Just a friendly reminder that although billions of dollars have been spent by the Republican and Democrat candidates for the offices of US President and Vice President, there are other parties represented on the ballot.
I'm not saying vote for them. I'm not endorsing any candidate. (They all fall short in my book, but then, I've never encountered a politician (local, state or federal) who hasn't fallen short in my book. So, you know, I'm kind of a tough crowd when it comes to politicians.) I'm simply calling attention to the fact that in spite of the money spent on advertising that would indicate otherwise, this is not a two party election.
Yes, I'm one of those pesky independent voters you hear about. (I am not undecided, however. Please do not confuse or intermingle independent with undecided. I am not indecisive. Just the opposite: I am so decisive that I don't care about party affiliations.) I know, you probably thought you didn't know one of those. Maybe you thought we didn't actually exist. Yeah, well, my name is Trillian and I'm an independent voter.
Voting independent is not without its challenges, to wit, my 2004 voting adventure
. There are people, a surprisingly large number of people, who find it unfathomable that a person wouldn't pledge their commitment to a particular political party. Some can't fathom it because their own political ideology is perfectly in sync with a particular party and assume others have the same clear party choice. Others can't fathom it because their parents and grandparents voted for a particular party, and therefore they do, too.
Still others have deeper concerns about what being and independent voter indicates about said independent voter's personality, as in, we're not to be trusted because we won't pledge our political allegiance, presuming this is an act of stubbornness and/or revolution.
And then there are those who find independent voters a nuisance, writing us off as uninformed, lazy, wishy-washy, and/or too stupid to make up our minds and certainly not to be trusted with any serious decisions because we can't even commit to a political party. Most of these people use athletic metaphors when they question my independent voting stance. They liken political parties to sports teams and use that as an inroad to badger me. I have heard this statement more times in my life than I care to admit, to the point that if someone says it to me again I'm not sure I can maintain polite conversation, "You like those Red Wings and Tigers. You support them win or lose, you choose
to support those teams, and yet you can't choose
a political party?"
No. I cannot. Because in spite of indications to the contrary during election season, politics is not a game. Politics is fundamentally about legislation. My decision to vote, or not vote, for a candidate is based on if a candidate supports, or doesn't support, something that matters to me or people I care about.
In my home town there's a hot race for drain commissioner. In my small hometown the person who manages the drains - sewage, clean water - matters because the entire system is antiquated and in desperate need for a revamp, so whoever wins this election will manage the project, or at least start the project by garnering funds to work on the project.
One candidate wants to tax wealthier residents at a higher rate than lower income residents in order to pay for the renovation. The other candidate wants to use a flat percentage tax on everyone with an exception made for residents who fall below a certain income level. The problem is that neither plan will garner enough revenue to fully fund the water renovation project. One candidate has experience with environmental lobbyists and fundraising, and the other has experience with public works projects and working with the town treasurer. All of this sound familiar? Local or national, the fundamental issues are the same in most election races. There's not an obvious "best candidate." Frankly, they both suck.
But. Here's the thing. The wealthier residents stand to lose a lot of money if the Robin Hood-esque candidate is elected and they see this as a waste because even if they pay the tax, there will be a shortfall in the water renovation project and the plan to cover the shortfall is to dip into the already strained school fund, the reasoning being that many of the schools use a lot of water and produce a lot of sewage. Everyone knows this will lead to a millage election, which will put students and education in a hostage situation, which will lead to even higher taxes. However the other candidate, the flat tax guy with lobbying and fundraising experience, is affiliated with a party that most of the wealthier residents are not affiliated with. This means that for the first time in many of their lives they are facing a decision to vote a split ticket.
