Don’t Vote.

Yeah, I said it.  Don’t vote.  Come November 4th, stay home.  Take that half-hour or so, and play some video games, read a book, or watch VH1.  But whatever you do, don’t vote.

I’m not being sarcastic.  Not entirely, anyway.  Perhaps you’ve seen this video.  That’s not what I mean.  In fact, it’s part of what I have an issue with.  The message is great, but it’s incomplete.  Voting isn’t just taking action, it’s taking responsibility.  The last thing I want is for somebody to vote just because Jennifer Aniston told them to, and not have any idea as to what it is they’re voting for.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for participation, I’m just hoping it’s informed participation.  Consider this conversation I had with a co-worker the day after the first presidential debate:

ME: Hey man, what’s up?  Did you watch the debate last night?


ME: Why not?  Were you working?

JOE CO-WORKER: No, I had last night off.

ME: So why didn’t you watch it?

JOE CO-WORKER: Um… because I have cable, I guess.  I was watching Comedy Central.

*not his real name

Come November, Joe may vote.  Do I have a problem with that?  Not entirely, I suppose.  Joe’s not alone, only 17% of all Americans watched that first debate.  I’m not about to judge what Joe thinks or knows based on him not watching one debate.  I’m saying in general, we are a completely uniformed populous, and I use the term ‘we’ deliberately.  The fact that Joe is uninformed, or the fact that I am uninformed, whether or not either of us is making a direct attempt to stay involved, is not entirely our fault, and that’s my problem.

Through the course of the last handful of months, I can feel something inside me growing more and more disenfranchised with the whole political campaign process.  I watched the debate, but I don’t think I came out of it knowing much more than I did going in, (which wasn’t all that much to begin with) and if you ask me, I suspect that was exactly what both candidates wanted to happen.  Politics has become so much about image that candidates refuse to talk point-blank about the issues for fear of not looking good.  Let me rephrase that: the candidates don’t say what they think because they’re afraid that if they do, people won’t vote for them.

Isn’t that what the election is about, what the candidates think?  Granted, the fact that they don’t speak with 100% candor isn’t entirely their fault.  It’s at least partially their fault, and it’s probably mostly their fault, but it’s not entirely their fault.  Think about things in the news that have garnered the most attention over the past ten months or so: American flag pins, pant suits, the phrase “lipstick on a pig”, the cover of “The New Yorker”, crying, the word “maverick”, the fact that Senator Obama is black, the fact that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are not men, and this.

Now whether it’s the media’s fault for reporting that or the American people’s fault for paying attention to it isn’t the point.  The point is that for anyone looking for legitimate information, that’s the kind of forest they have to forge through to get it.

So let’s say you do watch the debates like I did, with every intention of seeing live, unedited responses from the candidates on the actual issues that matter.  You still don’t get that.  What you get is two grown-ass men dodging questions like a six-year-old in trouble.  Take this actual* exchange from the first presidential debate:

*not really

MODERATOR: Senator Obama, in March, the senior senator from Kentucky brought a package of Oreos onto the Senate floor and left them there while the senate was in recess, coming back fifteen minutes later to find three of his Oreos missing.  The record shows that during the recess there were only two senators who remained in the building, yourself and senator McCain.  The American public would like to know: did you eat those cookies?

OBAMA: You know Jim, before I get to that, let me point out that under John McCain’s tax plan, only the wealthiest 10% of Americans would retain the financial means to afford cookies.  My tax cuts would allow the middle class the financial reprieve necessary to purchase all the cookies they could ever want.

MODERATOR: Senator Obama, may I redirect you to the original question: did you eat those cookies?

OBAMA: Senator McCain’s record with respect to cookies is suspect at best.  During 2002, Senator McCain voted twenty-six times to deny the American people the right to cookies.  Twenty-six!  If voted president, I promise to veto any bill that comes across my desk that limits Americans’ access to cookies.

MODERATOR: Senator Obama.  Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, DID YOU EAT THOSE COOKIES?!?!

OBAMA: (looking downward) …yes.

