Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Why I Won’t Be Voting In The Presidential Election

The white dew fallen
on the lotus leaf has sealed
as flakes and hangs fast.

POTUS, shall I cast
a ballot to a light wind
which shakes loose no frost?

Helas! Helas! Helas!
Your policies seem hella similar to the GOP,
what be up with that?

The lotus looks sad.

— @FrancisCrot
(lineated, & hashtags removed)

A+ for effort, @franciscrot, A+ for effort – but here’s what I want to talk about:

Whenever election time rolls around, so does the idea that the Republican and Democrat candidates are basically the same. Is it just me, or does that idea seem much more conspicuous and credible than usual?

One reason is surely that, this time, it is a bit more true. Obama’s record (by historic Democratic standards, or by historic and current international standards) is pretty hawkish, neo-liberal and even drifting towards the totalitarian. Political Compass gives a devastating summary:

“The Democratic incumbent has surrounded himself with conservative advisors and key figures — many from previous administrations, and an unprecedented number from the Trilateral Commission. He also appointed a former Monsanto executive as Senior Advisor to the FDA. He has extended Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, presided over a spiralling rich-poor gap and sacrificed further American jobs with recent free trade deals. Trade union rights have also eroded under his watch. He has expanded Bush defence spending, droned civilians, failed to close Guantanamo, supported the NDAA which effectively legalises martial law, allowed drilling and adopted a soft-touch position towards the banks that is to the right of European Conservative leaders. Taking office during the financial meltdown, Obama appointed its principle architects to top economic positions. We list these because many of Obama's detractors absurdly portray him as either a radical liberal or a socialist, while his apologists, equally absurdly, continue to view him as a well-intentioned progressive, tragically thwarted by overwhelming pressures. 2008’s yes-we-can chanters, dazzled by pigment rather than policy detail, forgot to ask can what?” (Continues).

If only the candidates’ names could be summed into some chilling, malevolent singularity, with a faintly Megacity One type aura.



So maybe it’s a bit more true this time, but it was also kinda true with Obama vs. McCain, Bush vs. Kerry, Bush vs. Gore, Clinton vs. (okay, actually that’s as far back as I go. Dole? Cain vs. Abel?). E.g., the Twitter feed @VastLeft asks charming and noble stuff like, “How’s that voting-for-the-duopoly strategy working out for you?”

Tweeps like @VastLeft and @RuthlessCulture also do an honourable line in lampooning the vacuous trivial disjecta membra which pass for civil polity, and the shallow pseudo-arguments which supposedly contra-distinguish the candidates. E.g. @RuthlessCulture: “Major policy difference between Obama and Romney is that Romney’s like rilly rilly rich and Obama’s kind of not been great.” Or, with the ol’ ‘seal sounds’ critique, ‏@RuthlessCult: “‘I hate to interrupt you senator but awr awr awr’ *Democrats explode into riotous applause while drones strafe the Pakistani parliament*.”

In the UK, “They’re both as bad as the other” was in the air a lot in the days before the last General Election. The corollary was, "Might as well let the other lot have a bash at it." Such feelings were doubtless a factor in the outcome: Nasty New Labour – against whose divisive and dangerous domestic policy, and appalling bloodshed, I obv. had brandished many delightful placards – were usurped by the breathtakingly childish and brutal abomination of the Coalition. Things are complicated, of course, but my hunch is that that was a dark day, another striking instance of dizzy, befuddled humanity ramping up the self-harm.

And what troubles me about the election now underway across the pond is that we could spend too much time exposing false distinctions we hear in the media and from the slack jaws of our more docile, dozy and hope-for-the-best fellow citizens, and forget that it makes a real difference who wins it.

It’s not the difference between anything we want nor deserve. It’s not the difference between two candid and lucid visions of the common good. It’s not the difference between two possible packages of compromises among conflicting interests. It’s not any difference to do with government for the people versus a government for powerful elites. It’s not even to do with a government that wants to make gradual progress towards rationality, democracy, diversity, fairness and freedom, versus a government that wants to turn back the clock. No way.

But it IS the difference between two different contexts in which the real struggles for rationality, democracy, diversity, fairness and freedom etc. may continue to play themselves out. These possible contexts are oblique and complex and should themselves be a focus of analysis, debate and controversy.

Just because my personal disillusionment with official governance has maxed out doesn’t mean that the psychopathic horrorshow of neo-liberal hegemony won’t get any worse. If Romney gets in, Political Compass may well have to build an extension to the right end of their brilliant little diagram. But more to the point, “better” and “worse” are enchanting simplifications which we all need to touch on from time to time, but must be careful of leaning too hard on. Even if in some reductive and abstracted sense Obama and Romney administration would be “each as bad as the other,”  the specific mechanics and distribution of Malevolence O. or Malevolence R. makes a material difference to anyone interested in social justice – scrap that, for anyone who cares about human life.

Of course, Lara Buckerton won’t be voting because Lara is not a US citizen! Bloody unfair, that. If she were, she would definitely be voting! Who would she vote for? Probably GREEN. Yup, GREEN. Jill all the way. Definitely GREEN.

Um, except in Florida and Ohio.

And Virginia.

(Maybe more later!)

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