Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Confessions of a Hopium Eater

From the August 2011 issue of Bazooka Magazine:
I was enlightened or warped, depending on how you look at it, by George Carlin at a relatively young age. One of the things I agreed with Carlin about for a long time was voting, on which he said:
"I don't vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain,' but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote -- who did not even leave the house on Election Day -- am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created."


Since all politicians seemed equally dishonest, I took Carlin’s advice and stayed home most election days. Then in 2000, the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency and it quickly became apparent that in some cases the lesser of two evils was in fact preferable. So I started voting for the person I thought would fuck up things the least and/or the candidate who could correctly pronounce “nuclear.” Until 2008, every vote I cast was against the other guy, not for the guy who got my vote.

In 2008, Barack Obama came along, and I actually believed that he’d do what he said he’d do. While I knew that many of his ideas could never actually be implemented, he made me believe that he’d at least fight for them, and for the first time I voted for a candidate rather than against his opponent. During the early days of the Obama presidency, my Hopium addiction was still strong enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, but after a while I managed to kick the habit of paying more attention to what Obama was saying than what he was doing.

Many who are still hopelessly addicted to Hopium are quick to point out the accomplishments of the Obama administration, but most of these are hollow victories. The Iraq war is over, but only on paper, and we’ve more than made up for the decreased fighting there in Afghanistan, not to mention our air and drone attacks in Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. We’ve got universal health care, but in the form of a corporate-friendly mandate almost identical to the plan that the Heritage Foundation proposed during the Clinton administration. The administration directed the DEA to stop raiding state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, but then changed its mind when it realized how much money these dispensaries were making without DEA interference. I guess they were worried about that money cutting into Big Pharma’s profits and by association Big Pharma’s campaign contributions. Obama’s few real accomplishments, like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” were inevitable. They might have taken a few years longer without Democratic leadership, but they were gonna happen sooner or later.

It’s become abundantly clear that Obama, like most other Democrats, only differs from the Republicans on a few social issues. When it comes to economics, the difference between the two parties is so minor as to be almost academic. They’re both ultimately concerned with keeping their rich donors happy, the only difference is that the Democrats will occasionally hide their blind greed and self-interest by throwing a bone to a social program or two. It’s a lot like professional wrestling: To a progressive-minded voter, the Dems are the faces and the GOP play the role of the heels, but at the end of the day they’re all working to put on a good show (like The Debt Ceiling Showdown pay-per-view event) to keep the cash flowing from the rubes (us) to Vince McMahon (the Koch brothers, Walton family, and other billionaires).

Obviously, people on my end of the political spectrum aren’t going to vote for any of the criminals and maniacs that have a chance of getting the GOP nomination, so what the hell are we supposed to do? Much as I agree with Carlin on most things, on this particular point, I think he’s wrong, so I’m going to vote for somebody. The question is, who? My current plan is to vote for a third party candidate (a real one, not a Republican wearing teabags on his three-cornered hat).

Some people will probably counter this idea with the Nader argument and say that by “throwing away your vote” on some third-party candidate, you’ll help to put the GOP back in power. My counter-argument is “what’s the difference?” From where I’m sitting, I really can’t see much of one. All the worst policies of the Bush years have been continued under Obama. As for all the GOP policies that Democrats use to frighten votes out of people--cutting of social programs, outlawing abortion, passing DOMA--keep in mind that the Republicans controlled all three branches of government for most of a decade and didn’t accomplish any of these things. That’s because actual reform of this sort would cost them votes in the next election. Wedge issues like these are the steel cage ladder matches that keep us watching (and voting).

If you can’t find a third party candidate you agree with, just vote for the absolute most batshit insane person you can find. Under our current political system, third party candidates don’t have much chance of getting elected anyway, so you’re not really voting to elect anyone. Instead, you’re voting to show the major parties that you refuse to give your vote to someone who isn’t going to work for your interests. If enough people do it, maybe eventually they’ll take notice (at least until the Supreme Court decides that corporations get 1 vote for every dollar they earn or something). If a few third party guys get elected, even better. There’s always a chance that a handful sincere true believers and colorful nutjobs can at least slow down the bi-partisan corporate toadying and upwards redistribution of wealth that goes on in politics today. At the very least, having a few true loonies in office will make C-Span a lot more entertaining.
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