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Mixed Feelings

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My thoughts on the impending presidential election are myriad and varied, and few of them concentrate on for whom I will be voting.

That decision, barring unforeseeable political disaster, has already been made.

However, my more pressing thoughts have focused upon the very act of voting within the context of American culture, and they always seem to ultimately swirl back to this difficult question: Which matters more? My actual, singular vote? Or the fact that a white, male, under-24 college student with no dependents voted?

Sometimes it’s very difficult to cope happily with the fact that, to many entities, I am simply a number or statistic. But then I realize that this is really just a cliché with which  I choose to identify, indicating I have a bizarre desire to be affirmed by the companies from which I purchase my khaki slacks and hamburgers. This, I suspect, is a general sentiment experienced by many (if not most) people, and it seems the political tendency is to cater to it, as most (if not all) candidate speeches and commercials I’ve ever seen, aim to paint the candidate as accessible and open to the average-Joe voter.

It's also sometimes difficult to reconcile the fact that, realistically, my vote in the national election matters very, very little. This is a good thing for democracy, but a bad thing for my personal intellectual struggles. I choose not to divulge to others for whom I vote, mostly because I believe that leads others to categorize me. It also leads me (because I am stupid and insensitive) to categorize others; a great social crime when you consider how wonderfully different everybody is from everybody else.

But back to the reality of the question I posited earlier. If I perceive my vote to be meaningless in terms of the actual election, then what good is it for me to cast it? The only favorable incentive I realize in voting is that I increase the representation of my demographic. That and the old folks working the booth hook me up with one of those sweet “I Voted” stickers, which are the bomb, especially in your senior year of high school, when Mrs. Katchwilder doles out extra credit to us few, lucky 18-year-olds who could vote.

So what happens if I decide I don’t have any desire to stand up and shine for the white, male college undergraduates who still live off Mom and Dad? Then I would have analyzed the choice from about a gazillion different angles beyond the question, “Who do I think would be a better president based on my social, political, and economic status?” and ultimately, screeching to the crushing conclusion that I think it would be most beneficial to stay home and watch season three of Arrested Development on November 4th.

Many have tagged Generation Y (if you don’t, or only vaguely, remember cassette tapes, you are a member of Generation Y) as being apathetic, thanks to low turnouts in the 2004 presidential election. But maybe we just see it differently. Not better, just differently. We don’t carry the constant reminder of parents who lived through wars (or cold wars) for the right to vote, nor do we have to do much more than punch a few buttons to find information to which people didn’t even have access ten years ago. So yes, it’s fair to say voting is not necessarily a big deal to us, but to judge us as apathetic is wrong. We were (and many are and many will be) raised experiencing different political, social, and economic tremors: Mexican immigration, the Iraqi War, the current banking failures, the list goes on. But the core of it is this: If this large a chunk of my generation isn’t voting, what does that mean fifty years down the road when we’ve taught our children to do, or not to do the same?

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About carney

  • Cannonshop

    They said the same thing about “Generation X”, which was the first “Generation” to lack “Social Causes” according to some surveyors, Carney. As people get older (into late twenties or early thirties) and start taking on more responsibilities (full-time jobs instead of part-time, mortgages, long-term rent, kids, etc.) they become more concerned, and more certain of what they do, and don’t, believe in.
    They start Voting, even when their individual votes don’t seem to count for much, and they start voting in certain ways- generally “Lesser of Two evils” ways.

    Of course, the lesser evil is often open to debate, and highly subjective, but it all depends on what you find yourself believing in through your experiences.

    A lot of the kids I knew in younger days (who were younger yet than I, but older than the “Y” kids) only became politically aware after encountering the joy and horror of kids and layoffs. Others didn’t bother voting regularly until after finishing their first tour in the Military, or only after some SNAFU with their student loans.

    People in the Eighties were yammering about the uninvolvement of “The younger generation” in politics too-the lack of voting, the ‘apathy’, and all the rest.

