Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Election

"I don’t think there’s many of us that are under any sort of delusion that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are going to take us all the way to the promised land, but they are going to stop—they’re the tourniquet that’s going to stop the bleeding."

—Michael Moore on Democracy Now!, October 31, 2008

"Obama has been a moderate government interventionist... His advisers are smart and intellectually flexible so he is able to respond quickly to what is going on."

—Paul Krugman on NPR's Fresh Air, October 21, 2008

This year I will be voting for the Democrat Barack Obama, but I will be voting for him as I have voted for Democrats in the past, as a 'lesser evil.' There is no question in my mind that Obama and the Democrats will be much better than the Republicans. The Democrats' policies on the economy, the environment, health care and the role of government are clearly more progressive. I believe Obama will also be an improvement in an area of international relations where the U.S. has lost its credibility and sympathy after the attacks of September 2001.

Yet when I vote I will vote with a certain amount of disquietude because I believe our electoral system is profoundly anti-democratic and I worry that my voting, even for a lesser evil, is a vote that helps legitimize this political system. I realize that we do live in a democracy — but it is only a democracy to a certain point. Yes we are able to vote and speak critically and favorably of any politician or policy. That is a necessary ingredient for democracy but that alone does not make our system democratic. I know that there are places where people can't vote in a meaningful way and they can't speak out against their government and we are better off than people who live under such conditions.

But in order to be truly democratic, all political constituencies need to be fairly represented. Unfortunately that does not happen in our system primarily because of two reasons: money and the two-party system. In order to be considered a 'serious' candidate, one needs to be well funded. The mainstream media won't even discuss a candidate's policy proposals, no matter how well thought out, if they don't have access to large sums of money. This clearly puts the interests of poor in the back seat. Shortening the election time-frame and requiring public airwaves to be used to provide free access to political discourse would be a couple ways to reduce or remove the influence of money. I'm sure there are others. An even more dramatic reform that could transform our system into one that is more democratic is Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). This would allow people to vote for the candidate that they believe in with out worrying about the "spoiler" effect. I believe this would embiggen the political discourse and improve the representation of various political viewpoints. Here is a video that explains Instant Runoff Voting:

1 comment:

Mike Lindgren said...

Here's an interesting link (from JL) showing the tax rates over the course of the century:

Note that from 1932 - 1986 the top tax rate was between 50% - 94%. Bumping it up to 40% would hardly represent a historical aberration.