I don’t know about you, but I am very glad to be done with this latest election. During the past 2 weeks, I found myself clicking the mute button on the TV remote each time an election advertisement was on the screen. From what I did notice in these ads, the most common theme was negativity. It seemed like the candidates were spending all of their energy (and money) in order to tell us how unworthy their opponent was for elected office. If a candidate did say something about themselves, it was only to repeat the same political taglines, such as more jobs, lower taxes, etc. I didn’t see anything in these ads that really made me believe the candidate deserved the position for which they were campaigning.
I am sad to think that I live in a country where money is what determines who will be the president. As a matter of fact, money is required to be elected to any national office. The amount of money that was spent on this campaign is staggering. Between the Republican and Democratic candidates, they spent over $900 million1 trying to convince you and me that they should be president. If you include all of the national public offices that were on ballots around the country, more than $2 BILLION was spent campaigning for public office. It’s a national disgrace that so much money is wasted on campaigning. Apparently, most Americans don’t have a problem with this waste because I’ve heard very few comments condemning it.
If you look hard enough, you can find evidence of discontent with our political system. While I was looking at the results of the presidential election, I added up the totals and something struck me as not right. The vote totals as of Wednesday morning showed that a total of 119,293,097 votes were cast for presidential candidates. This total will likely change as absentee ballots are counted. Looking at this figure, I wondered how many citizens there are in this country who could have voted in this election. I found that the estimate, as of July 2011, is 237,657,6452 citizens in this country are 18 years of age or older and are eligible to vote. Almost 50% of the people, who could have voted in this election, did not.
I nearly found myself in that group of people who didn’t vote for a presidential candidate. Until about a month ago, I had resolved that I would vote on propositions on the ballot, but that I would not vote for any politician. Too often, politicians say whatever they need to say to get elected. Once they are elected, politicians regularly fail to abide by promises that they made while campaigning. Such has been the case with President Obama when it comes to this country’s national energy policy.
When President Obama was campaigning in 2008, he said that he would move this country toward renewable energy. When he gave into the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, that was one example of a politician who made a promise during his campaign and then ignored the promise after being elected. In President Obama’s victory speech this week, he said the following. “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” Our president is a very good speaker. During his first term, he did very little to deal with any of the issues in that sentence from his speech. But President Obama isn’t alone is this behavior. That is what politicians do.
When faced with the choice of voting for President Obama or Mitt Romney, I chose neither. Unless we get some new ideas in government, we are not going to accomplish anything. Of the people who voted for a presidential candidate during this election, half chose Obama and nearly half chose Romney. It’s no wonder we can’t get anything done. Half of the country wants things one way and half wants things the other way. It’s nothing but a big tug-of-war. In 2008, President Obama won by a larger margin over John McCain than he did in this election because of what he was promising in his speeches. People wanted some new ideas. What we got was more of the same political games.
There were some third party candidates running in this election who have some good ideas. I didn’t know about most of them until I received my absentee ballot in the mail and saw all the people running for president. The major presidential debates that were televised on the major networks had only two candidates participating; the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate. None of the other candidates were allow to participate in those debates. Other debates were held, in which these third party candidates participated. These other debates were not easy to find unless you looked for them on the Internet. Obama and Romney were invited to these debates, but they chose not to participate. Why should they? Most people will either vote Democratic or Republican. For Obama and Romney, there’s no need to bring in any other candidates to the debate. Why confuse the people with any new ideas?
In this election, I looked at a number of candidates, not just Obama and Romney. After reading the platforms of each candidate, I chose one that most closely matched my vision of the way forward. Many would say that my vote was wasted because third party candidates can’t win. I say that third party candidates can’t win because, in many cases, the public doesn’t know about them and what they stand for. Too many people would prefer to vote for the lesser of two evils because they don’t want to waste their votes. By doing so, the monopoly of the Republicans and the Democrats is assured.
I have no grand illusions that the political landscape is going to improve. The only way it can improve is for a candidate to capture the imagination of the nation and follow through with what is promised. I’m certainly not holding my breath waiting for it.
1. Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News, November 7, 2012
2. Federal Register: Estimates of Voting Age Population for 2011