    I’m sure you’ll read similar articles about “Generation Z” in a few years, probably written by your peers, maybe even written by yourself.

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Carney, I find your piece really interesting. There are two young men in my small town (22 and 23) who came from California and New York to run the Obama headquarters who are two of the most committed and enthusiastic guys I have ever met; they work tirelessly 12, 14, 16 hours a day. It’s as if they woke up after graduation and said: Hey, we can make a difference. And they are. They, along with others, have registered more than 300,000 new Democratic voters in Virginia, most of them younger voters. I hope they all vote. And my 21 year old son is more interested in this race than he ever has been; he calls me frequently just to talk politics. Yet, I have met other people in their twenties who are completely apathetic.

    I think what happens to your generation will depend on how this race plays out and what happens to this country in the next ten to 12 years.

    I heard a man on the radio from Zimbawe last night. He was talking about how his country had freely elected its president who then over the years turned into a dictator with the help of the country’s people. First people protested and were punished. THen those who did not protest were rewarded with cushy jobs and promotions and government positions and then it was all corruption. He said that the world was watching the US carefully… That we are the democracy that is an example to them. If we fail, who is left? It was very poignant.

    Your vote DOES count. More than you know. I may sound idealistic, but I think that with all my heart. Our vote is one important way we have to tell our government how we feel and who we support in terms of policy. We can’t give that up. But we also have to vote with our feet: ie., not just vote and sit back, but become involved as citizens in any way we feel is important.

    Your generation may feel the boomers got some things wrong, but we got some things right, too. Fighting for things you believe in is never wrong.

    Take care.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Fighting for things you believe in is never wrong.

    Even when your beliefs are based on delusion and the outcome is a slow slide into tyrrany and oppression as in the Zimabwe example? The people who first put Mugabe into power were convinced that he was a reformer who would bring them freedom and prosperity. Their beliefs were wrong and they’d have been better off not fighting for them.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    My first presidential election as a voter was the Goldwater-Johnson election in 1964.

    I was in the Army, in basic training at the time, so I sent off to Florida for my absentee ballot. In those days, if you were an enlisted man in the military voting absentee, your ballot had to be countersigned by a commissioned officer.

    I took mine to the brand new shavetail Lt. who was the CO of my training company. As he signed it, he looked to see who I was voting for and exclaimed, “You’re voting for Goldwater??? What, are you crazy??? You vote for Goldwater, and you’ll wind up in Vietnam within a year!!!”

    And you know, he was right – I did…

  • Cannonshop

    #3 Dave, I think the example there, is not-knowing-what-you’re-fighting-for.

    People without a culture of personal responsibility and Liberties tend to be easily swayed by the promises of “The Strong Man”, and will fight quite hard for him, then fail to carry through and fight quite hard against him when he turns tyrant.

    It isn’t enough to fight for something you believe, you need to first know WHAT you believe. Otherwise, you just end up fighting for someONE, and afterward, you still have nothing.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    My understanding was that Mugabe WAS a reformer but, like many people, he slid into irrational thinking as he aged. His supporters beliefs weren’t wrong in the beginning and it can be hard to let go of old habits…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Chris, it didn’t take him long to become a dictator and his reforms never seemed to do much good for the people.

    The sad truth is that Zimbabwe was far better off as a colony, as is often the case.

    Dave

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Back when I was a youth, around the time Mugabe was first elected, our next door neighbours were from Zimbabwe: a white woman and her three sons, who were half-black. They were huge Mugabe supporters: their dog was named Zanu. Things seemed so hopeful back then. The story of that country is indeed poignant – it’s probably the most striking modern example of the devastation that egomania and corruption can wreak… and there’s no end in sight – even with the power-sharing deal, Mugabe is still trying to hold onto absolute control.

