Election Day: Do We Really Have a Choice?

 

Election Day: Do We Really Have a Choice?Unless you’ve been in a coma, everybody in the United States knows that today is election day. It is freedom’s crowning achievement. It is the day when each of us gets to express his views at the ballot box. We choose our leaders to make decisions that will affect all of our lives. Tens of thousands of people have died for this right to choose. However, over the last several weeks, I’ve begun to wonder if we really have a choice at all.

 

Where is the Choice?

At first glance, it certainly appears that we have a choice. By now, we all know the two major party candidates for president. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent so that we know who the are. The media even has reporters that traveling with their campaigns, highlighting the “stark” differences between the nominees. However, when we look closer, neither party is truly serious about reducing the deficit. One gives us bailouts. The other claims to want a balanced budget yet plans to increase military spending which already encompasses nearly 1/4 of the federal budget and is more than the next 13 top spenders combined. (Aren’t we supposed to be entering a time of peace?) So, on spending, where is the choice really? Economically, things aren’t much different. Both use tax cuts to try to stimulate the economy. It is just a matter of whose taxes you’d like to get the bigger cut. Instead of providing a real choice, the two major candidates and their political parties divide us using social issues. Those who dissent from either party and try to provide real economic solutions are cast aside as lunatics and unelectable.

Yes, I will do my duty as a citizen of this country today. For the first time in my adult life, I have seriously considered writing in a third-party candidate. To my surprise, my choices are even limited there. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to write-in the candidate I would really like to vote for because he is not considered a legal write-in here in my state. How is that giving the electorate choices?

 

The Two-Party System is Broken

You see, the two-party system that we have in this country is rigged. It is set up to elect only people from one of the two major parties. Because most Americans fall somewhere in the political center, the two parties have raced to the middle over the years in order to secure more votes. The effect has been that their ideology has become nearly identical. Neither party is going to do much about the deficit or the debt. Truly making spending cuts would affect too many voting constituencies on both sides, decreasing their chances of reelection. Their economic policies practically mirror each other, and you need to look for the nuances if you are going to find differences.

Worse yet, these two-parties have become slaves to big business. If you want to know who is running an organization, just follow the money. The same is true for our government. Money buys influence otherwise you wouldn’t see big businesses contributing to both parties like they do. Indeed, both parties are too tied to big business to ever make any difficult decisions and truly lead. If they do, they risk their money spigot being permanently shut off.

The media is also complicit in this. Regardless of right or left slant, media outlets would cease to function without advertising revenue. So, why would big media report against their own interests. They play the game, only covering the two candidates that are “feasible” to win.

 

Distraction Through Division

Rather than being stewards of our money, both Republicans and Democrats are able to distract us through division. They have successfully campaigned to divide us on social issues. They use issues like gay marriage and abortion to distract us from what is really going on. While we argue about these social issues amongst ourselves, the fleece is happening behind our backs. Both major parties and their wealthy donors are lining their pockets, restricting civil liberties, destroying our environment, and gaining more and more power over all of us – and we are allowing it to happen!

Elections do matter. However, until we eliminate the money from politics, we will always be at the mercy of those with the deepest pockets and largest financial interests. Our politicians will govern based on where the money for their reelection is coming from rather than answer to their voting constituencies. In order implement true changes in policy, we need to free our politics from the influence of money. Let’s remember this as we vote today and in the future.

About Greg

Greg Johnson is a proud husband, father, and debt crusader who is in the process of becoming debt free. He is the co-founder of the personal finance website Club Thrifty, where he brings the awesome sauce each and every day.

Comments

  1. I agree with you that we have little choice and that candidates can be very similar policy-wise, giving us essentially “no choice.” I don’t see money as the problem, though. I thin the problem is people not willing to step up and vote third party when they disagree with both the Republican and Democratic candidates. There are some fiscally irresponsible Republicans on the ballot who assume they will get votes just for having an R by their name (and unfortunately they are right).

    • I would agree with that. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people ever hear about third-party candidates. It is a combo of money, laziness, and fear.

  2. Whether Democrat or Republican, at the end of the day they meet for drinks at the same DC restaurants.

  3. There are so many lies in these political ads it’s ridiculous. There needs to be accountability.
    And the special interest groups ha. In MI if a certain lobby group doesn’t get their way through the senate/house they just put a ballot proposal to change the constitution. A lot of the ads say don’t let government officials decide what to do with your money. It’s like they don’t realize we’re supposed to elect senators/representatives to make these decisions.

    • Honestly, I think special interest groups are a huge part of the problem. They don’t have to be accountable for anything they say, you don’t even know who they are, and they have loads of money.

  4. Our system is completely broke but I can’t say that I ever see it changing. My wife and I literally just discussed (last night) the downsides of the 2-party system but I don’t see there ever being more…oh unless Congress or the President vote it in and why would they ever do that?