You cannot even begin to imagine the uproar and anxiety this is causing. The way they talk about this, you would think some of them are in a Sophie's Choice situation. The concept of voting for the candidate they like, as opposed to the party with whom they affiliate, is unfathomable and gut wrenching for them. They use phrases like, "I'm not sure I can live with that decision." And, "It goes against everything I stand for, I'll have to compromise my principles." One of my mother's neighbors put their house on the market a few weeks ago. They'd rather move than vote against their party affiliation. I realize they're just trying to get a jump on the housing market - after this election there are bound to be a lot of people trying to sell their homes ahead of the tax increases. But. What they talk about mostly is how difficult the voting decision is because, gasp, they've never voted anything but a straight party ticket and, another gasp, they might have to actually, gasp again, you know, select a candidate who doesn't have the "right" political label affixed to him. It's madness, I tell you, madness!
I mean, you know, principles matter and you have to stand for something and all that. But. Seriously? You're going to move out of the home you've lived in for 20 years because you don't want to vote outside your party affiliation?
Maybe I do
lack conviction. Or maybe I've lived and voted in Chicago so long I've become cynical and jaded about politics. Or maybe, just maybe, I am in possession of common sense.
It's reasonably obvious to me who the "best" choice is for drain commissioner in my home town. I don't care if there's an (R) or (D) after his name. But then, I'm a pesky independent voter.
I'm still an Illinois resident, and therefore my opinion about the candidates in my hometown, and my home state, are moot.
I voted early in Illinois. (and no, not often, and can we please give the vote early, vote often "joke" a rest?) I did this in the 2008 election, too. I'm torn about early voting. The convenience is great, you can vote when it's easiest for you, but, it's a little anticlimatic. All the last minute hype and tension and electricity in the air is for other
people, people who vote on election day
It's kind of like popping into a party before things really get jumping because you have another commitment. You put in your appearance for the host's sake and then leave early. The next day you hear that a couple hours later the party was the party of the century, a bunch of handsome single men showed up including one who said he was hoping you'd be there, the brother of the host who works for a wine distributor brought a case of really good champagne to share, a reclusive author who happens to be a cousin of a guest tagged along to the party, had a little too much to drink and gave an oral recitation from a long anticipated next novel, then Muse stopped in and played an impromptu acoustic set...then Muse called Bono and he showed up and went off script and got a little silly and told some raunchy jokes...and you missed it because you had another commitment, probably something work-related, and only stopped in for a few minutes to say hello to the host at the very beginning of the party.
And I feel a little awkward every time I see a campaign ad after I cast my early vote. I feel all apologetic, "Gee, that all sounds swell, candidate, but, see, um, well, I already voted...you know, early voting...*sorry*." All the last minute campaigning is wasted on early voters. The deed is done. Our choices are made and committed to history. I should
feel smugly superior. "Too late, I voted early. Tell it to someone who hasn't voted, yet." And sometimes I do
feel smugly satisfied, especially when I see all those campaign yard signs all over the place. "Go away, you blight on the landscape, I, and many others, have already voted! You are no longer relevant!" But mostly, instead of basking in the patriotic voting afterglow, I feel stuck in limbo, feeling melancholy in the denouement of deed. I voted, and yet the campaign continues.
The earlier I vote, the more the span between casting my vote and election day feels like I'm living in a complicated esoteric foreign or David Lynch film. Everything does
seem black and white to me. And it kinda is - my decisions were made, yes or no. There's no more researching and weighing the issues, no more "color" to my decision. It came down to yes or no, I made my choices, they are now definitive, yes/no, black/white. And yet millions of people, people around me, are still in the kaleidoscope of campaign color where they still have choices, where their voting decisions are still relevant to all the candidates. They
still matter. But I am no longer relevant. The candidates who got my vote are unaware of my support. The candidates who didn't get my vote are also unaware, but, I
know. And sometimes it feels like they know, too. I notice a hint of a sneer or disappointed look in their campaign ads and I feel like it's directed solely at me.
Yeah. I know. I need to stop overthinking this. I need to reign in my imagination.
It's just voting. It doesn't matter when you do it, as long as you do it.
And when you do it, please, at least notice the other candidates on the ballot and remember that we have the freedom to have as many political parties and affiliations as we want on our ballot. We do have choices. And maybe, just once, try taking a walk on the wild side and consider the candidates instead of their party affiliations.