    If our neighbors could only have foreseen… I wonder what they believe now.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    The message of this article really astounds me. And it’s a trend I’ve noticed, that hardly anyone seems to be focusing on their state and city elections and issues. Maybe it’s because BC articles about local issues would bore the global audience, but am I the only one who feels the races closest to home should be first and foremost in the minds of voters?

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    True enough Dave but, just as kids are better off than adults, everyone has to do their own thing eventually. It’s just the way it is.

  • Clavos

    I agree with you, Suss. They usually are for me, and I think that most people focus on their city, county and state elections as well.

    However, this year’s national races (especially for prez) are so hotly contested and heavily reported (not to mention controversial) that I think people are distracted by the coverage.

    But the local races ARE more important to the average voter, whether or not they realize it.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    There’s a lesson to be taken from Zimbabwe for our current US election, btw.

    One of the things which caused the economic downfall of Zimbabwe under Mugabe was the attempt to redistribute land, which is the primary source of wealth there, taking it from the white landowners who had remained after independence and giving it to poor and deserving natives who had no idea how to run a large scale ranch. The result was economic disaster generated by the best of intentions.

    This is part and parcel of Obama’s avowed intention to take wealth away from the upper income brackets and redistribute it to those who pay no taxes and produce very little of beneift. It’s the same concept in a different arena – taking resources from those who use them to produce and giving them to those who only consume. Ultimately it’s economic suicide.

    Dave

  • Baronius

    Amen, Matthew. If you liked the bailout, now’s your chance to blow a kiss to your Congressman.

    Besides, mayors and state senators can become presidents and vice-presidents within four years. The local elections are your best chance to put good people into the system.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    One of the things which caused the economic downfall of Zimbabwe under Mugabe was the attempt to redistribute land, which is the primary source of wealth there, taking it from the white landowners who had remained after independence and giving it to poor and deserving natives who had no idea how to run a large scale ranch.

    The problem wasn’t so much that none of the ‘poor and deserving natives’ knew how to run a ranch. It was that most of the land was given not to farmers but to Mugabe’s cronies, who were usually city boys who hadn’t got their hands dirty in their lives.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    True, Dr. D. And even worse.

    But we have seen plenty of examples of what I was talking about under socialism. Land management under central command and control just does not work. Taking ranches and breaking them up into small farms on land which won’t support that kind of agriculture is a chronic problem in newly formed systems where land redistribution is seen as a way of equalizing people.

    Dave

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Re local issues. I think it often takes young people awhile to become involved in local politics because A) National politics are “sexier” and B) young people move around a lot and don’t have the same sense of community. Once they buy a house and have a family, THEN city council, school board, local congresspeople make a difference and it takes hold. It is hard for a 20-something to get excited about local politics, even congressional races when they have just graduated and gotten a first job.

    At least, it seems that way to me, as it was that way to me when I was that age.
    Back in the Jurassic era:)

  • Arch Conservative

    “People without a culture of personal responsibility and Liberties tend to be easily swayed by the promises of “The Strong Man”, and will fight quite hard for him, then fail to carry through and fight quite hard against him when he turns tyrant.”

    As people like Obama gain power personal responsibility becomes an increasingly antiquated concept in this nation.

    That is the main problem I have with those on the far left. Their absolute refusal to ever admit that not everyone is a victim of society. The notion or personal responsibility makes a leftist’s head hurt.

    Apparently that’s where this nation is headed though. We’ve become a nation of idiots that are incapable of calling out the individual on their own stupidity or laziness. But hey the elections here and we will all be saved. Who needs Jesus when you have Barry Obama?

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Hey, who needs Jesus?

  • troll

    whenever a US citizen votes in an election he ‘testifies’ to the legitimacy and representative nature of the government that results and gives his ‘consent’ to be governed by it’s dictates

    unless he can identify a candidate who is both viable within the US winner take all 2 party system and represents his interests then abstention – his permitted ‘none of the above’ vote – is the reasonable choice