Every couple of years, Americans look at the television set, or their computer, or smart phone, and say to themselves, “Damn, American politics is fucked up.” OK, maybe that is too much of a generalization. Some Americans say that every day while others might never notice that politics is a mighty strange business. Meanwhile, the rest of the world can’t figure out how our system of government works—which is not very surprising considering that not even members of our own government can explain our government in terms that a five year-old can understand—which in turn, says nothing about the intelligence of people in foreign countries, and everything about the fact that our system of government was designed by people who did not trust any form of government that they were familiar with and therefore, decided to create a brand new way to mess things up.
In the United States, we have
a democracy. And by democracy, I mean that we cast votes for people who
are supposed to represent our interests, and for little key chunks of
law that entire pyramids of legalistic goo are built upon. It is a
Our representative democracy exists for
two reasons. One, the technology for a direct democracy, where one
person’s opinion equals the exact same weight as someone else’s opinion,
and a simple majority carries the day, simply did not exist when our
system of government was created; tallied votes could only travel as
fast as a horse mired in a swamp. Two, the founding fathers did not
believe that everyone’s knowledge of government and the law was equal,
therefore, they gave more weight to the opinions of “political experts”
than to your average tavern stool sitter.
Now, let’s be clear
about something: direct democracy would lead to our extinction. Take for
instance, the issue of witchcraft. Given that many people believe that
we should be a pure Christian nation, believing that the founding
fathers meant for the Bible to be the guide of law in this country,
anything that goes against what they think the Bible says, in the minds
of these people, should be against the law. And given that the Bible
says that one should not allow witches to live, well, it does not look
good for the witches. Don’t bother to argue that those who embrace the
Bible are selective in what they believe that the Bible outlaws; for
instance, bacon loving tattooed men are outlawed; such arguments are
ignored by those who insist that the Bible is the end-all of morality
and law. And the people who believe such things, if given the route of
direct democracy, would vote to throw witches in jail before dousing
them with gasoline and lighting matches.
democracy was feared by the founding fathers. In order to jail and burn
witches, first you have to convince enough people that it is a good
idea. Second, you would have to change the Constitution, which contains
an amendment that hints that freedom of religion, even nasty unchristian
religions, is allowed; because otherwise that nasty judicial branch
might strike down your law, and tell you that you are not allowed to
roast marshmallows over a burning witch. Those nasty founding fathers
simply did not trust people to play nice with one another.
Unfortunately, the fear of direct democracy also gave rise to
professional politicians and experts.
At top of the United
States’ political heap is the office of the President. Every four years,
we have a Presidential election, including a campaign cycle that seems
to just be getting longer and sillier. The voters have two says in this
matter, once in the primaries and caucuses, and once during the actual
election itself. Bookmarking these events are enough political ads,
debates, and other strange nonsense that one finds themselves believing
that American politics is overseen by a zombie donkey and zombie
elephant because there is no way that either animal could put up with
that much nonsense and still be alive.
During this process of
selecting a President, not everyone’s vote counts the same. In one of
those political arenas that requires a political pundit to explain, the
votes of certain states matter more than those of other states. And in a
couple of these caucuses, recently we saw a coin flip, or card draw,
determine the final vote. Plus, there is this strange concept of
super-delegates, where one person’s vote (select elected officials)
count as much as thousands of other votes made by ordinary people. On
top of this, we have the Electoral College, where the votes of certain
states are worth more than others. And after all this, if things go
really odd, one can end up with the Supreme Court deciding who is
Given all this complicated procedure, one can easily
come to the conclusion that one’s vote does not count. That is not true;
it is just that our system is designed so that the masses who only
think about politics every four years can’t completely take over. Our
system is designed to be run by professional politicians, but—and this
is when you have to remember what type of democracy we actually
have—they are supposed to represent the people.
And in order for
them to represent us, they have to know that we exist. If we want our
opinions about how this country should be run, and what laws and
regulations are needed, and what programs funded, to be considered by
the professional politicians, then we have to be visible as a voting
bloc. Politicians need to know that we exist. Now, while it is too late
to get involved (or interested) in certain parts of the process this
time around, it is not too late for the next stage of the process. And
there is always the next cycle. It is never too late to get involved.
Therefore, I encourage you to register to vote (if you are not already
registered); learn what you can about the issues and candidates, and
vote whenever you can.
A useful site to learn more, including voter registration deadlines, is Rock the Vote: http://www.rockthevote.com/…/voter-registration-deadlines.h…
Another educational site is USA.gov: https://www.usa.gov/election .