And we're back. After a nearly four year hiatus. A hiatus we took 'cause we got bored. Which ironically is also why we decided to resume posting. So what's first on the agenda now that we're back? Well it's an election year and elections are, in my mind, extraordinarily mundane, and entirely absurd, so that seems like as good a place as any to start. So without further ado here is my brief guide to the election.
In light of the upcoming election and the inevitable deluge of rhetoric which has already descended upon us from all sides I've prepared a brief summary of some things I think you should know this election season. One thing you should know before you start reading the list; the points are in no particular order other than as they came to me and any attempt to discern further meaning from their order is an exercise in futility. And now the list.
1: Your vote doesn't matter. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar or really bad at math. There are really only two votes that matter in any election; the tie vote and the swing vote. Statistically speaking given the number of votes cast the odds of your vote being one of those two is functionally zero. So mathematically your vote doesn't matter. You don't have to like that reality but the math doesn't lie.
2: You should probably still vote even though it doesn't matter. It's an important part of our system of government and active participation encourages a more active awareness of the issues facing our country. A general lack of awareness and education regarding the issues facing our country is a large part of the problem we face in finding meaningful long term solutions to said issues. So be informed, get active, inform others, and go vote.
3: The First Amendment does not come with a voting clause. Seriously; enough with the, "if you didn't vote you can't complain" crap. The First Amendment guarantees your right to free speech and no where does it say that if you don't vote, or if you don't vote for one of the major party candidates, you can't: discuss, debate, complain, moan, rant, rage, or whine for the next four years. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either uninformed or willfully ignorant.
4: Know what party you're registered with and consider registering independent if possible to keep your options open during the primaries. This is really just an issue for the primary elections but it's still important. Many states will only let you vote for the party with which you are registered which can leave you with fewer options for voting or possibly even leave you unable to vote for your preferred candidates. So know how you are registered and know whether your state uses closed, open, or blanket primaries.
5: The general election allows voters to write-in a candidate in most states; you don't have to vote for the candidates the two major parties are fronting. States have various ways of handling votes for write-in candidates; so know your state's laws on the subject. If you aren't comfortable supporting either/any of the candidates on the ballot most states will allow you to write-in a candidate though the validity of a write-in varies from state to state. Some states only count write-ins for candidates that have petitioned the state to be placed on the ballot and throw out any other write-ins; while other states will count every write-in vote regardless of who was written in. Writing in a candidate may seem like a waste, and some people will invariably accuse you of "throwing your vote away", since there's virtually no chance of them being elected but it does offer a couple important advantages over not voting at all. 1: it saves you from having to explain point number three to people for the next four years. 2: It allows you to participate in the system without offering your support to a candidate whom you don't wish to support. 3: it can raise awareness of unrepresented voter groups whose values are not addressed by the current system. And remember voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil. Don't do that.
6: Not voting is always an option. Not my personal recommendation but it's a free country; if you don't feel adequately represented by any of the candidates you can vote for; or you feel that the candidates are in some way so abhorrent as to be unsupportable; you don't have to vote for any of them. As with point five you'll get the inescapable rhetoric about how you threw away your vote or that you're "un-American" etc. but if you genuinely feel that there are no candidates deserving of your vote than "throwing your vote away" might be the best statement you can make. It's true of both the write-in vote and the decision not to vote at all that throwing away a vote may well be preferable to giving it to a candidate. Some things are better off in the trash than in the hands of monsters.
7: Vote all year long every year. Your vote might not matter but your actions and dollars do. Support companies that share your values and get active in groups that support and foster the furthering of those ideas and values you personally support. Making your voice heard in politics is difficult if you're not wealthy or politically connected but that doesn't mean you can't be heard. Washington may not always be listening but our neighbors and the market are most definitely paying attention. Talk to the people you know. Convincing people that your position has merit may take time and effort. You won't make political, or ideological converts in Facebook debates but if you're politely vocal about your thoughts and positions and your actions ball your rhetoric people will take note. If you put your money where your mouth is companies will take note. I'm not telling you that your grassroots efforts will sway the next election, though that has happened, usually it takes years or decades for major, or even minor, shifts in mainstream thinking and public opinion to occur but they won't ever occur if people aren't actively pursuing them now.
8: Don't be rude. You can have intelligent meaningful discourse without descending into ad hominem attacks and name calling. It's far to easy in our internet age to scream obscenities at a random stranger halfway across the world or to say things to a friend we wouldn't dream of saying if they were standing in front of us. And heated passions can lead to awful behavior even in person. Don't fall into that trap. It's fine to be passionate about a political position. It's not fine to be abusive or dehumanizing towards others in your pursuit or support of that position.
9: If you are rude then be an adult and apologize. You get heated about an issue and say something rude, hurtful, or mean; it's wrong but it happens. Make it right. This should go without saying but experience tells me it needs to be said. If you make a mistake, call names, behave poorly, or are just generally obnoxious over a political issue then you owe someone an apology. And you're not doing yourself or your position any favors by withholding a well deserved apology. People make mistakes, adults correct them. Don't behave like a child when engaging in political discourse.
10: You're probably never going to convince anyone to change their position by debating the issues. We're stubborn, proud, and generally convinced of our inherent rightness. Accepting that will save you a ton of stress. I'd love to think that with few choice examples and couple of witty replies I could convince the masses to come over to my way of thinking but that's simply not how people work. And the sooner we all embrace that the less personally we'll take dissent and the more productively we'll be able to discuss the issues. It's fine to have debates and discussions. It helps keep us intellectually sharp and honest. But it's not likely to make us change position completely. If you want to change people's minds go back to point seven and start walking your talk.