The day Obama signed the order allowing a president to assassinate an American citizen, no trial necessary, I switched my registration from the Democratic to independent. To be fair, this was simply the straw that broke the camel's back. I was growing increasingly disillusioned with Obama's failure to hold the rich and powerful accountable under the law, or reform things like the commercial jail system, the drug war and the criminalization of minor offenses in schools that meant the law fell unfairly and inexcusably heavily on the poor and minorities. Civil rights is not itself a do-or-die issue with me. I mean, to my great shame I don't have a real problem being recorded on security cameras or patted down at airports. It's a hassle, and ineffective, but it's not like I am opposed on principle to surveillance. I feel I should be more bothered than I am, but I'm just not. So even though it was civil rights that drove me from the Democratic party, it didn't drive me to libertarianism.
A few weeks ago I took an online meme and scored 98% similarity with Jill Stein, the Green party organization. This struck me as a bit odd since environmental issues, again, aren't nearly as important as I think they ought to be. It's human suffering - real, personal suffering due to poverty and uncaring institutions and institutional racisim and sexism and homophobia and lack of education and opportunities - that gets my motor running. I'd come very close to joining the American Socialism party when I left the Dems, but decided against it because of a hostility I sensed toward religion and the value of cultural diversity. They just struck me as a bit cold, neglecting the local community, in a lot of what I read. But the Greens, the more I read about them, the more I found a party after my own heart. The party platform and writings are probably more focused on energy and ecological issues than I am, but I see a real respect for the local community, balanced against the need to respect the needs of individuals who make it up. Some of their individual positions, taken baldly on their own, do bother me; but the overall ethos motivating those positions makes me more inclined to vote for their politicians than for any other party I've researched so far. So last week I updated my voter registration as a Green Party member.
I have no delusions that Jill Stein will win the presidency. I don't even know that I'd want her to; I simply haven't been able to find enough on her positions on the issues that matter most to me. I may vote for her, or I may leave the presidential question on my voter ballot blank. I almost certainly won't be voting for Gary Johnson, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, or any other presidential candidate I've looked into. But there are still state elections and local elections and ballot initiatives to vote on.
My point: Vote. Vote for someone you believe in, even if it's not at the national level or from a major party. Find out which party comes closest to your own views, and research the individual candidates, too. And vote, even if (especially if) you and I disagree on major issues. Some places to start:
- Democratic Party Platform
- Republican Party Platform
- Libertarian Party Platform
- Green Party Platform
- Socialist Party Platform
The picture at the top of this post is linked to the Rock the Vote website. If you aren't registered, it will help you prepare a form which you can download, print off, and mail to your local board of elections and get registered. It even fills out the address so all you have to do is fold the paper in half, staple it shut, slap on a stamp, and get it in the mail. In New York, the deadline to update your registration is twenty-five days before the election, which means you should register within the next week if you haven't already. But it's not too late.
And by all means, make sure you have the right IDs. Some states are playing with the laws requiring you to have very specific ID's. I'll save my screed against that for another day. But speaking purely pragmatically, make sure you have the ID you need so your vote actually counts. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a good overview of what each state requires.
Democracy rocks, but it only works if people actually use it. So register, get educated, and vote for whomever, at whatever level, you can vote for in good conscience. Even if you think everyone running for any position above county dog-catcher isn't worth the ink it took to print their name - still vote for said dog-catcher. It's the right thing to do.