Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 5, 2014
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Sit this one out? Enjoy the aftermath.
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
Yesterday, my colleague RE published an election day rant (Fork the Morton! DON”T VOTE!) urging you to sit out the election and not vote. While not voting is certainly his prerogative, and yours, his advice is one of the most wrongheaded, shortsighted and mistaken opinions possible. As you consider the electoral results screaming from your TV, radio or (much reduced in size and scope) newspaper, savor the consequences of having followed his advice.
Charlie Pierce, engaged in live blogging the election for Esquire, had the play-by-play:
10:30PM — Colorado’s gone. Cory Gardner’s long con has triumphed. Now we will pretend that Gardner is a reasonable guy. I think that may be the ballgame. Chris Matthews just used the word “pissant,” and Cory Booker, for whom I have little use, replied that Matthews would be surprised that “there are a lot of new senators” that just want to get something done. The concrete on the narrative is beginning to solidify. Matthews wants to trade a minimum wage hike for “corporate tax reform.” I suspect that the fix on the Keystone XL pipeline is already in, too. And Udall was one of the few people in Congress who made reigning in the surveillance state a priority. I guess it’s all up to Aqua Buddha.
11:00PM — The Hour Of Suck finally has arrived. Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, has been re-elected governor of Wisconsin, Rick Scott apparently will win in Florida.
11:30PM — My new friend Joni Ernst has won in Iowa… And our golfs are safe from the threat posed to them by the United Nations. “I will say this, she goes to Washington and she becomes a hot commodity,” Luke Russert just said. “She’s gone away from the hot button issues, being more vague and general.”
God, get these people off my television. Robert Gibbs is burying the whole Battleground Texas effort because Wendy Davis is getting crushed, and Steve Schmidt is declaring a “big night” for the Clintons because Hillary campaigned for Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, but somehow forgetting that they both campaigned for Mark Pryor in Arkansas and that they went really long for Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. And, it seems to these untrained eyes that the strategy of running away from the president’s record did not do very much good at all for anyone… Also, David Perdue, the newly elected senator from Georgia, said in his victory speech that he was going to the Senate to “fight for the Fair Tax,” a fleabitten scam and longtime conservative fetish object by which you and Steve Forbes will pay the same percentage of your income in taxes, and we’ll make up the revenue with a sales tax that will introduce America to the $20 banana. Yeah, they’re coming to Washington to work with the president.
1:30AM — I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that… They have engaged, quite deliberately and quite successfully, in a concerted effort to convince the country that self-government is a game for suckers. Nobody does what they say they’re going to do, so ignore the fact that our candidates have drifted so far to the right that they’ll be falling into the Thames any minute now because they’re not going to act on their fringe beliefs, and just go out there and vote your Id. Once you’ve divorced the act of voting from the conviction that voting will have any connection to what the government actually does, voters do not vote their desires, they vote their anger and their fear.
Here in the morning after, fear is taking a victory lap.
In so called off-year elections, turnout is typically low. Even year presidential elections, where your vote actually is the most diluted and meaningless, tends to bring out the biggest crowds. We all know this. But interestingly, the closer to home your election is, the more your vote counts. And the more it matters.
Several years ago in Virginia, the election for Virginia Attorney General was settled by a handful votes. Democrat Mark Herring prevailed over Republican Mark Obenshain with a difference of 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, or 0.007%. It’s ludicrous to assert that your vote does not count, even at the state level. And if you have any doubt about the mischief an AG can cause, look no further than the record of Herring’s predecessor, Ken Cuccinelli. Let your fingers do the walking and let the Google dredge up the rotting carcasses of that worthy’s legal achievements; suffice it to say that Cuccinelli singlehandedly led a campaign on climate science, the environment and women’s rights that kept activists busy, while disgraced convicted felon former Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound attempted to get uranium mining legalized in Virginia while selling off state assets to the highest bidders.
Elections matter. If they didn’t, why would we have seen so many voter suppression schemes, unsavory redistricting, and other efforts by incumbents to choose their own voters?
If we accept as true the center of RE’s argument, that voting is often a Morton’s Fork, a choice between two equally unsavory outcomes, then why vote?
The answer is to forestall the elevation of worse over bad.
Politics is often the art of gaining a half a loaf when a whole loaf is unattainable. Here’s a story ripped from real life: Each month, Contrary and I are part of a group of progressives who gather together for a breakfast/brunch and some spirited conversation. At last month’s gathering, one of our number announced, with no small amount of pride, that she was not going to vote for Democrat Mark Warner for Senator. She was going to write in the candidate her of her choice in response to some of his policy decisions, and doubtless felt self-righteous about her decision. Another of our number, a man I otherwise deeply respect, intoned, “Warner’s got this in the bag; he doesn’t need her vote.” Really? The result? Warner has apparently managed to squeak out a victory of half a percentage point, a victory so thin as to trigger an automatic recount. Could Warner have used her vote?
