Rusty Nelson on Peace and War

Pre-emptive and Perpetual Elections

I still like to vote, but I don’t love it, anymore. It’s not a matter of a polling place. I rather prefer voting by mail and don’t understand why it’s not as common as yard signs. I don’t love voting because I detest the system, a sewer of good money after dirty, instead of a river of citizen energy.

Most people don’t vote. Maybe you’ve noticed. And maybe you’ve agonized and organized and been surprised to find community-minded individuals who don’t vote. Becoming a Mennonite years ago, I learned some North American Mennonites still choose not to vote because it might blur their line between sacred and secular and cause them to render something to Caesar that’s none of Caesar’s business. I gradually came to appreciate their integrity, but I remain an eager, if skeptical, voter. My attitude would not be improved if these folks compromised their values and voted, unless certain pious voters forfeited their suffrage.

What I want, I guess, is to blame without polarizing. My scapegoats are the Electoral College and the so-called two-party system. And those feudal institutions share anachronistic roots, although the two-party system tends to dominate every election, while the Electoral College is dusted off only for presidential races. But, for the shipwreck that was the 2014 election, I blame the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

The Electoral College is a hindrance to democracy and has outlived its usefulness by at least 50 years. Any political party interested in “one person, one vote” would work relentlessly to terminate it.

Even the confining EC couldn’t keep order in our young representative democracy. Individual interests arose with such acrimony that the founders’ intentions of nonpartisan government were set aside. Since then, the biggest and bitterest national election squabbles have been the domain of the dominant parties while winner-take-all prevails in all but two states. Maine and Nebraska apportion their electoral votes.

The only midterm news I saw on the EC explained how apportionment in more states might further diminish the popular vote (Is that now an oxymoron?). Incredibly, your presidential vote could be even less meaningful. And you’ve been told voting independent or third party was a waste, as we watch the supported parties spar disgracefully while the country sustains the wounds.

Since no one with influence wants to eliminate the EC, we can whine about our disenfranchisement, again, in two years. Locally, we have nonpartisan offices, but odds are against independents and small parties, not to mention actual representation. Many of us had friends pitted against each other in this year’s primary, where my county commission vote was taken away by reapportionment. I felt like a black man with only two pieces of ID trying to vote in Texas. And, who could resist voting for Breean Beggs for prosecutor? Thousands, apparently, and I’m embarrassed so few voters know who and what Breean is.

The pitiful turnout hurts, and nobody knows exactly why people bail. We generally survey voters, not non-voters, but we know party impressions begin with national media, and ratings show venom draws more interest than facts.

Worse than the influence of Fox News, media apologists for the Democratic Party rarely show inclinations to promote peace and reconciliation over unlimited

I’ve had an affinity for Democrats most of my life, with an independent streak from national elections in which I felt compelled to vote for someone I actually admired. I love the Green Party, but I’ve only had one opportunity to vote Green outside presidential elections. I’d like to help the brave Greens who keep the party alive in this area, but I’m not as feisty a punching bag as I once was. When I was young, I cast some Republican votes, perhaps rebelling against my Democratic parents. Mother’s family was imbedded in Georgia politics, and my father grew up literate and poor in Arkansas. As I was impressed by the likes of Goldwater and Nixon, he carefully told me it was Democrats who had the interests of common people in mind.

It’s hard to imagine an excuse for Northwesterners who aren’t greedy and xenophobic to support Republican causes. Unfortunately, Democrats only grade well in comparison to the GOP. An Idaho Democrat was quoted in the Spokesman Review, saying President Obama could come to Idaho, register as a Republican and get elected without regard to issues. With obvious qualifiers, the point is taken and could apply to Eastern Washington, outside the 3rd Legislative District.

I don’t expect Republican control of the Senate to make much difference in our congressional malaise. Congress members, Democrat and Republican, live in a different economy than most of us, and it’s the economy to which their parties, their patrons and the media cater, demanding an abstract view of human rights and setting aside peace and environmental concerns. It’s a bi-partisan economy that will have its pipelines, for dirty oil and campaign cash.

A comprehensive plan to eliminate our voting dilemmas is problematic. It seems responsible to peck away from outside until major upheaval demands real change, but most voters dread upheaval more than continuing corporate domination. It’s tragic that reform of campaign spending has been stifled, but we deserved to know that the Supreme Court sides with big money.

Our best hope for a healthy party system may be for both major parties to divest elements who demand rescue of the middle class or an end to the wall between military and social funding. That could introduce structure for several parties reliant upon people power rather than big money and the impetus for other leaders to act out of principle over profits. Four or five strong parties would require coalitions for decisions that affect all of us, and I like that idea, even when I see other countries struggling with too many political entities. It’s a more wholesome problem than too many lobbyists and too much money.

Meanwhile, look for better options than the status quo or not voting. I’m sure we agree that Citizens United must be overturned, and buying and selling elections is bad. Reserve your support for candidates who represent your hopes and values. Require parties to address your political aspirations before you commit time, money or votes. Try to avoid sweeping generalities, like the ones I use all the time. Give candidates consideration beyond party and the ability to win, and don’t encourage anyone who puts party ahead of human needs.

When it comes to Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, you don’t have to mark every ballot item. And you can write in candidates. It caused no trouble for me to get a few votes for state legislature, this year, and it was exciting to see primary write-ins qualify for November. There’s no shame in supporting unsuccessful candidates or issues, or losing, even to an inept opponent. It is a shame for an avid voter to depend upon the lesser of two evils.

A single party will never offer all the best solutions, locally or globally. A good party system could exciting to see primary write-ins qualify for November. There’s no shame in supporting unsuccessful candidates or issues, or losing, even to an inept opponent. It is a shame for an avid voter to depend upon the lesser of two evils.

A single party will never offer all the best solutions, locally or globally. A good party system could put the love back into voting.