Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why I Am Not Voting

Tuesday Nov 7 2006 is an important date for most Americans. If I am not occupied with work or some other distraction, I plan to hit the video store, pop some pop corn and curl up on the davenport for a quiet evening of movies. Most others will be voting and watching the results of the national elections being held that day. I may check in just to see what’s going on, but I don’t plan to linger as I might have on previous election nights. That’s because I am not voting this year.

Some people will react with horror or condemnation to this announcement. We have after all been raised to believe that voting is our patriotic duty. To which I respond … Bull! I have often said that there are excellent reasons for not voting. In this particular election I am not sufficiently familiar with the issues in the local elections to cast an informed vote. And as for the national elections, my absence from the voting booth is I believe the most effective and moral means of protest I have over the mess our country is in.

Since 1984 I have never failed to vote in an election. As an 18 yr old I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan and have been voting since then every two years like clockwork. So why not this year? Because I can not in conscience vote for the candidates of either of the two main political parties.

I should pause to note here that I have never voted for a Democrat for national political office. I am philosophically opposed to much of what the Democrats stand for (though I have voted across party lines in local elections). But the deal breaker between me and the Democrats is abortion. As long as that party remains wedded to the “right” to kill children (born or not is irrelevant to me), I will never under any circumstances vote for a Democrat for national political office. But, the reader may point out, surely there are pro-life Democrats. Yes there are. But they are an extreme minority in a party that institutionally supports abortion rights. A pro-life Democrat will support a majority that puts anti-life Democrats in committee chairmanships and other positions of power in Washington. Pro-life Democrats are at best, a small tolerated minority within their party. They have no possibility of influencing their party’s position on this issue. Until the Democrats divorce themselves from the abortion rights positions it has taken in the past I am morally prohibited from voting for any of their people for national political office.

OK so why not vote for the Republicans? They are certainly pro-life as a party. This is true. But the Republican Party has become corrupt. Don’t get me wrong. I am not some naïve idealist who thinks politicians should be squeaky clean. I am quite realistic in my view of Washington. This is not a city populated with saints. A certain amount of corruption in public office has always existed and I am prepared to tolerate it in the sense that the guilty should be punished , but I don’t usually hold an entire party responsible for the misbehavior of some of its members. However, the Republicans have become drunk on power and have forgotten what they were sent to Washington to do.

For years I raked Democrats over the coals about their irresponsible stewardship in Washington when they were in the majority. Reckless spending, high deficits and a ballooning national debt, plundering the public treasury to buy votes with so called public works projects, an ever expanding government that wants to tell everyone how to live their lives and a wanton disregard for the constitutional limits on the powers of the government. Republicans would do it right when we gain the majority. Well we got the majority in 1994. And at first things did improve. But there is an old axiom that power corrupts… And that corruption has now reached deep into the soul of the Republican majority in Congress.

Every item I listed above about the Democrats is now an accusation that could be fairly made against the current majority party. We have a debt that is going through the roof. Part of that is in fairness the result of 9/11 and the subsequent brief recession. But statistical studies have shown that most of it is the product of steep tax cuts which disproportionately favor about 1% of the population. I am no fan of taxes. But I do not regard them as intrinsically evil as some in the Republican Party seem to. Taxes are a necessary evil. They are the dues of citizenship. And they should never have been cut so drastically while a significant national debt remained. That they were cut so deeply and that the benefits went mainly to the wealthiest elements of our population was immoral as well as fiscally reckless. That the president called for the abolition of the estate tax (already amended so it applies only to the very wealthiest) in the middle of a war shocked my conscience.

Efforts to control Federal spending have been a joke for the last six years and one that has gotten worse each year. The highway bill passed last year was an abomination. Pork? After that bill got passed I was ready to require all members of Congress to be Jews. We have an administration and a Congressional majority obsessed with passing a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage but can not find the time or money to address a wide open border with a million illegal immigrants entering our country annually! Hello? Is anyone home? Do these people understand the concept of priorities? And why is Donald Rumsfeld still employed at the War Department? Republicans used to believe in accountability. Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster. I say this as someone who bought the whole bill of goods back in 03. I supported the war. But it was botched and the post war planning was so breathtakingly incompetent that with Rumsfeld still in office, accountability is no longer a term I associate with this administration.

