Mock the Vote

Road2Ruins  |  11/04/2016

Your Presidential Vote is as Worthless as the Candidates Vying for It

Watching the candidates vie for our vote through this presidential election cycle has been as excruciating and embarrassing as trying to endure a Real Housewives episode. Even if your intelligence is extremely limited, it has been severely insulted.

This is a Choice?
This is a Choice?

We live in arguably the greatest nation on the planet yet all we can come up with for presidential candidates are a criminal corporate sycophant and an egomaniacal buffoon. Out of 320 million potential candidates in the United States our shameful political process promoted these two as the best and most qualified people for the highest office we have to offer.  The show these folks and their puppeteers have staged with supporters has been nothing short of an embarrassment to every American, and one of these turds is going to emerge from the punchbowl to be our next president.

While one could go into detail on the countless reasons why neither of these candidates is fit to lead as much as a parade, it’s obvious to anyone paying a modicum of attention and would require far too much time. The joke is squarely on us but the good news is that if you’re one of millions of Americans struggling to choose one of these crackpots to vote for in our upcoming presidential election you can relax, your vote is worthless. It may mean something to you but according to our political system the value of your presidential vote is on par with lint.

Electoral College

U.S. Electoral College Map
U.S. Electoral College Map

For starters the president is chosen by the electoral college process, not the popular vote. This has resulted in an override of the popular vote four times in history – In 1824, 1876, 1888 and recently in 2000 when Al Gore got stiffed. Granted, four times out of a total of 56 elections means this only happens 7% of the time. Furthermore, considering the importance of electing a president the electoral college’s electors certainly must be intelligent folks vetted for their ability to make great choices on our behalf, right? Not exactly.

The electors who vote on your behalf are state officials, political party leaders and in many cases merely friends of candidates and party leaders. None of these people are federally elected representatives or senators, because federal law prevents federal employees from acting as electors. Each political party represented on the ballot chooses a set of its own electors and these people can literally be anyone. The only thing we know for sure is that these folks will do what is best for their party and/or self interests, which doesn’t necessarily translate to what is best for you.

The Electoral College was implemented by our nation’s forefathers in 1787 during a time in which the country was laden with small rural municipalities that were difficult to reach and communicate with. These areas housed uneducated and illiterate populations that benefited from having trusted educated representatives place a vote on their behalf as electors. However, we’re still using this antiquated system 229 years later despite just a few advances in education, access and communication over that time.

Only 29 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) currently “bind” their electors to vote in line with the populous leaving the electoral votes of 21 states to be cast regardless of the popular vote. While there are laws to prevent so-called “faithless electors” from going rogue and voting against their pledged vote and/or the populous, such votes have been cast 157 times since the Electoral College was implemented and apparently no one has been prosecuted for doing so. Seventy-one of these votes were changed because the original candidate died before the day on which the Electoral College cast its votes. Three of the votes were not cast at all as three electors chose to abstain. The other 82 electoral votes were changed on the personal initiative of the elector.

Nebraska and Maine Electoral Votes
Nebraska and Maine Electoral Votes

All states but Nebraska and Maine practice a “winner take all” process giving all of their electoral votes to the one party with the most popular votes in their state. This means that if you live in a blue region of a red state and want to vote blue, your vote is extraordinarily worthless. If you happen to support a third party your vote is beyond worthless because third parties are virtually eliminated from contention. With so many states consistently voting red and blue along party lines in so-called “safe states” there are only approximately 195 available electoral votes for a third party to garner, but 270 are needed to win. Those of you hoping for a quality third choice in the 11th hour this year are likely going to be out of luck. No candidate other than a Republican or Democrat has received an electoral vote since 1968 and our country’s bipartisan “Republicrat” nature has only strengthened since then.

There are 538 total electoral votes issued by state to the tune of 1 for each senator and 1 for each representative (435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 in the Senate), with 3 going to the District of Columbia. This poses yet another issue in that electors are not equally representative from state to state. For example an electoral vote in Wyoming, a state with 3 electoral votes, has four times the weight as a vote in Texas with its 38 electoral votes due to the states’ varying populations.

