Sunday, May 22, 2016

George Carlin Was Wrong On Voting

I've been running into many people lately who say voting is a meaningless process when I bring up politics. One guy I was talking to recently brought up George Carlin who was very critical on the voting process (among other things). George Carlin said repeatedly in his standup gigs and on TV and other media outlets that voting is pointless because the game is rigged, the country's ruled by a small group of people who have all the real power, and they've set up a system to give you the illusion that you actually have a choice when you go out and vote, but you don't.

Now look. I'm a huge Carlin fan. I love his stand up and his general philosophy. He's genuinely funny as fuck. But he's wrong on voting. First, let me say that I partially agree with him that there are people running the country who don't give a crap about regular working folks like me. This is not to say that there's some secret conspiracy, like the Bilderbergs, or the Illuminati. There is some truth to that but I'm not a conspiracy nut. There are various competing groups in various areas of the world in various sectors who have a disproportionate amount of power. That's always been the case. But aside from this partial truth, to not vote is not going to make the situation any better for thinking and working people who want rational policies. It will make it worse. Here's why.

We have to acknowledge that not all politicians are the same. No one in their right mind would seriously believe that a Ted Cruz presidency would've had the exact same laws and policies passed as a Bernie Sanders presidency. If you believe that you're insane. These two men couldn't be more ideologically different. The same is true of past elections. Do you really think that a John McCain presidency would've had the exact same laws passed that president Obama passed? Do you think universal healthcare, and same sex marriage, and the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would've been passed under president McCain? Do you think McCain would've appointed the same Supreme Court Justices as Obama did? You know the same-sex marriage decision came down to just one vote don't you? A one vote difference would have made the country completely different. Elections matter, and presidents appoint Supreme Court judges and Congress votes them in, and you vote-in the president, the senators, and the congressmen and women.

If you don't think your vote counts, think again. The reason why Bernie Sanders didn't get more votes than Hillary Clinton is because his base is among young people and too many young people have bought this meme that all politicians are the same and the game is all rigged and so your vote doesn't matter, so don't vote. Nothing could be more insane. This guarantees that you will never get your way in the political system. In case you don't know, the people who are not buying this meme are the older religious white conservatives who often vote for religions Christian dominionists who want to turn the US into their Christian fantasy land. The religious right in this country wants to live in a very very different America than secular liberals like me.

Not voting is insanity. Just think of what kind of candidates we would get if 20 million secular people registered to vote and voted in every election. We could have our first openly atheist presidential candidate. We could have candidates far better than Bernie Sanders who support common sense progressive policies and have the intellectual muscle to back up their views. We could have many more candidates dedicated to ending the corruption on Wall Street, maintaining separation of church and state, and who support policies aimed at benefiting the middle and working classes. There are many potential candidates who could be president, but who don't fit the cookie cutter mold we expect all serious candidates to have. Maybe they're not married, maybe they're gay or bi, maybe they're an atheist, maybe they associate with certain subgroups of society outside of the mainstream, or maybe they just lead unconventional lifestyles.

Why should we lose all that potential intellectual talent? Many atypical candidates will never have a chance and will never run if they don't think they can get enough votes. What we need is millions upon millions of secular progressive people committing themselves to vote in every election for candidates who support our causes. And if there aren't any candidates who support our causes we need to stand up and be vocal about it. Once our demands are sufficiently heard, potential candidates who would've otherwise never thought they had a chance will run. Without that demand, they will never run, and we'll be stuck with the same old politicians getting elected over and over by the people who vote for them, which by and large are not the kind of people whose vision for America is too pretty.

Voting matters. Elections have consequences. George Carlin was wrong. Register to vote and be vocal about your demands. That's the only way to fundamentally change politics aside from violent revolution.

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