’s as if a foreign army was invading our shores and we are being called to arms. The sides are drawn up. The potential consequences are terrible and unthinkable. The thing is, it all convinces some people. The political camps wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work.

Meanwhile, all the frenzy simply makes some people believe they are being lied to. They begin to hate all politicians. During the election cycle, we are engaged in team sports but once the elections are over, the parties seem to merge and become what so many people are now calling the “Republicrats.” The real winners are the people with the big bucks — the lobbyists with their fine suits who descend on the politicians and have their way with them. The politicians know that they need the filthy money that the lobbyists spread around, buying votes in much the same way they would buy bananas at the grocery store. Our politicians tell me that they spend hours on the phones, begging people to give them a couple of thousand dollars or much more. There are ways to funnel money into elections. There may be limits on how much you can give to an individual candidate but there are no limits on how much you can give to a political party and its “housekeeping” efforts. The party then will spend the dirty money any way they want to make their side win.

We allow the leaders of each of the political parties to draw their own legislative lines and when the people figure out that this is anything but fair in a democracy, those same leaders come up with a way to fool us into voting for a Constitutional Amendment that will ultimately preserve the status quo. So now the dirty game is exposed for what it is. On the one hand, newspapers do their jobs and explain the seamy side of the process. On the other, they properly encourage us to do our duty and to go out and vote. What else can they do? They are right, of course. The vote is paramount. Once we relinquish it, those with the most money will have even more control. We just have to do better or we all lose. Downer.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/3/14
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