November 2, 2004: Election Day!Well, in the United States, anyway . . . so if you're one of our faithful readers residing in another country, you can take today's Daily Illuminator off and move on to some more relevant part of our website.
But for you Americans, please take the time to exercise your right to vote today. In case you haven't been paying attention the past couple of years, there's a lot of stuff going on, and the differences between the two major parties over what to do next are the most pronounced they've been in many, many years. No matter where in the U.S. you live, there are races all up and down the ballot that are vitally important to your future. So please go vote. Thanks.
We now present a somewhat contrary opinion:
I'll vote today, but I'll be grumpy about it. Like - if one believes the polls - a majority of Americans, I am dissatisfied with the choices that the two-party system has thrown up (and that turn of phrase is no accident). And like the majority of Americans, I am in a very significant sense disenfranchised with respect to the Presidential election. I live in Texas. Texas is clearly in the Bush column. My vote doesn't count; even my local effort wouldn't count. If I want to support Bush, he doesn't need it. If I favor someone else, I cannot tilt the scales his way by as much as a hair. The only way I could have affected the election would have been to send somebody a lot of money. What's wrong with this picture?
Ironically, the whole electoral college system was designed to prevent this kind of problem; it was intended to give candidates a reason to spend proportional effort in the countryside and the less populous states, so every vote would count, even if indirectly. But it no longer works. Thanks to ubiquitous polling, strategists know exactly where to advertise and campaign to get the most bang for their buck. The "battlegrounds" are hotly contested; other areas are conceded by one side, taken for granted by the other, and ignored by both.
I would dearly like to see our President elected by a simple national nose-count. The old arguments for the electoral college system have all been trumped by cable and the Internet. A candidate's physical location isn't relevant to his ability to get his message out. (Case in point: It doesn't matter where the third party candidates go; nobody listens to them.)
If, in the course of one of our nation-building exercises, we encountered an Afghan clan or Iraqi tribe that chose its leaders by a method akin to our Electoral College, we'd shake our heads and lecture them on democracy. Then we'd make them change. And we'd be really self-righteous about it.
I wish WE could change.
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