Almost half a millennium ago, Montaigne, in his wisdom, was telling us that “sometimes it is a good choice not to choose at all.” [Essays III.ix]. He could have been addressing what would eventually be American democracy, its captive politics, and the fantasy that voters are making a meaningful choice when casting their ballots for either Tweedledum or Tweedledee. And those fictional characters of the English nursery rhyme are but the twins in our political midst: Democrats and Republicans, who alternatively control American politics from the Right… whether from the Center Right, the Extreme Right, or a point somewhere in between.
Although American federal elections, both congressional and presidential, regularly experience a low voter turnout relative to those in other nations, there is an ingrained belief in the American voter that his vote won’t count unless it’s cast for one of the two parties that share the political power. Yet, if both are deemed unacceptable, it has become the popular wisdom to say that in such case the best choice would be to vote for the party, or the candidate, thought to represent “the lesser of the two evils.”
We could call it the wisdom of conformity for those who have surrendered their rights and their freedom… without admitting it. Such capitulation, whether brought about by apathy or despair, makes a mockery of what democracy is supposed to be, and tears it to shreds, making the notion that ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people, nothing but an illusion… a way of looking into the mirror and seeing someone other than ourselves.
To our overstimulated, competitive American society, winning is not just important, winning is everything; morals and principles on the way to victory mostly disregarded or treated with an air of inconsequential irrelevancy; something which we’re unwilling to recognize, much less admit, so as to spare ourselves from any individual or collective embarrassment or shame. And our treatment of politics is no different. Why would we expect it to be otherwise? To us in the United States of America to win means only one thing: we must cast our vote for one of the two parties that has a chance to win in a duopoly which totally disregards the two major issues facing our lives: peace and socio-economic fairness, or social justice.
After extolling the virtuosity of the party and the capability of its chosen candidate to best handle the nation’s affairs, the Republican National Convention in Tampa (Florida) has just come to an end, with Mitt Romney delivering his acceptance speech Thursday night (August 30). It closed four days of party pride and self-adulation; a claimed patriotic belief in America; accusations against the have-nots – or those who claim to represent them, of “politics of envy”; and what seemed to me to be a new coined phrase: “In America we celebrate success,” referring not only to Romney’s acquisition of wealth while at Bain, but any other business success as determined by capitalism that uses socially-flawed accounting to arrive at a bottom line. But nauseating as the GOP’s rhetoric was in Tampa, don’t expect things to be much better this following week, as Democrats defend Obama’s policies during the last four years running the White House, and request four more years in charge of the nation’s Executive Department… when they hold their Democratic National Convention in Charlotte (North Carolina).
No matter who ends up victor in November, Obama or Romney, we can be sure of two things: our military will be conducting a costly war somewhere here on planet earth, giving the Pentagon its raison d’être; and the abyss between rich and poor will continue growing deeper and wider, the “effective” poor in the US probably approaching majority status by the end of the term.
At this point, and for this coming election, we might think there isn’t much that the politically disaffected – be they progressives, conservatives or independents – can do to change the political course of events during the next four years. But there is… and in a major way! They can park their vote and show their strength in a way their votes won’t be misused as it has happened in the past. This RAP (Repudiation of American Politics) vote will provide the necessary seeds to bring about the creation of one or more strong political parties able to challenge the sempiternal Democratic-Republican duopoly.
In our column next week we will suggest where your vote should be parked, and why.
Ben Tanosborn is a syndicated columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben’s website: www.tanosborn.com