    • Of course they don’t want it to change. The only way to make change is to 1) vote for it by voting third-party or 2) remove the money from campaigning. I think if businesses weren’t allowed to donate, that may change things somewhat. Personally, I don’t believe in corporate personhood and I think it is creating an oligarchy rather than a democracy.

    • Wow, it seems like everyone feels this way. What the…

  5. I agree with this post 100%. It’s a broken system and has been for quite some time. In my opinion, in order for a third party to ever become relevant, it needs to start with the state elections and then move up from there.

  6. There are some major changes that need to be made, but I don’t think any of the candidates for House, Senate, President, etc have the intestinal fortitude to do them. Sooner or later the people are going to have to start taking back the government, I’m just not sure I am going to be around to see it (and I’m pretty young too).

    I never had the desire to run for public office until I started working in the public sector. Too bad I know I would never be able to get enough backers to make a legitimate run at trying to change the system…

    • I think we suffer from a total lack of courage and leadership in government. We have a budget deficit, a trade deficit, and a leadership deficit. The only way out is for our leaders to take a stand. Of course, the other side would just use that to attack them, so it is a Catch-22.

  7. Ross Perot, where oh where are you? I think the two party system is completely outdated, but I know tons of people who just vote their party always. Sad really.

  8. Can’t argue wtih you on this one. Well, except for the ballot box thing. Surely you meant to say ballot machine , lol.

  9. Nice post. The two party system is broken and I agree with separating money from politics. Those with money have an inside track to influence those in Washington.

    To broaden on your point a little though, we always have a choice. One, is our vote. I know that we might be limited in our options, but we have our vote. That can’t be taken from us. Secondly, the Constitution affords us the right to throw off the government if things get bad enough. Now, I am not endorsing a revolt, but it is a choice. If you listen to conspiracy theorists like my Dad, this isn’t far off. I however, would not buy that.

  10. I’m just curious how a third-party candidate would ever get traction…if there was a station for third parties (like msnbc for left and fox for right) that may get attention.

    I’d be worried that the more parties running the more divided the country would be, at least there’s just 2 choices instead of 10. The more choices there are the less chance people will vote. Definitely agree Greg that the system is broken
    Cheers

    • That is kind of my point. Nobody wants a third party to get traction because it threatens the establishment. Why would they want to upset business as usual when it is working so well for them?

      • Absolutely True. This is why we never have a 3rd party in the debates and they have to fight endless litigation to just get on the ballot. Both parties will do everything to keep a 3rd party out of it…. In the end, it’s all about power and money – not the best interest of the country.

    • Quite the opposite – the more choices the better the odds of us getting someone honest who’s looking out for our interests. United we stand, divided we fall. Division is best established down the middle of a 2-party system. This is the same concept warlords used when they went to conquer a nation – thus divide and conquer.

  11. Oh, I have zero doubts that a thrid party candidate will win anytime soon. I think we are all made to feel that our votes won’t count if we vote third party. That is simply a scare tactic. Personally, while I thought long and hard about voting third party in a number of races this election, ultimately I only ended up voting third party in one of those races. Your vote is a vote for whoever you think will best run the country/state/county etc. It is never a wasted vote.

    • While this is a concern to a large group of people, I believe the majority of voters just don’t have enough exposure to a 3rd party candidate to vote for one. (due to media blackout). When I told my bus driver how many candidates are running for presidency, she was surprised there were more than 2! People just don’t know. Period.

  12. Yes, I can’t argue with this post at all. In the US we really have very little choice for president. The only thing each party hates more than the other, is a 3rd party. Repubs and Dems will do everything they can to keep the 3rd party out of it, so that we are left with little to chose from.

  13. The UKs election system was previously very much like yours – a 2 party split. Things changed here when the Liberal Democrats and Conservative party split the vote… You never know what could happen in the future :)

    • We’ll see. I think if our debt continues to grow, you may see a push for more voices. At some point, there is going to be a civil war in the GOP as well between new Tea Party Republicans and the more moderate old school. We’ll see what that creates.

  14. You’re missing the forest for the trees here. Voting is about so much more than the presidential election. Schools have to be funded, and that takes your vote. All politics is local, right?

    • I guess I’m not really sure how we’re doing that. I didn’t say don’t go vote and nothing but voting for president matters. In fact, it is usually quite the opposite – but big money has an impact on your local elections too. Arguably, the US Senate races are much more important this time around. If Romney wins, he will likely have a split congress. There are tons of ballot initiatives – in Minnesota, Washington, Maine, etc. – that are really important. However, big money is also making its impact felt there.

  15. I lost all hope in people making any sane choices when I got 1 million people to like my “sexy potato” page on facebook. If people have nothing better to do … well I think a monkey can make a better choice. You speak absolute truth but I think it’s all too late now.

  16. There was no space for a write-in candidate for the elected office that I actually wanted to write someone in for… and since it took almost 3 hours to cast my ballot, I didn’t ask around to see how to make a stink about it and do it. *Sigh*

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