Sunday, November 05, 2006

Your Vote (Probably) Doesn't Count

For the vast majority of us living in the great United States, our votes for candidates at the "federal levels" of our government are merely tokens of support for the status quo.

No matter how strongly you feel about the major issues of the day, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the war against terrorism, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the state of our economy, the importance of increasing the minimum wage, the funding and future of education, gun control, the right to life (or freedom to choose), you vote simply doesn't matter. Not one tiny bit.

You have no say. You have no voice. You have no control.

And this is true for about 90% of the voters who will cast votes this coming Tuesday. Maybe 10%, and that is being generous, will have a say in shaping the answers to these important questions over the next two years.

I know, I am one of the 90% whose vote doesn't matter.

Most of you and I have been relegated to the sidelines by a political system that is not designed to serve the will of the people, but to preserve the power, position and authority of a very few.

The United States is a wonderful and free democracy, arguably the freest and fairest in the world. How did the disenfranchisement come to be?

While you might be naive enough to believe for even a second that the two major political parties are about ideas, principles and serving the people, they are really about preserving and enhancing power.

And the parties play the electorate like a giant game of chess, moving pieces around the board, attempting to gain more pieces than their opponents. But they also work to insure the safety of their existing knights, bishops, rooks, queen and (every four years or so), their king.
You and I are just pawns. And we are just as dispensable.

The two major parties engage in two important forms of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the art and science of rearranging voting districts so as to elect or re-elect a predetermined candidate or party. While, in theory it's illegal, it is actually used in 100% of the United States without any effective challenge.

And today, there is a second and even more effective form of gerrymandering, financial gerrymandering. The political parties dole out their hundreds of millions of dollars, based not on ideas or principles, or concepts, but in order to gain more pieces on the giant chess board.
More money is being spent this year in this election that in any election in the entire history of the United States. And almost all of those expenditures are aimed at the 10% of the electorate whose votes actually count.

Here in the 2nd Congressional District of Mississippi, my vote doesn't count at all. The decisions on who my representatives will be have been made on my behalf by the Democrat and Republican Parties, working in concert, to maintain the status quo.

The 2nd Congressional District is one of the most bizarre and most illogical districts in the world. Zig zagging through tiny parts of dozens of counties, often taking single neighborhoods while leaving other neighbors in different districts, the 2nd Congressional District was formed in compliance with the one form of gerrymandering expressly allowed by the courts: racial allocation. The 2nd District was formed to insure there would be a black Representative in a state where 40% of the population is black.

Which means our representative is a Democrat. And one who generally doesn't need to listen to or pay any attention to his constituents. And Bennie G. Thompson generally lives down to the absolutely lowest expectations of his constituents might have. To say he takes his district for granted is an understatement.

Yvonne R. Brown for Congress. A real rarity in the 2nd Congressional District is a successful elected Republican official and Yvonne Brown is such a rarity. As the mayor of Tchula, Mississippi, she is strong, effective, fair, hard working and greatly admired.

She doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being elected in the 2nd district. She has received absolutely no funding from the Republican Party. She has no television advertising, no radio, not much of a campaign staff, and little organization.

Meanwhile Bennie has unlimited funds which he won't bother to spend. Bennie will get 60% plus of the vote.

Do you want to vote to keep President Bush's tax cuts? Do you want choice in Education? Do you feel the Republican's can best fight the war on terror? It doesn't matter. The Republican Party will make sure you never hear from Yvonne.

The powers of the status quo have decided Yvonne is to sacrificed. In order to assure they have two completely safe districts, Republicans have sacrificed the 2nd District. The Congressional election is over in Mississippi and has been for years. No votes are necessary. But I'll still cast mine for Yvonne.

Erik Fleming for U.S. Senate. An even greater lost cause is the U.S. Senate here in Mississippi. This year's sacrificial lamb being placed on the alter of the great Trent Lott, is Democrat Erik Fleming.

Emily Wagster Pettus writing for the Associated Press tells this story perfectly:

    JACKSON -- Democratic state Rep. Erik Fleming has made a 30-second ad in his effort to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, but he says he doesn't know if he'll be able to gather enough money to put the ad on television.
    "On November 7th, I need your vote because I believe we deserve a better Mississippi. A better Mississippi means better wages, better access to education and health care and a better retirement system," Fleming says in the ad, shot at the state Capitol in Jackson.

    For now, the spot is showing only on Fleming's campaign Web site -- a reminder of the difficulties that challengers face in Mississippi this year as they try to compete against well-funded incumbents for U.S. House and Senate.
    The latest round of campaign finance reports shows the incumbents have a hefty fund-raising advantage leading into the final few days before the Nov. 7 election.

    Lott is a former Senate majority leader who was first elected to the chamber in 1988 after serving 16 years in the U.S. House. His campaign had $1.4 million cash on hand as of Sept. 30, according to records posted to the Web site of the Federal Election Commission. His campaign had a beginning cash balance of $773,404. It has raised $2.3 million and spent $1.7 million.

    For the same reporting period, records show Fleming -- who is making his first run for statewide office -- had $2,474 cash on hand. His campaign started this season with a zero balance.

    It has raised $26,961 and spent $24,507.

    Fleming says his campaign is negotiating with national Democratic political action committees to try to get enough cash to buy TV time for his ad. He said he believes the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee "made a decision from Day One that they can't do anything to change Mississippi."

The Democrats need to spend their money in Tennessee and Ohio and Rhode Island and Virginia.

Here in Mississippi, Trent Lott will get over 75% of the vote. Most voters will not even know Erik Fleming's name.

Do you want to vote against the Invasion in Iraq? Do you want to see a different approach to disasters like Katrina (Fleming's big issue)? Forget about it. Your vote doesn't count. The Democrats have starved your candidate into obscurity.

My vote for Erik Fleming won't matter.

Out of 33 Senate seats up for election, only 8 are really contested. This really means that if you live in states where one of the other 25 Senators will be elected, the political parties have already determined the outcome. They will not offer even token support for the purpose of debating the important issues. Only eight states matter.

The house is much, much worse. Through both political and financial gerrymandering, only 50 out of 425 House seats matter. If you live in any of the 385 other House districts, you vote has been neutered. There will be no meaningful discussion. Protest votes like mine will be the rare exception.

Frankly, to misquote Senator George Allen, elections in the U.S. are "macaca."




1 comment:

Vigilante said...

Congratulations, Wiz! You have spotlighted one of the greatest blemishes or flaws in our democracy: gerrymandering. Worse than term limits , which was a case of a solution being worse than the problem it was putatively addressing.