And quite frankly, if you believe there is no qualitative difference between having a Senator Warner versus a Senator Gillespie representing the Old Dominion in DC, I have swampland to sell you. Warner has many flaws, not the least of which is a support for fracking in Virginia. That’s anathema to me. Yet the notion of having consummate long time Republican fixer and bagman Gillespie, he of the Enron debacle and conspicuous donation bundler for a variety of Bushes, Cheneys, et al, huddled in DC in craven conspiracy with the Worst Elements of Humanity to unleash untold mischief upon both the Commonwealth and democratic process, is unthinkable. As it was, even outspent two to one by Warner, he almost pulled off a victory that would’ve made the Republican majority even more secure, to say nothing of a super majority.
It’s been a long time since I had something, or someone to vote for. And I have my own dark moments of frustration with always having to vote for the lesser of two evils. It’s been that way my entire adult life, and with the specter of a Hillary Clinton presidential run against whoever manages the stumble out of the Republican clown car, I don’t look for relief anytime soon. But sometimes it is one’s existential duty to hold one’s nose and vote, if for no other reason than to forestall the apocalypse.
Never forget they only count the votes of the people who show up to vote. And never underestimate the ability of those working the levers of the 24/7 fear machine to carefully calibrate your level of disgust and revulsion, the better to keep you at home on your broad behind on election day. They like it that way.
And speaking of worse over bad…
Republicans campaigned on a platform of sheer Obama-hate, typically long on invective and short on specifics: the perfect offering for their red-meat base of toothless drool-cup-wearing nonagenarians, Klansmen, neo-nazis and radical Christopaths. TV airwaves were filled with fact free invective. In fact, in some of the dark-money-funded attack ads for state candidates– STATE candidates– were cookie-cutter ads suggesting that if elected to the North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia state senates, Senator Fatbottom would “stand firm against the “Obama Agenda.” As if Senator Fatbottom could come within sniffing distance of the “Obama agenda,” or if Obama’s agenda could even be found. (Seeing that same spot, with different candidates slotted in, airing in several different TV markets was quite a lesson in the glories of money recast in its new role of free speech, a transfiguration made possible by your Federalist-Society -inspired Supreme Court. As well as a lesson in the spittle-flecked fury and barely hidden racism that fueled the Repug campaigns.)
Today’s news offered the specter of Rand Paul (R-Mars) opining that the Republican Congress will pass bill after bill and fast track their regressive agenda in a flurry of so much legislation that he’ll get tired of vetoing. Not so fast, Mr. Bad Toupee: first they will have to govern. Anyone remember what Congress was like when the Dems had a majority? With a number of would-be presidential aspirants in the Congressional ranks, not to mention the various governors, former officeholders and assorted clown-car geeks who will invite themselves to the 2016 standard-bearer party, and a moving scrum on legislative priorities replete with photo ops, upcoming Republicans have set themselves up for chaos, and a circular firing squad. Can’t wait…
Congressional leaders will be pulled in opposite directions by would-be presidential contender Ted Cruz (R-Weekly World Newz) and his expanded band of Senate butt-picking finger-sniffers who dearly dream of abolishing the IRS, the EPA and the Department of Education, further eroding banking regs (because the last time we did that, it worked so well) and holding several thousand more votes to eliminate Obamacare.
But there is little I can do about any of that except sit on the porch and bark. Just remember that no matter what anyone tells you, every vote counts. They still have to count them. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be so much effort put into voter suppression and election fraud, would there? And remember when the election is local, your vote counts even more. Who among us doesn’t care about whether their property taxes go up, whether their local school boards are elected or appointed, about local environmental issues? It is local administrations, like that of Broward County, that enact laws prohibiting feeding of the homeless. What would you do if your locality enacted a similar law?
And yes, even though Alvin Toffler famously described elections as “rituals of reassurance” designed to take the steam out of dissent from below, they still matter.
When you stay home, this happens- again, Pierce:
I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party. As the cable shows signed off last night, it was dawning even on the most conventional pundits that the Republicans had not elected an escadrille of Republican archangels to descend upon Capitol Hill. It was more like a murder of angry crows. Joni Ernst is not a moderate. David Perdue is not a moderate. Thom Tillis is not a moderate. Cory Gardner — who spiced up his victory by calling himself “the tip of the spear” — is not a moderate. Tom Cotton is not a moderate. And these were the people who flipped the Senate to the Republicans. In the reliably Republican states, Ben Sasse in Nebraska is not a moderate. James Lankford in Oklahoma is not a moderate. He’s a red-haired fanatic who believes that welfare causes school shootings. Several of these people — most notably, Sasse and Ernst — won Republican primaries specifically as Tea Partiers, defeating establishment candidates. The Republicans did not defeat the Tea Party. The Tea Party’s ideas animated what happened on Tuesday night. What the Republicans managed to do was to teach the Tea Party to wear shoes, mind its language, and use the proper knife while amputating the social safety net. They did nothing except send the Tea Party to finishing school.
So don’t listen to RE: next election, vote. Get involved. Show up. Make a difference.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner, author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, who quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be briefly active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful each day for the life he has with her, and that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.