Msnowe's Blog

Electable

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on October 28, 2008

UPDATE: See comment about Direct Democracy. M.Snowe is no political scientist, so comments are always welcome to prove her assumptions wrong!

The elections are almost here, and M.Snowe senses the hush before the storm. The debates behind us, there’s nothing much to do but hold our collective breath and wait for our turn in the booth (or mail in our ballots–which promises to be a complete nonevent, compared to the shiny metal levers and satisfying swoosh of a tattered curtain).

Then M.Snowe got to thinking about the electoral college system, and democratic republics in general. Any grade-schooler worth their lunch money should be able to tell you we do not live in a democracy. A direct, ancient-Greek-style democracy consists of all citizens (even if that term was a narrow one back then, eliminating many people) voting upon the laws of the state, in one location. Today, we elect those who elect for us, and in that way we are represented by proxy–because we as a nation are such a behemoth that direct democracy is just not feasible. People have complained that voting is pointless, that their individual vote “doesn’t matter,” especially in a state that is heavily tilted to one party. Well, they’re right. And thank god. First, that’s an asinine argument against voting, because if your one vote “mattered” in the sense it determined the election, well then the rest of us might all just sit home and let you cast your ballot for us. Seriously. Also, even though it is like a drop of water in the ocean, your vote does contribute something. If nothing else, it legitimizes your ability to criticize the government. It legitimizes your participation, and for once is something you can contribute that isn’t a tax. If you’re not that symbolically inclined, then it’s understandable you don’t care about the race. But you forfeit all rights to complain, in M.Snowe’s book, even though your vote wouldn’t have changed a thing, almost certianly.

There is a lot to be learned by analyzing one person’s vote in a presidential election: you can campaign and vote for a certain person or a set of things, but ultimately the decision is a collective result of all the people around you, pulling the strings whether they know it our not. And that’s the part that scares people away from the polls, in this blogger’s opinion. You have no control over the outcome, and yet you are asked to take a gamble, invest your time, thought, and in some cases, your desire. It is the willingness to throw in your chips, bend your will, that makes elections a showpiece for life.

You might desire one outcome with all your insides, but sometimes it just doesn’t pan out–you feel emptied, and aren’t sure how to function in the face of this new state of being that isn’t the one you were hoping to encounter. Life moves on–it must–but spectacularly it feels as if somehow you stepped off to the side, and slow motion is the only way to operate in the face of the spinning clocks and daily merry-go-rounds.

The fervor, the thrust of those last few electric months, or weeks even, still pulse faintly, and like a white dwarf, the density of thoughts can pile on and grow by degrees, even though outwardly you only flicker faintly to the casual onlooker. There is no longer any hope to energize you, the election over, no fusion reactions to heat the core. However, once the build-up of mass or pressure becomes unbearable, carbon detonation can occur. It’s not surprising that our actions mimic the stars. We certainly didn’t vote for it to happen this way.

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One Response

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  1. Evan Ravitz said, on October 28, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    “because we as a nation are such a behemoth that direct democracy is just not feasible.”

    Switzerland, pop. 7 million has had direct( as well as representative)democracy via national ballot initiatives since 1891, and it has kept their kParliament representing and humble.

    There’s no reason it can’t work in the U.S. As computer scientists say, it’s scalable.

    You can now vote at http://Vote.org to ratify the National Initiative for Democracy (much as citizens ratified the Constitution at the Conventions) which would give us better and national ballot initiatives. It’s led by former Sen. Mike Gravel.


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