Monday, October 04, 2004

Voting my conscience?

For the first time in a couple of elections, I plan to vote. I won't, right now, get into all the reasons I have not voted lately, but I will say that none of those feelings/ideas/attitudes have changed for me. In fact, what disturbs me most about this election is that I will be voting despite the things I believe/know about the electoral process.

I know that I am not voting so much for a candidate as against another one. I believe that King George Bush is the wrong person for the job, but that does not mean the Mr. Kerry is the right one. Yet, I am likely to vote for the senator.

The last time I voted in presidential race, I voted for a third party candidate. While I believed then that this person was the best available candidate, I see why my vote may have done more harm than good. I considered voting this time for Mr. Nader. Concerning some policies, I like him better than Kerry. Concerning most, I like him better than Bush. But I also know that in the last election most who voted for Nader would have voted for Gore had they only had the two candidates. Thus Bush won partially because votes were taken away from Gore, not because he was the popular candidate. I am not fully convinced that my vote actually matters, but if I am going to vote, I am unfortunately left to vote for a candidate who can win. That leaves me with Kerry and Bush. No matter how much better anyone else is, we are stuck with these two.

Why people who believe that the two party system not only works but is central to American politics can't see the problems here is really beyond my comprehension. Most of the people who support the two party system present circular arguments. I hear/read: "The two party system works/is best because only two candidates have a real chance to win." Am I the only person to see the problem here? Isn't this a sign that the system is broken?

I am also troubled by the fact that I have become, despite my own beliefs against it, a one issue voter. I am bothered when people see one idea or issue and vote for the candidate that supports their position, or more likely, votes against a candidate who does not support their position. Yet, I find myself in much the same place. I do not support the war in Iraq. Therefore, I cannot support Bush. Kerry isn't exactly what I want, but I do think he has a better idea of how to handle the mess.

There are many things for me to like about President Bush. Had I been voting then, I might well have supported him as governor of Texas (the state I live in). And yet because he refuses to believe that he made errors not only in going to war, but in the way he has handled terrorism, I cannot in good conscience support him as leader of our country.

I do not believe that it is a coincidence that politicians, at the last minute, encourage citizens to register to vote. While they say they believe the process works best when more people vote, the truth is they really don't care what the turnout is. If Bush really wants to win the election, then he not only doesn't want me to vote, he doesn't want me to register because a registered voter is more likely to try to influence others to vote the same way. Bush does not want me to vote because I do not support him. I have one brother that I am pretty sure will vote against Kerry (by default voting for Bush). I doubt the senator really wants my brother to vote too.

Andy Rooney wrote/said, "I'd be willing to bet that it's the dumbest people among us who are least likely to vote too, and that's fine with me. I don't want anyone dumber than I am voting." I think I understand where he is coming from, but doesn't this idea highlight another significant flaw in the process? Mr. Rooney is using humor to make a point. However, if mostly the smart people voted, then why such system? Why a system so flawed it cannot be fixed by those within it? The truth is that the because people are so easily manipulated, they often vote not from the convictions of their consciences, but according to the voice of their emotions.

I will vote on Election Day. I will take the matter seriously and proudly do what I'm told is my civic duty and responsibility. But I'm not going to feel good about it. When it is all over, no matter who wins, I'm not completely sure the country will be better or worse off. I will vote what my conscience tells me to do. But a large part of what my conscience says will get ignored.

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