The electoral college also opens the possibility of a 269-269 tie. This happened once in 1800 when Thomas Jefferson tied with his own running mate Aaron Burr, leading to the 12th amendment (ratified in 1804). The 12th Amendment changed the Framers’ original language so that each elector could indicate which candidate they supported for president and which for vice president, thereby eliminating the possibility that any presidential candidate will end up in a tie with their own running mate. While this will prevent future candidates from tying their running mates, it does not prevent a future tie between presidential candidates. Should a tie occur the House of Representatives chooses the president at a rate of 1 vote per state.

Red, Blue and Battleground States
Red, Blue and Battleground States

Most electors vote religiously along their state’s historical party lines. Because of this unless you live in a “battleground state” like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina or Wisconsin, you’re vote is worth even less. Battleground states tend to vary in terms of party allegiance and have a significant number of electoral votes, making them supposed difference-makers in each election. Some draw attention to  the fact that the electoral college distorts governance by encouraging candidates to pander legislatively to battleground states for electoral support.

Many have been calling for an end to the antiquated electoral college practice, which seems prudent during a time in which neither of only two viable parties can produce a single worthy candidate. While this would eliminate the promotion of a two-party system and increase our system’s ability to accurately reflect the will of the populous, it would not address our government’s marriage to corruption. Our federal government has recently passed laws to make sure that only those who take corporate money have a chance to win the presidency and be effective. They’ve also passed laws to guarantee that you have no idea who you are really voting for.

Corporate Quagmire (giggity)

Issuing a presidential vote today is issuing support for corruption.

Jimmy Carter, Still Acting Like a Leader
If He Were Only on the Ballot

Former President Jimmy Carter recently commented that our allowance of unlimited spending in politics, “violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now, it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. Senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.” “Sometimes” may be putting it lightly.

The banking industry employed 3,000 lobbyists to reduce regulations, successfully resulting in the financial crisis of 2008. Instead of allowing the forces of capitalism to let these banks fail our government rewarded them for cheating us by giving them more of our money. You may be surprised to learn that the same subprime loans that banks screwed us with back then are not only still legal, they’re flourishing. They’re bigger and badder than those that caused the last crisis and private insurance companies will no longer back them. Since 2007-2009 the US government has securitized these mortgages with Ginnae Mae, meaning that you the taxpayer became officially liable for any defaults. By 2013 there were so many defaults that the federal government took our money again, this time to bail out FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (we didn’t hear much about that, did we?).

Despite all this the banks continue issuing subprime mortgages and exposing themselves to failure by over-investing in derivatives, hurling us toward the next round of economic mayhem soon. We also need to prepare for a crisis developing with unpaid auto loans, which reached a 20-year high this year. Either our elected officials are tragically incompetent or they are conducting business as usual, taking care of their deep-pocketed banker friends instead of us. While many politicians have come out to confirm the latter we continue allowing ourselves to be manipulated into participating in this corrupt system.

The same organizations are at the top of all campaign contribution lists and their influence is obvious. Candidates who understand the game run under the guise of “political experience” openly serving their allegiance to corporate sugar daddies and special interests. Those rarities who truly do wish to change things must throw their best intentions to the wayside in order to function in a system that operates on shillings and sycophants. Some like Bernie Sanders quickly abandon their rhetoric at the prospect of kissing the party ring for future favors from likely winners. Many saw Bernie as a true prospect of change, but can you really change a system this corrupt from within? When said change means less power, influence and money for the systemic players who must implement that change, change becomes a pretty tall order. Consider our most recent example.