It’s childish, really, and it happens on both sides.  They’re content to let the American people categorize them by the stereotypes of their political parties, rather than tell us themselves.  One of the things I want from a president is somebody who’s going to get stuff done, not somebody who’s going to dodge questions and hide from the truth.  I want the candidates to look straight into the camera and say, “Hey America, this is what I think, take it or leave it.”  If either candidate would be willing to do that, my respect would grow for them tenfold, regardless of whether I agreed with them or not.

The Vice Presidential situation isn’t that much better.  I will admit they did a better job answering questions during their debate, but prior to that debate, they were grossly underexposed for being someone who could potentially be one too-large-bite of sandwich away from the presidency.  Sarah Palin would only talk to Katie Couric, and Joe Biden was nowhere to be found.  I saw more of Tina Fey’s version of Sarah Palin than I did of Palin herself.  Before the vice presidential debate, I actually sat down to try and make a list of all the things I knew 100% to be true about the two VP candidates from watching the news, and it wasn’t pretty.


a) is Governor of Alaska

b) is a ‘hockey mom’

c) opposes abortion and has a pregnant teenage daughter

d) chooses weird names for her kids

e) is a lady


a) is a Senator from Connecticut*

b) said that thing about FDR going on TV after the stock market crashed

c) is older than Obama

*Actually Delaware, but you might not have known that, either.

Depressing, isn’t it?  Now, maybe I hadn’t actively sought out information as best I could, but this is the single most important thing happening in our country right now (or maybe second-most, and there’s 700 billion reasons why that might be the case), and you would think that by being a part of the country, I’d at least gain some sort of knowledge by osmosis or something.

The problem here is that running mates have become nothing more than accessories.  VP candidates are picked with the express purpose of either counteracting the presidential candidate’s weakness, or appealing to a hard-to-reach demographic.  They’re not partners, they’re handbags.  It’s the idea of “maybe if I add this person to the picture, it’d soften my image a bit where such-and-such is concerned, and draw attention away from this ugly feature.”  This is a total cop-out.  Pick somebody you trust, somebody who you genuinely think will help you should you become president.  Pick the person you’d call first if your spouse came to you and said they wanted a divorce, not somebody who merely represents what you’re not.

But that doesn’t happen.  And because that doesn’t happen, presidential candidates hide their running mates from the public eye, afraid that they’ll say something harmful because they didn’t really know the person in the first place.  If you trust someone to take over your job, you should trust them to speak candidly, as well.  But they don’t, and that’s why my two lists were so short.

In conclusion, it’s probably safe to say that despite the title of this post, the solution is not to abstain from voting.  That’s probably more of a cop-out than anything else.  I think what it all comes down to is that it’s just going to take more effort than should be necessary to actually get to the candidates’ views, and we’re just going to have to deal with it.  I know I’m going to have to deal with it, because there’s no way I’m walking into a voting booth on November 4th without being absolutely certain what it is I’m voting for.  Maybe that means reading more, maybe that means taking a deeper look at the candidates’ websites, or maybe it means getting my news from somebody other than Jon Stewart.

Let’s hope it’s not that last one.


3 Responses to “Don’t Vote.”

  1. 1 kyyr
    October 5, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Thank you for pointing out my thoughts! I am not going to get on here and support a canidate but alot of supporters just see someone who is new and of a different race than anyone else and jump to him. No one researchers the beliefs each canidate has or what they support or what they can actually do. Its really sad that our forefarthers fought and died to give us the right to choose who our leader is and the majority of us dont participate.

  2. 2 Alex
    October 5, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    You know what’s also pretty tiring to watch? Political analysts, (some) strategists, commentators. I started noticing that most of what they contributed after any debate, convention, speech, whatever it may be… was another breakdown of the candidates’ image. Didn’t care to continue watching them say the same thing on every channel…

  3. October 5, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Alex, I couldn’t agree more… I was watching a couple of news reporters who, after the first debate, seemingly only found one thing interesting: that Obama called McCain “John” as opposed to “Senator McCain.” Saturday Night Live also made much of the “Can I call you Joe” comment before the VP debate. It’s frustrating to me that in this culture of too much information, we can’t look past the unnecessary, petty details and talk about the real stuff.

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