As I near the age where I will inevitably begin to contemplate running for public office, I am thinking a little more about politics than is usual for me. Another national election has come and gone. Some candidates won their races; far more of them lost. That is just the way it goes.
The two-party system that we are locked into in this country is such a straightjacket for popular involvement in the democratic process that it is no wonder large numbers of people are apathetic about voting. Even those who do vote are often voting against a candidate they do not want to win rather than enthusiastically casting their ballot for a candidate they want to put in office. And those citizens who choose to vote for candidates who truly best represent their values and interests are reviled for “stealing votes” from the officially-anointed candidate of one of the major parties.
This makes sense, if it is a game we are playing. If winning is the whole point (as opposed to, say, representing or governing) then it is entirely fair to rant against those who didn’t vote with the program, whose squandered vote allowed the the other party to win. And, sadly, I think it has long been just such a game to those involved in the election process at every level.
Until we can reach a point where people, all of we the people, feel confident in simply and sincerely voting for the candidate we feel will best represent us in the governmental system, without concern for party strategy and partisan manœvering, then we will all still feel that it is a flawed system, because it is. And until then, we will have to choose at the polls each election year. The choice will not be which candidate will best represent us in the governmental halls of Saint Paul, MN and Washington, DC. No, the choice will remain whether we want to play the game again, or whether we want to waste our vote.