GMO - Bad for Health, Great for Profits
GMO – Bad for Health, Great for Profits

Obama flew into office on winds of promised change and transparency. Claiming himself a friend of the environment he wasted no time at all falling into line, appointing an ex-Monsanto VP Michael Taylor to oversee our food supply as the “food czar” of the FDA. It somehow made sense to Obama to put the corporation that gave us the chemical killer Agent Orange and a new generation of harmful Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in charge of what we ingest. While many nations ban GMO products we are celebrating them at the highest level. We cannot even pass a bill to require their labeling despite the many dangers that science is alerting us to. No friend of the environment would allow GMO products, let alone allow a GMO executive anywhere near our food.

In addition to taking money from Monsanto, like most politicians Obama panders to big energy companies. The largest hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operation in history is underway right now in our backyard, because according to the Obama administration extracting stateside natural gas and oil is the solution to all of our problems. Until this year energy companies weren’t even required to divulge the long list of chemical compounds they’ve been pumping at alarming rates into the water table for more than a decade. That’s amazing! There are currently 300,000 fracking wells in the U.S. using water at a rate of 9.6 million gallons per well. Realizing that 5% of all fracking wells (15,000) fail immediately we can safely assume that our limited fresh water reserves are anything but safe. Obama justifies his support of this environmentally unfriendly activity with the fact that fracking will create jobs, but who cares about jobs if we don’t have fresh water? It’s almost as if our government is purposefully poisoning us for profit.

Corporate Cops, Bought and Paid For
Corporate Cops Earning Bucks for Brutality at Standing Rock

While Obama has achieved a pause in the action at Standing Rock, it’s temporary at best. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is obviously part of his grand plan to sell stateside natural resources abroad. Instead of being a true leader and stepping in to really act on this issue – in any way – Obama has vanished. That could be due to his personal knowledge of oil spills and the fact that such a spill on the DAPL would poison the water of millions, in Standing Rock and beyond. Here’s a list of all the spills in 2016 alone, many of which are the pipeline spills the people of Standing Rock are rightfully afraid of. It seems that our media has the same interest in covering these spills as it has in exposing the brutality at Standing Rock. While law enforcement agencies from miles around descend on North Dakota to help an energy company beat peaceful people and trash lands it has no rights to, Obama and the media sit idly by showing us their allegiance.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that some of Obama’s largest campaign contributors were energy, GMO, banking, and pharmaceutical corporations – the same well-heeled entities that supported Bush and actively throw money at every other candidate at the craps table to cover their bets. This of course  translates directly into committee appointments and favoritism. Obama raised the bar and took the political-corporate relationship one step further in 2008, actually allowing Citibank executives to pick his cabinet. As you may recall he also gave Citibank the biggest of all bank bailouts, using our tax dollars to save the company from bankruptcy after it broke the law betting against its own bad mortgages. One would think that this kind of collusion would ring the alarm bell initiating legislation that would limit such relationships, but our Supreme Court thought it was a better idea to increase legal corruption instead.

Thanks to Chief Justice Roberts and the Supreme Court there are now no limits on what a corporation can spend to own a candidate. We have successfully altered our political system to ensure that all viable political candidates have one thing in common – significant financial backing from corporate sources and a willingness to pay those donors off with high positions in our government. It’s legal bribery and it is the backbone of our political system. In order to make it even easier for those with big dough to run the nation without our knowledge, our government created a way for them to donate unlimited amounts of money to candidates without having to tell us who they are.

Organizations and Special Interests

While direct corporate contributions are prolific the big dough in politics is funneled through 501(c) and other special interest organizations often working on behalf of corporate entities. Conveniently our government does not require these organizations to divulge the sources of their funding, which is likely why they are now the leading sources of campaign finance. How can we vote responsibly without knowing who we are really voting for?

Citizens United = Payday for Politicians
Citizens United = Payday for Politicians

This unseen or “dark money” has become incredibly prolific in American politics, largely due to the Citizens United decision in 2010. Under this decision the supreme court ruled that political spending by unions and corporations is a form of protected free speech, and allowed these groups to directly finance ads that expressly call for the election or defeat of a candidate. This opened the floodgates to a deluge of outside campaign donations, which doubled from 2010 to 2015. Between 2000 and 2006 nondisclosing groups averaged posting fewer than 18,000 ad spots per election cycle. After the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United the average ad count for nondisclosing groups over the next four elections jumped to more than 219,000 ads per cycle.

