With less than 20 months to go until the presidential election and maybe 9 until the first primaries and caucuses roll around, ones thoughts go increasingly to political topics. I think I’m a bit of a political junkie and I certainly love the storyline of political campaigns – even as I’m unsure whether that aspect is healthy for our society. I’ve told folks, and I think I’m not far off, that this election reminds me of the 1976 election primary. At that time I collected Newsweek magazines as my parents finished them (they had a weekly subscription). The magazine format was a much more important part of the social fabric than today of course. 1976 was the first presidential election since the Nixon resignation. Nixon’s resignation wasn’t the only thing that had happened in the previous 4 years of course – society was something of a big muck of ‘stuff’ and lots to be remembered for could come in any year. One 1976 Newsweek cover touted the score or so democratic candidates lining up for a shot to be nominated. The Watergate debacle made Dems the team to beat for November. Jimmy Carter really came out of no-where (still not sure how) but there was Frank Church riding in from the Church CIA hearings, Mo Udall, Jerry Brown, Scoop Jackson (remember the term Jackson Wing of the democrats?), Birch Bayh [ed: as I followed up writing this, Birch Bayh has died. Boy I take my time completing this no?], Sargent Shriver, and others. One of the things that strikes me is how many of these have progeny who’ve continued in their wake. Nepotism? A strong thread in US politics. It’s a topic that makes me start thinking about our wealth gap in the US but I feel I’m going off on another topic.
The topic that was banging around in my head today was how does one figure out who one should vote for? Or hope should win? This is part of the old topic of whether to vote straight for who sees the world and the problems to solve as you do or go for the one likeliest to win or the one likeliest to achieve part of what interests me? In the past there have been elections where I voted for someone based on wanting to be idealistic. For instance, I voted for (gasp) Ralph Nader in the 2000 election.
I’ve gone back and forth. I’ve made argued vociferously that my particular vote simply does not have the likely ability to make any changes. That is something that is absolutely true. Voting is something of an act of faith – or maybe a giant Monte Carlo. So does focusing on how I should vote become a shiny ball? In other words, the variance in the outcome according to the variability in how I do it is negligible compared to the intent which is to gauge public sentiment.
There’s also a (I think) new component to all of this – the public pressure that is there by virtue of electronic media. Think about the increasing number of close electoral results where people are castigated by voting for a fringe candidate because the small perturbation was enough to be a decisive factor overall. Note that I said ‘a’ decisive factor. It feels like a peer pressure thing and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it. I’ve given in to it as well and felt anger towards Jill Stein voters for instance. A messy, see-through bowl it is.