I’m going to discuss this election cycle but in the very vaguest of terms because this one is making insane on ALL SIDES. And believe it or not, I think the general point of my vague discussion here is probably something everyone can kinda relate to, even if you vote conservative to my liberal.
Everyone who knows I was a big Obama supporter in 2008. I was excited to vote for him and I was excited to see him be my President. Unfortunately, I learned the next four years exactly how hard it is to get anything accomplished in Washington. When he was able to push legislation through to the finish line, it was a very watered down version of what he (and I) had originally hoped for and it was often attached to all sorts of junk neither he (nor I) wanted to begin with. I was disappointed and hurt and had a hard time being a really enthusiastic supporter in 2012.
But then the next four years things got even worse yet he somehow managed to still keep trying to push the ball forward and still moved things in the direction I wanted in small steps and he was still fighting against partisan obstruction and I started shifting the way I looked at things. I was no longer disappointed in him, as much as I was the system in general and just how frustrating it is that money from corporations and lobbyists, and loud segments of a political base, have more power than average citizen opinion.
I guess I just started looking at the big picture and accepting our political system for what it is. What I decided was that there are two major factors that keep us in this twisted system where we do not all have actual equal representation, is two things: 1) SCOTUS decision on the Citizens United case and 2) Gerrymandering of political districts. (SIDENOTE: I don’t think Gerrymandering is as terrible as some people think it is, I think it’s bad. here’s a good article from several years ago that kinda explains my view. I don’t think it’s the cause of all that is polarizing, but I think it needs significant reform.)
And until those two things are dealt with (in my opinion) no one on any side can actually be effective in government without working within the corrupt system.
So now I find myself looking at politics completely differently.
Now I accept that politicians in many areas where gerrymandering rules HAVE to campaign on the extreme end of their politics because the fight for Congressional seats are not two-party fights any more but SINGLE party fights where they have to appeal to the majority of their party since their party rules the district. In Alabama? Many times we don’t even have a Democrat on the ballot because – seriously – what’s the point? I accept that new campaign financing habits make it so that if you don’t play the money game with the big business and the lobbyists, you’re going to find a hard time getting elected. And I’m not convinced that even if you COULD get elected, that you could get anything accomplished because everyone else in the legislative equation got elected by businesses and lobbyists, so they’re still fighting for their teams and can obstruct your goals.
So, until Citizens United is overturned and Gerrymandering is dealt with, I now don’t feel bad about voting for people who play the game. Is it ideal? No. Does it hurt my heart? Yes. But even if we can get mavericks in the office who seem counter to the game, unless they can change the ruling on Citizens United or change Gerrymandering of the districts, the game is still being played around them and the executive branch does not have a lot of power by itself. Ask Obama, he’ll tell you. It’s really hard to push anything through even in tiny doses unless you figure out how to play the game with politicians who have to keep their political base and their financial backers happy.
I bought a super-cheap pair of shoes at Old Navy for Nikki a while back. I mean SUPER CHEAP. Like less than $10. When I checked out there was a small part of me that thought, I’m betting the factory conditions where these were made were terrible and this product probably left and environmental footprint that would upset me…BUT WHO CARES! It’s only $10! I can’t pass up the deal! She needs a new pair of shoes and I don’t have $35 dollars right now to spend on them. BUT I DO HAVE $10!
It’s not pretty. I’m not proud of it. But sometimes we choose to ignore what’s going on several steps back in the process just so we can have some sort of gain in our immediate grasp. To me? Saying you’re only going to vote for people who buck the system is noble, just like I do what I can to buy handmade and shop local. But sometimes we only have $10 and we’ll take what we can get, and that’s kinda where I feel like I am with politics. I’m discouraged. I’ve lost hope that anyone can do anything that drastic as President. Obama wasn’t even trying to do anything as extreme as either Trump or Sanders are campaigning to do, and he couldn’t make progress in the system. I’m completely beaten down and no longer have hope that anyone can do anything extreme anymore. Which will be good for me if Trump gets elected, but is also why I can’t get excited about Sanders either. If Obama couldn’t push a single-payer healthcare system through by playing the game, I don’t see how anyone who refuses to play the twisted game could make any more progress.
As long as Citizens United and Gerrymandering make it so that many of us don’t have equal representation, or that the money counts more than our vote…then it’s like I only have $10 for shoes. I have to do what I can with that $10 and while I don’t like it, it’s not ideal, at least my kid has a new pair of shoes.
So, instead of getting all passionate about PEOPLE, I’ve been trying to learn more about groups pushing for change in district lines and campaign reform. I’m not 100% saying I support 100% of everything these groups are pushing, but I do like Fair Vote.Org’s efforts in reform for district representations and I’ve been following Democracy Spring’s efforts to overturn Citizens United. And I’m not saying that if those things were addressed that our legislatures would automatically start functioning perfectly for the people, but I think it we be better.
And honestly, if I think too much about whether or not changing those two things would even make a difference, I get depressed. Because then I start thinking about how our many in our country – citizens and politicians alike – are out for themselves and no one else. And then I start questioning humanity and the state of our global community and I start drinking at 10am.
So, back to my metaphor. I guess I’m trying to make factory conditions better so when I find cheap shoes I can buy them guilt free. Instead of just trying to shop local. If you know of any other organizations supporting districting reform or pushing for the overturning of Citizens United, let me know.