I have a Facebook friend from whom I hide all of my political updates. Honestly, I selectively hide updates from various friends quite often; I base this decision on an equation that measures how easily-offended someone is by how likely they are to start a flame war on my wall (and if there’s anything I hate, it’s making a seemingly-innocuous status update, leaving for some milk and cookies, and logging back on to find that World War III has broken out between eight of my friends over religion, Tim Tebow, or some other bullshit that I don’t care about but enjoy making fun of).
But this guy is different in that I hide all of my political updates from him, regardless of whether or not they’re partisan statements. Why do I do this? Because he’s obnoxiously cynical, that’s why. And when I say that, I don’t mean that he’s the quiet, Dylan Moran type of cynical that keeps to himself save for the occasional bit of snark; I mean he’s the kind of cynical that lies dormant until suddenly rearing its head and biting your face off right after you say something like “hey, let’s stop at Taco Bell” or “oh, I need to drop off my ballot.”
So you can imagine the response I get from him – and others like him – when I naively make a Facebook or Twitter post encouraging people to vote. I typically return to my laptop a few hours later to find either “THE SYSTEM IS RIGGED DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME” or the more direct (and proportionately more dickish) “HA HA YOUR SO BLIND AND DELUSIONAL ITS SO CUTE THAT YOU THINK VOTING WORKS.”
And it’s not just him; I’ve been having this same argument – the debate on the importance of voting – ever since I was a teenager too young to cast a ballot. And in my teen years, I reluctantly understood the opposing view; I could see that, yeah, nothing much seems to change and the Electoral College largely makes our decision for us, the popular vote be damned, and blah blah blah. But then something happened that gradually made me lose sympathy with that argument:
I was in high school during the 2000 election and I remember how popular it was to dismiss Al Gore and George W. Bush as being essentially the same guy. There was a common attitude that the outcome of the election (possibly the most controversial election in American history) ultimately wouldn’t matter because there was supposedly no difference between the two candidates. When the U.S. Supreme Court chose Bush, the multitude of apathetic Gen-X slackers who hadn’t bothered getting their asses off their Futons and into the voting booth shrugged their collective shoulders, said “meh, whatever”, and got back to playing their Nintendo 64’s and listening to Limp Bizkit.
Eight years went by. Those eight years saw two wars (paid for on credit since the president decided to cut taxes), massive unemployment, the worst terrorist attack in American history, and a colossally inept government response to a hurricane that nearly destroyed a major American city. And of course, the topper to all of this was the global banking crisis that nearly crippled our economy at the end of Bush’s second term.
I look back on all of this and I can’t help but wonder . . . how would things have been different if the Supreme Court had chosen Gore? Would we have invaded Iraq? Would the richest one-percent of Americans have gotten tax cuts while the rest of the country slipped further toward poverty? Would Gore have downsized FEMA from a cabinet-level agency and appointed one of his inexperienced cronies to run it? Would he have paid closer attention to CIA briefings pre-9/11 and maybe bothered to read the infamous memo titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.?
Obviously, no one knows the answer to all those questions. In any case, a Gore presidency would have ultimately seen its own problems and scandals and yeah, there’s the possibility that he would have somehow fucked things up even more badly than his opponent (there’s also the possibility that Elvis is alive and rooming with Tupac on an uncharted island in the Bermuda Triangle). But if, after eight years of Bush, you can honestly say that Gore would have made the exact same decisions and that there would have been no difference in their presidencies, then you either aren’t paying attention or you’re tragically, obtusely cynical.
This election differs from the one we saw 12 years ago in that we have two candidates whose differences couldn’t be more obviously pronounced. Whoever wins tonight, you can be sure that the effects will be felt for years, maybe even decades to come (there’s a strong chance that the next president will have to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice, which is a big deal for those of us who are concerned about our reproductive rights). Do you really think, four years from now, that we’ll be in the same place under Obama’s policies versus Romney’s (whatever the hell his policies even are)? Do you think that there would be politicians actively trying to curb Americans’ voting rights if they didn’t think the voting American public held an awesome power?
I’ll answer both of those questions for you: NO.
Now get off your Futon and vote.