California 2015 Voter Apathy Guide
The big 2014 election has pathetically passed us by now without any cheering on my part. In preparation for whatever equally uninspiring, pre-determined, essentially meaningless political campaigns may be on the horizon for 2015, let me be the first to publish my review of the most recent developments in California voter apathy, a state where election turnouts have suffered tremendously. And why not? Since California has effectively become a one party state, what's the point in getting out and wasting time voting for politicians and propositions that I and most ordinary working people like me are lukewarm about at best.
Please don't be turned away by the title! Although this Voter Apathy Guide was designed in general for California's apathetic voters, it covers concepts that are extremely relevant for passionate proponents of apathy outside of the Golden State too, and perhaps for the detached, disinterested, and disenfranchised around the globe as well.
A Word from the Governor
Dear California Apathetic Voter,
As a devoted fellow Californian who has contributed every ounce of effort toward promoting wasteful, utopian, essentially ridiculous projects like a high speed rail line through the dusty, empty, waterless agricultural fields of California's depopulated Central Valley, I can understand your apathy and will continue to do my best to maintain it at a high level.
I believe the Golden State should always be on the cutting edge of and set the national standard for everything, and apathy is certainly no exception. As Californians we should be very proud of the levels of indifference we have achieved in recent years, and toward the end of further deepening your electoral doldrums, I highly endorse this pamphlet and everything it does not stand for, being apathetic as it is.
No Colored Lenses, Please
Just a word in advance for hard core elephant and donkey readers out there that this voter apathy guide is not designed to be viewed through colored lenses, either red or blue. I think democrats and Republicans alike are both out to impoverish us, they just do it for different reasons using different sets of catch phrases. Republicans want to bring back near slave wages and the crowded tenement house living associated with them, whereas our Democrat Governor Jerry Brown is doing his best to keep the youth of California in debt forever by jacking up tuition fees again. Meanwhile, his fellow Democrats, Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, are impoverishing California's farmers and the people that depend upon them by shutting off the water valve to the desiccated dust bowl that the Central Valley has become.
So which colored glasses should I put on? People on both sides of the political spectrum like to quote the wonderfully witty aphorisms of Sarah Palin in telling me - "Mel get out of the middle of the road or you are going to get run over." I respond by saying that the can of dogmatic vitriol they are spilling all over the highway is making the pavement slippery and sooner or later they are going to drive off the shoulder, donkeys to the left and elephants to the right. So I think I will stay right where I'm at. It might not be safer here, but at least I'm more at peace with myself.
Personal Testimony - My Journey Toward Apathy
I haven't always been as apathetic as I am now. I admit I was never the most informed voter in the world - when I go to the polls I'm always confused about which Judge or School District Board of Supervisors candidate to vote for, but I've always done my best to get out there and do my civic duty. After a hard day's work hauling America's mail around I'm always proud to show up and affix that little "I voted" sticker to my mailman uniform, which I parade proudly through the house as an example to my children.
My children, as it turns out, achieved apathy at a much younger age than I did. My oldest son, for example, is 22 years old and I don't think he has ever voted. I can't blame his apathy on video games, football, or Dancing with the Stars, as is the case with a large percentage of our apathetic voters. No, he is a very intelligent, informed and self-educated young man who reads literature, history and philosophy. The other day he was carrying around a copy of Nietzche in his back pocket, and it wasn't just to impress the girls. It was clear from the dog ears and greasy thumb prints on the pages that he was actually reading it.
From across the car seat my son and I used to engage in debates about he importance of voting as I was chauffeuring him somewhere. I would always give him the standard feel good mantras about "exercising you constitutional rights," "participating in the democratic process," etc., but my fatherly authority and cheerleading skills were not enough to convince him. This young man was and is capable of thinking through the issues for himself, and he was convinced that none of the candidates represented what he stood for. Since he didn't think that voting for the lesser of evils was a wise option, as a lot of people do, then he wasn't going to vote at all.
Recent events in California and elsewhere have led me to follow my son down the path toward voter apathy. It took me many more years than my younger but wiser son to realize that our current two party system of democracy doesn't really represent the working man at all, but is actually just a sham, mock up illusion of democracy designed to keep us going through the democratic motions so we will believe that our freedoms still exist.
Going Green, Brown, or just Blue?
If California's voters were not apathetic enough before, the state's 2012 change to what in true Orwellian double speak is known as the "Non-partisan Blanket Primary" system has ensured that voter apathy is stronger than ever and will be around for a long time to come.
Under the Non-partisan Blanket Primary only the top two finishers in the primary election make it to the general election ballot, regardless of party affiliation. In a state that leans decidedly to the left of the political spectrum, this means that in many California districts a lot of the elections are Democrat vs. Democrat battles. While I am certainly not bemoaning the damage this does to the Republican party, it does limit the range of options that we among the apathetic have to pick from while weighing whether or not to shake off our election-day blues and go to the polls.
In essence, what this change signifies is that the small parties and their adherents are virtually excluded. Why should an Independent or Libertarian voter show up on Super Tuesday if none of the flavors are to his or her liking? What about an advocate of the Peace and Freedom or Green Parties? No Green on this menu boys and girls, but certainly enough Brown to cause a pretty serious stomach ache.
One Party Rule a la China
Advocates of democracy the world over were outraged earlier this year when the Chinese government changed the way that Hong Kong picks its chief executive. While the people of Hong Kong wish to maintain a long standing system whereby candidates of different political parties and views are allowed to run for the post, the Beijing government announced that heretofore candidates have to be approved by a nominating committee.
Advocates of apathy, on the other hand, perceived this move by bullying mainland China as business as usual, not much different than how things are run over here in the "Democratic" western world. The nominating committees of the Democrat and Republican parties in the US basically pick our candidates in California and pretty much throughout the country. I can envision all of you proponents of non-apathy getting outraged and red-faced as I write these words, but outside of Ross Perot's 18 percent in 1992, when was the last time a candidate who wasn't a stinking, bellowing pachyderm or a long-eared braying jackass received a significant amount of the vote? The secret central committees of the Democrat and Republican parties decide who is going to be on the primary ballot and from there it's just a matter of name your poison to get into the general election. So even though it's fun and satisfying to get all smug and self-righteously indignant about what goes on in China, it's really not much different than what happens here.
True Confessions of an Apathetic Voter
As it turns out, my turn toward the dark side of voter apathy became complete when I failed to go to the polls this past November 4th. There wasn't a single issue or candidate that my poor one man's vote would make a meaningful difference in, I was tired, dirty, and sweaty after a long day at work, and my wife was still upset over washing my "I voted" sticker after the last election, which gummed up the washing machine pretty bad.
George Washington knew what he was talking about when he warned us that political parties are a danger to the government and to the country. He couldn't stop the feud between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, and that vendetta has now grown to the point where the two party system that slithered out of it threatens democracy and personal freedom, just like George said.
I'm frantically thumbing through this useless apathetic voter guide for an answer, but there's not one in here. I really don't want to be apathetic, but I don't know what it's going to take to get me excited about exercising my voting rights again. In the meantime I'll be sitting here exercising my right to be apathetic - just me and my buddy Jerry watching Dancing with the Stars and my son with a copy of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" covering his face.