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2004-11-03 21:30:18

Today, around the nation, tens of millions of people are wondering just how this happened. How is it that a president who has taken us from the best surplus in history to the worst deficit, who has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, who lied to us to get us into an unnecessary military conflict where thousands of American lives were lost (and countless more innocent foreign lives), who has squandered any and all good will towards Americans around the globe and turned it in to unflinching hatred, who has stood for faceless large corporations over the people of the country, whose party actively tried to intimidate voters from casting their ballots, prayed for rain to keep people away from the polls, and resorted to litigation when those options werenít enough, who failed to protect us from terrorists and then failed to bring to justice those responsible Ė how is it that a president such as this could be re-elected?

Newsweek suggests that things wonít be so bad for us, that presidents in their second term often become more centrist, and, knowing that they have no chance for a third term, try their best to affect a positive change in the world. Examples of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan in their second term attempt to show this as an effect that happens to a man in office regardless of their party affiliation. The article also suggests that Bush will simply have to calm down on military actions because American forces simply canít be spread that thin. The author claims that Bush will have to look at how close the election was and see that as a mandate that he needs to change his ways. But the author is mistaken. Already Bush is claiming ďAmerica has spokenĒ by re-electing him to office. He is claiming that he will reach out to all Americans in a move for unity. These claims are not new. In fact, they may as well be quotes from Bushís 2000 victory speech. A speech that we know was followed by four years of everything mentioned above.

You see, the Newsweek article fails to recognize how unlike previous presidents George W. Bush is. Heís playing the new game. He hasnít put in the effort to ascertain the truth before acting. His information is flawed at best. He looks for evidence to support his desires after the fact rather than making informed decisions based on the facts. He acts with his heart instead of with his mind. And worst of all he believes he is in the right for doing these things because of his faith and the support of his core constituents.

Many people like me are wondering just how it is that Bush got elected. A resume like that would get you fired from pretty much any other job on earth. There are all kinds of crazy theories that range from geography to conspiracy, most of them BS. And it got me thinking... but please allow me to digress for a moment here...

Having to go another four years with Bush was only a part of my Election Day woes. Here in Seattle, there were a number of initiatives and referendums to vote on that I felt very passionately about. By placing those last two sentences together, Iím sure it shouldnít be difficult to guess that Iím not happy with the results here either. You see, even here in liberal Seattle, we still make a bunch of mistakes too. In fact, almost every single thing I voted for ended up on the losing side. Take the monorail (please!) for instance. Having a space-age mass transit system hovering silently above the city is admittedly a very cool idea. The problem lies in the particulars and details. I could spend a very long time describing all the reasons why it was a bad idea - from the fact that it is already over budget, under-funded, poorly planned, not built with future expansion in mind, that it conflicts with existing mass transit systems, is likely being overseen by corrupt individuals - to the fact that it simply wonít alleviate traffic congestion (will actually add to it over the next five years Ė the very problem it was meant to solve in the first place). And on top of all that the monorail is not funded by a fair and equitable system. Thankfully someone else recognized many of these points already, that is, if you are interested in reading more details. Unfortunately, all the details in the world about why it is a bad choice were unable to overcome the image of what it could be. Thoughts of a beautifully accenting line being drawn across the Seattle horizon like a revised version of the intro graphic to Frasier won out over cold, hard facts. In other words, MONORAIL: COOL was all that was needed to be said in order to sway voters to adopt it.

And at long last, my friends, I come to the very heart of what has me so upset over yesterdayís election. The fact of the matter is that it is no longer about the facts. It is no longer about what was done or said in the past. It is no longer about plans for the future or the ability to execute them. Itís about marketing. Whoever has the clearest, easiest, simple platform is going to win. Bush won, not because he has a record of doing anything decent nor a great plan for change, but because his platform was TERRORISM: BAD, RELIGION: GOOD. Never mind that his record on terrorism is no better than any previous president. Never mind that constitutionally in this nation we are supposed to have a separation of church and state. Those require details and deliberation to understand. Sure, it could be said that Kerry ran on a platform of BUSH: BAD. His campaign was severely handicapped though by the fact that he was going to inherit the problems in Iraq, and so couldnít attack Bush there as well as he needed to. But more importantly, people understand FEAR. They understand the images of 9/11 and the threat of being killed by a terrorist. If they are church going individuals they understand the power of their religion and what it means to them. Conversely, there are no images that exist that are remotely as powerful when trying to convince someone that Bush was bad. Thereís no smoking gun photograph of Bush in bed with Osama Bin Laden to hang a campaign on.

