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Overcoming Ballot Box Blues

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An increasingly popular topic of discussion among The David Pakman Show audience has been my producer Louis' declarations that he does not vote. Louis' reasons for not voting have been explored many times, and include believing that his vote will not make a difference, and that even if it did make a difference, the candidates he has to choose between would not govern differently enough to make any difference. He also thinks that all candidates are pawns of the corporate-political structure (I can't really disagree), and to some smaller extent, if we are to be completely honest, laziness has also been a factor.

Arguments from our audience about why these excuses are poor and why Louis should still vote include everything from trying to convince him that we do have radically different options in terms of candidates; that even among bad options there is a worst option, and many other arguments.

I must admit that while I vote regularly in local, state, and national elections, I feel Louis' skepticism, not because I do not believe that my vote is being counted, nor that all candidates are the same, nor because I'm naà ve enough to think that one vote never matters. Rather it's because I don't believe that the will of the people is being represented by the elected officials who represent us, and this is reflected in significant political issues, day in and day out.

The preeminent example is health care, where more and more polls show that Americans overwhelmingly believe the government should provide a basic level of health care to all Americans -- yes, a single payer, government-run, "socialist," "Marxist," "Communist" health-care system. You wouldn't know that from the health-care debate that takes place in the national spotlight, where the end points of the debate are a total for-profit free market system, and a "public option" which, for my money was never seriously considered in the recent reform debate, with a so-called "compromise" resulting in the form of the recent health-care reform bill.

Discussions of single-payer universal healthcare are relegated to independent media outlets, to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Senator Bernie Sanders, and other venues where the implication is that very few Americans support such a system. That is incorrect. Where is the will of the people being represented? Is the will of the people for large corporations to have a tacit monopoly on healthcare, and for people's health to be a business? Is the will of the people that only those who can afford care have access to it? I've never seen evidence that it's what people want.

Countless other issues fall under this heading, where the national opinion is not being represented by our elected officials. Just some of these are gay marriage, where even though many people still oppose gay marriage, a majority do support equal rights for gay couples. However, from how difficult it is to pass legislation in individual states, you'd think there must be overwhelming opposition to gay rights, as well as access to safe and legal abortions, which most Americans do favor, regardless of what conservative special interest spending wants you to think.

I understand Louis' frustration, I understand why he feels like staying home is a better use of time than going out to vote, and I understand why he doesn't think his will is being represented by elected officials -- since it isn't, in lieu of corporate money and contributions guiding many political positions and decisions. However, a recent email from a TV audience member of mine made one of the strongest arguments yet about why Louis should vote -- maybe strong enough to get him out at the polls next time. Here it is:

Louis getting discouraged and not voting is exactly what Republicans and conservative voters and special interest groups want him to do.

The more we study about voter turnout; the more information we have that indicates the higher turnout, the better chance progressives have of winning races at every level. The lower the voter turnout is, the better chance Republicans have of winning races and pushing the conservative agenda, which as we've seen in the last few months includes proposals to redefine rape, reduce women's access to safe and legal abortions, restrict teachers from even referring to the fact that homosexuality exists, reduce regulations on nuclear power plants in the wake of the Japan nuclear disaster, enable the death penalty for miscarriages, legalize violence against abortion providers, and countless other similar proposals.

One aspect of this that Louis should remember is that as of August 2008, Democrats had more registered voters than Republicans by a 48% to 40% margin among registered voters. This should make abundantly clear that Louis staying home is EXACTLY WHAT THE 40% WANT. Republicans at the state level have long known this, and actually sit around figuring out ways to get people like Louis to stay home! Now we just need to address the laziness factor.

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David Pakman is the host of The David Pakman Show, an internationally syndicated progressive talk radio and television program airing on over 110 stations across 4 countries, on DirecTV, DISH Network, and across the web on a hugely popular podcast (more...)
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