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Not Happy About 2016? We Only Have Ourselves to Blame

by Jay Stooksberry, published

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” ~H.L. Mencken

The 2016 election is already shaping up to be a big disappointment for many voters. Both of the presumptive nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are viewed unfavorably by a majority of American voters. More than half of Americans are dissatisfied and/or embarrassed by all of the remaining mainstream options for President. Only 3 percent of Americans believe the promises being made by the current crop of candidates.

And do you know what the worst part about the whole thing is? We are all to blame for this mess that we have created.

Americans pride themselves on the tradition of blaming politicians for roughly every problem we collectively face as a nation. This tradition transcends party affiliation, age, gender, ethnicity, and educational background. If cynicism toward politics were a renewable energy source, our carbon footprint would be greatly reduced and our relationship with the Middle East would look drastically different.

But politicians aren’t created in the laboratory of some demented geneticist who is hell-bent on world domination. Politicians are an organic byproduct of a failed system that we continue to support, subsidize, and enable time and time again. And we continue to do so in perpetuity for no real logical reason other than we are too lazy to challenge or reverse this pattern of behavior.

George Carlin said it best when asked why he doesn’t spend much time satirizing political leaders:

Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders.

The five most common words used during an election year are “the lesser of two evils.” This colloquialism always bugs me, and for a variety of reasons.

The first being that it is the “shades of gray” fallacy for absolute “black and white” terms. Nobody is “very unique” or “pretty unique”; you are either unique or you are not. The same applies to evil. Accepting a watered down version of evil is still an endorsement of the practice of evil.

Who’s “the lesser evil” between Pol Pot vs. Joseph Stalin? Is Benito Mussolini less evil than Bashar Al-Assad? I know that these are extreme examples (and they generally violate time/space continuum), but they should at least force us to consider the possibility that unsavory political leaders can be easily packaged into groups of two. Evil is evil.

The second reason the phrase “lesser of two evils” bugs me is less idealistic as the first. From a practical standpoint, our list of options doesn’t simply boil down to two choices.

Each election cycle, there are a myriad of candidates and parties—who operate on the fringes of traditional electoral politics—ready to receive your support and your vote. Libertarians, Greens, Reform, Veterans, Constitution, Socialists, and many more — you name it, we got it.

We even have a candidate who wears a boot on his head and promises everybody a pony. (Even you don’t know who Vermin Supreme is, you really should check his plan for a pony-based economy. It makes about as much sense as more mainstream platforms.)

And this is exactly where most peoples’ eyes begin to glaze over. The eye effect is then typically followed by a barrage of standard-issue apologetics and contrived platitudes:

“A vote for a third party is a wasted vote.”

“Until things change, there is no point in voting for a third party.”

“Third party candidates are spoilers that split the vote and elect bad leaders.”

For a group of voters who are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with all of the 2016 presidential candidates, I am shocked to find them so apprehensive about voting outside of the two-party system.

Many will point to the rise in popularity of “party outsiders”— namely Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump — as an indication of people’s disenfranchisement. This, of course, obfuscates the fact that both of these candidates expressed allegiance to these parties to gain access to coverage, funding, and ballots, something not easily attained in the world of the independent or third party bid.

Furthermore, their participation in the electoral process only emboldens the two-party system since many of their supporters must register for a party to even participate in closed state primaries. So thanks, but no thanks, Donald and Bernie; your ingratiation of party politics only deepens our collective obligation to a fractured system—a system that I thought everybody was fed up with.

Voting for “the lesser of two evils” demonstrates the collective lethargy of the American voter. Supporting third party candidates entails a lot of work: gaining access to all 50 states’ ballots, fighting for airtime during primetime debates, raising funds without access to billionaire-funded PACs, and hand-to-mouthing it across a nation that is inextricably imbedded in an abusive, codependent relationship with a broken electoral system.

When presented with this list of “to dos,” many American voters respond, “Oh, would you look at the time? I’m late for work.”

I get it. We are busy people. Between our work lives and family commitments, it’s hard to find the spare time necessary for civic engagement.

That’s why I am just going to suggest one simple solution: Stop voting for Democrats and Republicans. Just do it. Pull the band aid. And start right now. If you are completely dissatisfied with the current crops of Ds and Rs, then start looking elsewhere.

And don’t fall for the scare tactics. If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me that voting third party will allow Trump to destroy our country, then I’d have enough money to build his wall so that Mexico wouldn’t have to. Clinton is just as corrupt and authoritative as Trump is; she is just better at hiding it.

Let’s call a spade a shovel: Our dedication to the two-party system is an addiction. We hit it hard, we recover, we say we’ll never do it again, and then we relapse during the next election cycle.

Time to go cold turkey, folks.

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