Tuesday, October 31, 2006

In Abstentia

With the 2006 election approaching quickly and early voting ending today, it's time that Dear Mr. Supercomputer addresses a force more powerful than compound interest: voter apathy.

It's easy to see why there is such voter apathy in the U.S. The political system is messy and often corrupt. Couple that with how little a vote actually counts and voila! Why should anyone bother voting. Or sometimes none of the candidates are appealing.

All of these problems are valid. Corruption is rampant in politics. Lobbyists can buy many votes. It is messy. Yes, the candidates are flawed. And according to Steven Colbert, "Of course your vote counts! It counts .000000949%."

But surely you've heard the old adage, "if you don't vote, then you can't complain." There's truth to that, even if the phrase is located on the back of bumpers across America right next to "Support our troops!," a Jesus fish, and a KASE 101 sticker.

Mrs. Supercomputer was lamenting about how the Green Party (the Supercomputer party of choice) didn't have a candidate and didn't offer an endorsement of any of the five gubernatorial candidates. The Green Party views are very aligned with those of the Supercomputer household. But as I told her, you're never ever ever going to find a candidate that complies with every single one of your beliefs. I told her that even if I ran for office, she would not agree with everything I do. That's what politics are about: concession. That's when politics actually does work. I don't agree with Chris Bell about everything, but I agree with him about enough stuff, that I gave him my endorsement. I don't think he's a great politician in that every time I see him I want to take a nap, but I feel he'll do the best job of any of the five candidates (as he's the only one that even seems intelligent, but that's just me).

If someone wants to make an educated decision to abstain from voting, then that's their decision and I can stand by that (though I find it hard to believe one can make an educated decision about the hundreds of candidates that are vying for the less glamorous positions). But the problem is, people aren't educated about the candidates. The only time we get exposure to them is on either 30 second political ads, which are a waste of time and money, or during a ridiculous hour during which we hear that Carol Keeton Strayhorn wants to Shake Up Austin and doesn't know who the president elect of Mexico is.

My suggestion is this. Texas Monthly Talks has had each of the four candidates on for about an hour each and Evan Smith probes them. There's good information there. It's not a debate that has each candidate trying to just get a catch phrase, one liner, or name recognition out there. It's a lengthy and provocative discussion about the issues the candidates think are important. TMT has all four candidates' interviews archived online here. I've seen three of the four and will catch Kinky this week (though I've already voted).

Will it take time? Yes. Will you get outraged by some of the stuff you hear? I hope so. Will you agree with everything each candidate says? I hope not. I hope nothing more than it will educate you on your decision of who the best governor of Texas would be from 2007-2011, at a time when the state of Texas is at a real crossroads when it comes to immigration, education, and transportation.

The other little bonus of this election is that while your vote is statistically small in stature, because the votes will be divided among four major candidates, and it's an off-year election, it won't take many votes to skew this thing. Just think: if a few more people in Florida voted for Gore (or should I say "successfully voted for Gore") we wouldn't be in this horrendous mess in Iraq.

So go vote. I hope you registered. If you didn't, vote where you voted last time. And know that Democracy in the U.S. isn't perfect, but you can't change things if you don't vote. Hopefully, we'll get to see some great moments like this one in the coming weeks.

1 comment:

Ash said...

Definitely agree with you here -- I think I need to watch those videos in the next six days. It's incredible how easy it is to feel from local and state politics; maybe it's because the local news doesn't really do a serious job informing the public about candidates. If there's a murder somewhere in Austin, any in-depth look into a candidate drops by the wayside. It's just incredible to think how many uninspiring people there are in politics. That to me is the hardest thing -- not feeling energized by any of the gubernatorial candidates. Though I admittedly haven't taken the time, which for me isn't very good given I love politics. Thanks for the links!