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Why Vote, Anyway?


From the questionable elections in 2000 and 2004 though the recent election and its recounts, I’ve received oodles of e-mails about mass voter disenfranchisement and problems with punch-screen voting machines. I’ve read articles about voter flipping, systems that can be hacked into or infected with viruses to change tabulations, and I’ve heard first hand from friends whose names were purged from voter rolls.

Some years ago, I would have had the same kind of reaction experienced by Oprah Winfrey on her virgin voyage into computer voting. Winfrey took advantage of early voting the Thursday before Election Day and either didn’t mark the X strongly enough or pressed too long. Whatever she failed to do correctly, her vote for president didn’t record. On her show, Winfrey told her television audience about this, reenacting how emotional she’d become in the voting booth, and warned people to double check their vote.

I really wanted to help make history by placing an African American in the highest office in our country. But like many Progressives, I’d concluded that the differences between Republicans and Democrats are quite overplayed.

Then, along came Sarah Palin. For many, the syntax-impaired, Christofascist fashionista changed the equation. I simply couldn’t imagine how any person with an IQ above 85 could possibly think that Palin was prepared to step up if John McCain were declared non compos mentis, had to be anesthetized, or died. Suddenly, the lesser of two evils seemed urgently acceptable.

Still, I was in a quandary. Should I vote my conscience and go for an Independent or a Green? I thought about Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can.” But McKenney and Nader were distracting, whispering their truths in my ear.

I recalled the 2004 Democratic National Convention when Barack Obama spoke the words that catapulted him into the consciousness of Progressives as someone capable of leading us out of the valley of shame defining George W. Bush’s reign of immorality. In Obama, we saw the antiwar candidate, bringing hope in all its heady audacity.

Eventually, Obama caved, sounding more and more like most of the other Demopubs, The fizz went flat as he slid to the right of center, the comfort zone of both parties, with his talk of sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Finally, we were inflicted with the “faith forum” when Obama and McCain were questioned by Saddleback Church’s evangelical Pastor Rick Warren. This was an opportunity for Obama to set the record straight that he’s not Muslim, which shouldn’t matter in a country founded on religious freedom. But the real opportunity was lost when neither aspirant had the balls to refuse to take part in such superfluous pandering.

And, now, President-elect Obama has named nearly a platoon of war hawks and Clintonites to his team. This looks nothing like change we can believe in.

This is the reason I’ve become cynical and why I ask the question: what is accomplished in eliminating voter fraud when the differences between Republicans and Democrats aren’t all that great?

In fact, I’m beginning to wonder why we vote?

Especially, if it’s possible that the election process, which should be sacred, may be controlled by Wall Street, Big Oil, the military-industrial complex, a committee that selects who will lead and who will lose. Picture these deciders as so many of us underlings get excited about participating in something we believe could possibly be life altering.

Are they laughing at us? “Look, look at how seriously they take themselves,” these members of the elite circle might remark.

And what if they directed our mainstream media, influencing them to report endlessly on an upcoming election, yammering about hairstyles, pantsuits, celebrity, and other trivia while the real news, like violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, torture, destruction, and murder committed in our names, the health care crisis, a broken economy, a ravaged military, collapsing infrastructure, environmental peril, underfunded public education, the widening gap between the rich and poor, is ignored or relegated to the crawler? Perhaps, it’s all some extravaganza of subterfuge–this process which many of us stand for hours in line to complete because we believe in its importance and the weight it gives to our voices. And because we trust that integrity in voting is the cornerstone of democracy.

But what if it really is some obese, stinking contrivance?

It wouldn’t be quite so craven–if the winner represented the lesser of two goods.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:





Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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