www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-not-voting-20121017,0,5859255.story

baltimoresun.com

Voting is an exercise in futility

In a system hopelessly corrupted by money, whom we elect makes little difference, so why bother?

By Howard Bluth

2:56 PM EDT, October 17, 2012

Advertisement

I've been thinking of not voting in the coming election.

My wife is upset with me about this, saying I'm "throwing in the towel."

But after 30 years of voting for the "lesser evil" and seeing no less evil as a result, I'm thinking that all this voting isn't making much difference, regardless of who's in control.

Inequality has grown to obscene levels, wages have stagnated, and more people than ever are economically insecure. Both major parties promise to create more jobs, the Democrats by "investing" in job training and infrastructure, the Republicans by cutting regulations and reducing tax rates for the "job creators."

But neither party is willing to acknowledge that good-paying jobs, in sufficient numbers to put a real dent in the unemployment rate, are simply not there and will not be there — because capital will go anywhere in the world in search of the cheapest labor, and because corporations, with the aid of advanced technology, have figured out how to increase productivity without hiring new workers. Which is exactly why our recovery from the Great Recession has been so anemic.

Voting, given this dismal scenario, seems little more than an exercise in futility. Worse, it serves to perpetuate the illusion that we are still a democracy, when in fact we have become a plutocracy, with a government, as the journalist Lewis Lapham recently put it, "of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich."

How could it be otherwise when even the most idealistic and forward-looking political candidates are stopped dead in their tracks when realizing they have to spend inordinate amounts of time begging for campaign donations, not just during the months prior to election but every day upon taking office?

This is not what we elect them to do, and it certainly has nothing to do with advancing the public good.

And what is all this campaign money buying? Slickly produced TV ads aimed at manipulating public perception with half-truths, innuendo and outright lies, while reflecting utter contempt for the intelligence of voters by both the candidates and the moneyed interests behind them. As Aldous Huxley wrote, "The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate ... positively guarantees the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything." And that was 50 years ago — long before the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" case. One can only imagine what Huxley would think today.

The simple fact is that money has come to rule government, whether the CEO is a Democrat or Republican. And until this is changed, until we have publicly financed elections, with strict limits on how much private money — especially anonymous money — may be given to candidates, voting will remain a meaningless exercise that only serves to prop up the existing system.

So refusing to vote in this multibillion-dollar charade is not simply "throwing in the towel." It is a standing indictment of a system so corrupted by money that no amount of voter participation can fix it.

If you must vote, at least do so for a third-party candidate to express your disgust with the status quo.

Howard Bluth is a retired social worker living in Baltimore. His email is landhbluth@toast.net