It takes effort to discover the truth about Bush, about the monorail, about all the other things that were up for election. It takes effort to look past the images and find the real issues. And in our busy lives, effort is the kiss of death. Thatís really too bad. I guess what Iím trying to say is EFFORT: GOOD!

I know I made the effort to read the votersí pamphlet that came in the mail front to back. I read the statements for and against each initiative. I visited each of the candidatesí websites to get a deeper understanding of their views on the issues. I brought the pamphlet with me to the polling location, and double checked my vote against it when I was done. How many other people do you think can say all of that? How many people do you think even cracked open the voting pamphlet? How many even know they got one? I have news for everyone - INFORMATION: GOOD!

With so little information supporting most of the votes that are cast, they tend to fall back on some kind of grade school interpretation of ethics. But the one ethic that seems to be left out of most decisions (or rather, plays too large of a part) is good old fashioned greed. How many initiatives are lost because they require something to be given up by the voter? Bills to finance and improve the sad state of our educational facilities are lost because they require a miniscule hike in taxes. People vote for initiatives that will tax others far more than themselves because they can get a return with little to no investment. Why canít people think about their overall impact and the mark theyíre going to leave for a change? Think about whatís fair and equitable for people other than just you. GREED: BAD.

There are good and bad sides to every candidate, every issue. Unilaterally accepting something because of the belief that it is good, or worse the hope that it is good, is just about the worst detriment to a democratic system. But thatís exactly what our democratic system has devolved to. You pick the guy or idea you like, often based on antiquated notions of the party they represent or some intangible, pre-prescribed quality, some instinctive value. You attach yourself to their marketing slogan and preach it like gospel. Then you go and vote and feel all warm and fuzzy inside for a moment that youíve done something positive. And all this happens without having to really think about it. We vote like the walking dead. We vote with only the most basic motor skills and lower level brain power. They yell ďBRAINSĒ and we shamble off mindlessly in that direction. ZOMBIE VOTING: BAD!

So, it seems obvious to me that democracy, as it exists right here and now, just isnít working. The people arenít putting in the effort. They arenít well informed. They come up with excuses to assuage the culpability of guilty votes cast in greed. They arenít voting with their brains, but with their hearts. And then in the end they feel good about it because theyíve done their civic duty. That sounds an awful lot like the president we just voted to keep in office. Maybe we deserve Bush.

So, whatís the solution? Sure, it would be great if everyone became an informed voter. It would be great if, once informed, they had the courage and decency to vote for the greater good and not just their own advancement. But guess what, that just ainít gonna happen. I wish I could say that, with some effort and education, we could convince a large number of people to become champions of democracy. But I would be fooling myself and you if I did.

Perhaps Iíll start a vote to end majority rules. Maybe a 1/3rd rule is better. Iíll convince people that the fate of the nation is in danger if we continue this way. Iíll play off the impulse to root for the underdog. Iíll explain to them how neither their religion nor their family is run with majority rules. Iíll denigrate my opposition by claiming they are immoral, donít have your best future in mind, and are only looking for personal gain. Iíll show how with the new system youíll have more time and money, but other than that, thereís no change to fear. Iíll somehow convince people giving up some choice actually gets more done for them in the long run. Iíll tell them itís for the good of the kids, especially the unborn kids. Iíll tell them itís the only way for the elderly to hang on. Iíll show them the enemies of their life and soul donít want this to happen. Iíll promise all the biggest corporations under the table that this will allow them to run unchecked as they never have before. Then, Iíll come up with a list of all the votes that ever turned out to be abhorred but chosen by the people at large, scroll them over a flaming background and images of poor, sick children and dead people on the television and present to you my slogan:


Wait, wait, wait... I forgot that voting still has a positive value associated with it and besides, that slogan isnít catchy enough. I know! Edit in some video of zombies shambling about. Use contra positive view of voting. Change title to:


Anyone who dares oppose me can quickly be labeled and dismissed as a Zombie Voter. People in the media can quickly abbreviate this to ďZeeVeesĒ or ďZevsĒ to drive the point home. Make plans to coordinate with release of George Romero films. And no one will ever even have to know the full details.

What? You donít agree with me?!? ZOMBIE VOTER!!!