Now I don't know about you, but I'm feeling an awful lot like this little girl. But I'm not just tired of hearing about these unrelenting campaigns; I'm tired of a political system that seems to force most Americans to choose between what they perceive as the lesser of two evils.
I'm certainly not immune to this ambivalence, as neither of the major candidates or their parties even come close to sharing my political imagination. As a reference, check out these diagrams from politicalcompass.org. On the left, you'll see the political positions of all the folks running for US president this year. On the right, you'll see my own position on the map.
Without explaining the diagrams in depth, you should at least be able to see and understand two points quite clearly:
1) The leading candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are remarkably close to each other in ideology.
2) I am light years away from them both!
This being the case, I could not in good conscience vote for either. The lesser of evils is still evil and I see no reason that a vote for evil should be compulsory!
Now the tragic event of Hurricane Sandy and Obama's efficient response (as compared to, say, Bush's response to Katrina) has surely rendered the election choices more clearly for many yet-undecided voters. With conservative Governor Chris Christie praising Obama's efforts and leadership, Romney's past statements about disbanding FEMA dragged back to public attention, and what appeared to be the blurring of partisan division to bring relief to the states hardest hit by Sandy, I'm sure that many have finally fallen to Obama's side.
And images like the one to the right are bringing many back to their senses, recalling for them a unified America guided by sensible discourse, real-world human interaction, and solidarity in a common struggle (though perhaps they have to mine a couple decades of political memory to find this idyllic nation of their past).
Maybe I'm just too cynical, but I'm still not buying all this malarky (to use a fun election term). For one thing, I never knew such an America. As long as I've had the ability to think critically and engagingly about matters of social significance - I was in the 10th grade on 9/11 - the Republicans and Democrats have been doing this frivolous political dance. In 2004 I was finally old enough to cha cha my way to the ballot box and I threw my support behind John Kerry, a decision I regret and I'm sure I'd have regretted if he had won.
In the last presidential election, I didn't make the same mistake. Somewhere between the two, I came to understand the political dance from a place a bit removed. It occurred to me that the Democrats and Republicans were only marionettes in the hands of corporations; their dance was merely an elaborate show to distract us from the most pressing issues (those regarding peace, justice, liberty, and social equity) which of course they would never address!
Politics were little more than bread and circus.
So in 2008 I voted my conscience instead, for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney (in stark contrast to my prior experience, I beamed with pride some months later as she risked her life on behalf of peace in Gaza). Though I had known that my candidate was sure to lose the election, I was proud of my choice and confident that I'd made the right decision.
This year everyone seems to agree that there is much at stake in the election. And I certainly don't disagree. However, I can't shake the feeling that everything that's at stake in this election exists in the narrow realm between the two candidates' dots on the compass above. Whereas the issues that matter most to me have barely received mention from either candidate.
- What of the NDAA?
- What of the unconstitutional and unconscionable use of drones for targeted killing and surveillance?
- What of the needless deportation of immigrants?
- What of the democratic travesty that is the "Citizens United" decision which both major party campaigns have directly benefited from (it's a wonder that they haven't mentioned it!)?
Neither candidate will address these issues and I am confident that if they did, we would not come very close to agreement. For these reasons and so many more, I am supporting Jill Stein (another Green Party candidate) for US president this year.
My conscience affords me no other choice.
I won't vote for evil. I will vote for someone who shares my values and with whom I agree on public policy. And though I know she won't win, I also know that come Wednesday I'll hold my head up high - regardless which marionette remains atop the stage as victor.
I pray - for the sake of the American democratic project - that you can too.