In addition to enabling candidates to inundate us with atrocious campaign advertising the Citizens United ruling birthed a slew of new “Super” Political Action Committees or PACs. While 501(c)(4) social welfare and 501(c)(6) trade organizations dominate the list of dark money flowing through these groups into American politics, some PACs have been operating as actual arms of the campaigns. For instance, Hillary Clinton has a Super PAC that paid armies of internet trolls just to pester Bernie Sanders online. It’s amazing to consider that the Supreme Court had the short-sightedness to think that such groups would voluntarily maintain their distance from candidates and campaigns, and frankly a bit difficult to buy.

To hide their collusion our elected officials ensured that the sources of contributions to 501(c) organizations are kept from public knowledge. This enables corporate entities to don sheep’s clothing in the public eye while wolfing it up behind the scenes. For instance, consider “Partnership for Drug Free Kids.” This benign-sounding organization is fueled by enormous pharmaceutical companies to fight the legalization of safe medications like Cannabis while promoting opioids and other harmful pharmaceutical drugs they manufacture. Prescription drugs kill thousands of people each year and no one has ever died from using Cannabis. If this partnership truly wanted drug-free kids and a healthier nation it would be lobbying against the drug giants that fund it. But the name sounds nice, so we’re more inclined to give their dogma the time of day.

Interestingly 37 of the top 50 organizations spending on campaigns give their money to Democrats. One group near the top of the contribution list, The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was one of the first groups to take advantage of Citizens United and directly lobby the public. Major political issues for AFSCME include protecting pension benefits, preventing the privatization of government jobs, increasing taxes and extending unemployment benefits. In other words, growing the government hand that feeds it. Most people are likely not aware that our nation allows government employee unions to spend tax dollars lobbying themselves for their jobs, but it makes perfect sense. The government corporation grows much faster when it is allowed to spend our money lobbying itself. Looking at this objectively in a non-partisan manner it’s impossible to ignore the obvious: The act of growing government grows support of government, and the creation and growth of an enormous poor class by both Republicans and Democrats certainly helps to enlarge this monopoly.

Patriotic Responsibility

Dissent is Patriotic
Never Truer Words on a Bumper

Those who recognize the corrupt nature of the American political process understand that voting is not an act of political freedom, it is an act of political conformity. As scholar Arnold Kling stated, “The exercise of voice, including the right to vote, is not the ultimate expression of freedom. Rather, it is the last refuge of those who suffer under a monopoly.”

We have all been socialized to think that we are being responsible patriotic citizens by voting for president to the extent that we pressure each other to participate in this process despite its corrupt and un-democratic nature. While it’s been highly entertaining watching people exchange barbs over social media suggesting that one turd is better than the other, it’s rather sad when you consider that the point is moot. It is impossible for any candidate to enact change that will enrich our lives as long as we allow corruption to be legal. While some people truly do identify with one of these candidates, many will be acting out of perceived fear and patriotism promoting a “lesser of two evils” vote. Patriotism is defined by as “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.” If you truly love this country – or merely life in general – how could you possibly put your name behind any evils to lead our nation, let alone support a corrupt system that would ask us to do so out of fear?

So What Can We Do?

Most of us will make the pilgrimage to the local voting booth to vote for one of only two viable candidates on the ballot. If you know and truly support the corporations and special interests backing one of these folks, support the corrupt nature of this process, cannot overcome your socialization or merely enjoy the exercise – power to you and all the best.

Jill Stein
No Viable Green Party in US Politics, Only Greenbacks

Those of us who do not know or identify with the corporate entities supporting either viable candidate are in somewhat of a quandary. We could certainly vote our conscience and pick a third party or independent candidate, but would do so knowing that none of these candidates has even a remote chance to win. No big money and a 2-party electoral college system = no chance.