Then there is the issue of constitutional restraints on power. I am sorry but I have read the Constitution carefully and can find no mention of “signing statements” anywhere. From whence does the President claim the power to ignore the laws of the land? If he signs a bill it is law, period end of discussion until or unless the courts overturn it. If the president doesn’t like the bill his ONLY constitutional recourse is to veto it. But President Clinton used signing statements too, reply the president’s apologists. So what? Bill Clinton is not someone I look to as an example of the sort of conduct I expect from my president. If we Republicans have been reduced to citing Bill Clinton’s actions as a defense for something that is blatantly illegal then we are in deep trouble (which we are).

But on an even more serious note is the de facto suspension of key parts of the Bill of Rights by this administration. Since 9/11 the executive branch has claimed the authority to spy on citizens of the United States without warrants, and to arrest and detain persons INCLUDING UNITED STATES CITIZENS, indefinitely without warrants and without access to legal council. Don’t believe me? Do a Google search on the name Joseph Padilla. This man is an American citizen. He was arrested on American soil and was held without formal charges or access to a lawyer for a prolonged period of time. His case is still winding its way through the courts, with the Feds STILL claiming they are not bound by the courts where enemy combatants are concerned. The problem is that they claim the president has sole discretion to identify enemy combatants. This is effectively a suspension of the writ of Habeus Corpus. Only Congress can do that. The total disregard for the rule of law by this administration (and the current majority in Congress) should alarm anyone who believes we are a constitutional republic, with limited powers vested in the government.

Some will claim that the Republicans are surely the lesser of evils. I should therefore support them with whatever reservations I have. I don’t agree. In some situations I am prepared to vote for the lesser of evils. Indeed I did that to a certain extent in the last general election. But not this year. This has gone on for too long. Nor am I absolutely convinced (abortion aside) that the Republicans are indeed the lesser of evils. Support for corrupt and decadent public officials needs to stop at some point. Yes it’s likely that if more people think like me the Democrats will win, and the Republicans will loose. I think that’s likely anyway but the point is still valid. Blame me if you will. The bottom line is the Republicans deserve to loose. Maybe a few years in the minority will give them a much needed lesson in humility and a fresh opportunity to get back in touch with what they are supposed to be about. Given a choice between two parties that both believe in big government, big debt, telling people how to live their lives, no respect for restraints on governmental power, no accountability for incompetence, and no respect for the rule of law, I choose to support neither.

Does anyone have any good suggestions for movies to rent on election night?


Anonymous said...

Your post calls to mind the editorial quip at Touchstone Magazine: The Democrats are the Godless party, and the Republicans are the almost Godless party!

* * * *

In the last presidential election, The Constitution Party somehow managed to get on our State's ballot. Though tantamount to a "no vote," I found that party's platform to be susfficiently moral that I could cast my "protest" vote in good conscience. Something to ponder.


Anonymous said...

Nancy Pelosi thanks you for your vote for her to be Speaker of the House. Yes, your non-vote is a vote for her, whether you mean it that way or not.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Your logic is patently absurd. I do not against candidates, I vote for them. If there are none I can in conscience vote for then I will not vote. If you wish to blame me then fine. But it strikes me as odd that you do not question the Republican leadership which has lost its soul as to why people like me can no longer vote for them. Please explain to me why the Republican Party deserves my support beyond the fact that they are not Democrats. Dragging out the boogey man of Nancy Pelosi does not impress me. Abortion aside I don’t see a major difference between her and Denny Hastert.


Anonymous said...

Indeed, Congress has the power under Article III of the Constitution to remove abortion from the Supreme Court's jurisdiction, thereby returning the issue to the several States. Yet, no Republican Congress has ever even proposed such legislation. So, how exactly would Pelosi be significantly worse?

Ochlophobist said...

I completely agree with your decision. And I completely agree that the Republicans deserve to loose. In many ways I believe the neo-cons to be more culpable than any for the present political evils in this country. They present themselves as pro-life and pro-family, but they do little of substance on either front. And there is no end to their wars and the lining of their own pockets. Furthermore, I do not know how anyone can call themselves a conservative and support neo-con politicians who spend money like there is no tomorrow and who want top-down education regulations like "no child left behind." What happened to the days when conservatives wanted to axe the Department of Education? True conservatives still do. Real conservatism is a love for the small, the local, the traditional, and the culturally venerable. Folks who are infatuated with the Republican party are conservative in name only.

I appreciate your thoughts here.

Michael Sullivan said...

This expresses precisely why I'm not voting either. Some of my friends are appalled, but there it is. The Repubs aren't duping me.