We could all vote for a write-in candidate but only 43 states acknowledge them and it would take some work to spread the word without the help of our corrupt bipartisan media. In addition, said candidate would have to assemble electors for those 43 states in time to vote via the electoral college process in December. This would be quite a challenge for a new Republican or Democratic candidate due to time constraint, let alone a third party candidate considering the aforementioned bipartisan nature of the electoral college process. While it is technically possible it would be as rare as hearing a woman speak in an ISIL camp. Furthermore, even if a write-in candidate were elected they would be thrown into the cauldron of collusion in D.C. and immediately rendered ineffectual.

There are organizations suggesting that we alter the voting process to reflect the collective will, more like the ancient democracy of Athens was run. The framers of our constitution created a similar process but one that favors the wealthy over the collective. It’s no surprise that over the years this favoritism of the rich minority has been allowed to flourish, but if “we the people” truly do wish to have a voice in our governance we are going to have to stand up at some point and choose people over profit. Thankfully it appears that some folks are at least acknowledging that our system could use a scrubbing.

There are some pretty decent ideas out there on how to rid us of partisan dysfunction and alter the process to better reflect “we the people,” but a true cure would attack the cause, not the symptoms. Among many suggestions available out there, this one making corruption illegal via an “Anti-Corruption Act” appears to be among the most reasonable:

While it doesn’t remove all money from politics it outlines a reasonable process to clean house and eliminate corruption, starting by passing ballot initiatives at the local level and thereby bypassing our corrupt congress. Once local measures are in place, state initiatives can be passed, then federal. Making corruption illegal is the only way to give the voice of the people more political impact than profit, as long as enforcement is part of the deal. If we start now we may be able to affect the election of 2020, if our nation is still holding them. In the meantime we can at least express our displeasure with business as usual this year by refusing to participate in a corrupt process to issue a worthless vote for a president we do not support.

Show Off Your Patriotism
You Can Still Show Off

Some people are so socialized they will bark at us for not participating, urging us not to “throw away our vote,” but if our votes are worthless what exactly are we throwing away? Many also contend “if you don’t vote for president you cannot complain about the results,” but that registers far too high on the bullshit scale for anyone to take seriously considering what the system has given us. How can any sentient human NOT complain about this process and its candidates? Why should we vote for someone we know we will complain about? It’s asinine.

We could issue a protest vote but it won’t protest a thing in a system that assigns it no value, so why bother? Instead we can show our corporate leaders that we’re not playing their game and simply abstain from voting for their presidential candidates by wholeheartedly choosing none of the above. We’ll still get our “I Voted” stickers for voting for local initiatives and representatives, but this year our sticker will also mean that we voted against corruption. Let the talking heads drown in cognitive dissonance over low presidential voting numbers despite high voter turnout.

We can also vote against corruption in politics by using the only vote we have that will always have value with our corporate leadership – our dollars. We know that money is the most important thing to corporate executives and corrupt politicians so let’s take it away. We can stop supporting the pharmaceutical, banking and big energy corporations making their executives rich by paying our politicians to bend us over at will. We can explore holistic and preventative health treatments, use renewable energy sources, take our money out of the banks and only buy what we can afford with cash. We can stop being entitled as well. The “American dream” doesn’t require a Mercedes and a 4 bedroom house. We would benefit from learning how to live happily with less like the rest of the world, and releasing ourselves from debt slavery to boot.

Profit drives the organizations running this nation and we have the power to take that away, and with it the ability of corporations to buy politicians. We can release ourselves from the confines of believing in a system we were socialized to accept as trustworthy and fair and see it for what it is, and what we have allowed it to become. We can take real responsibility, be true patriots and reject this system and the greedy it supports. We’ve given far too much power away to people who care nothing about us or our environment. Let’s start taking it back.