06 June 2006

To Vote or Not to Vote, That is the Question

It's election day in California and I'm trying to figure out whether or not I want to bother voting.

For one thing, I'm too irritated to want to vote. Sunday is a good example of why. I left the house at about noon to go to an author's event in El Segundo. When I returned four hours later there were nine phone messages. One was from a friend, the other eight were recordings from Jerry Brown, Billy Crystal and others, pestering me to vote this way or that. I deleted them all without listening to them, then I lay down to take a nap - I was running on about four hours of sleep. For several reasons I couldn't turn off the phone. During the next hour I got five more calls, all of them recorded campaign messages. So much for my nap.

Does anyone actually listen to these things? Once they realize that it is a recorded message, don't 99% of people simply smash the phone back down or angrily push the off button? The messages that really astound me are the ones that don't quickly shout out the name of the candidate or the vote on the proposition they want. At least then there's a chance of getting the name into the brain of the person you are pissing off.

Then there's the negative campaigning. I don't really care if candidates tear each other up, but I would like to get some sense of what they actually want to do and how they plan to do it. Simply showcasing themselves as the lesser of two evils is not a very good way to get me enthusiastic.

Yesterday, in a fit of pique at the garbage I've been hearing from Angelides and Westly, I described the choice between them as no different than deciding whether or not I wanted snot flowing out of my left or right nostril. Then I thought, that's a bit extreme, isn't it? Then I thought about it some more and decided: no, that's about right.

So far as I can tell, they both claim to want to do the same things that they probably won't really have the power to do anything about. They've both taken money from suspicious donors. Neither of them have any new, bright or interesting ideas. And the only chance they have of beating the Governator is if the electorate hates Arnold even worse than either of them.

All down the line there just aren't any candidates in the Democratic Primary who I care all that much about one way or the other. There's no inspiration to be found anywhere on the ballot.

As for the propositions, as usual they are poorly written, confusing boondoggles that won't accomplish much.

Proposition 81 is a bond issue to raise funds for construction and renovation of libraries. Who could be against that? I love libraries. I think they're one of the most important services that government can provide. But, I just looked at the Los Angeles Public Library website to see how many libraries there are within five miles of my house in Silverlake - 18.

I've been in about six of those libraries and in every single one the librarians complain that they don't have enough money to hire staff or to stock the shelves. Problem is, this bond issue won't help that. It specifically raises money to build more understaffed and understocked libraries. Something about this proposition smells fishy, well, porky really. Like if it passes it will have the construction industry chuckling happily all the way to the bank.

Proposition 82 sets up a whole new, poorly mandated and structured, no doubt inadequately funded bureaucracy to allow any child whose parents want it to, to go to preschool. I'm all for preschool. But this bill isn't going to help more than five to ten percent (at most) of the population and is going to give us just one more horribly run government agency that we will all learn to hate and complain about the lousy job it's doing. Meanwhile, the existing school system is widely regarded as an utter fiasco.

I'm also a little uncomfortable with the idea that it will be funded by an added tax on only one segment of society, even if it is the segment that can afford it the most. (Although, it is the group of people who need it the least.) Sure there's an argument to be made that since the rich benefit the most from society they should pay the most toward its operating expenses. But the whole point of so-called "civilization" is that we all do better by chipping in what we can and contributing to the greater, common good. It's a bad precedent. Today we're hitting up people making in excess of $400,000 per year to fund something; there's not too many of them so why not? But tomorrow, maybe it will be people making over $120,000 a year and there's a lot more of them. For that matter, why not anybody making anything over the California state average of about $35,000?

It seems likely that this will be the lowest voter turnout ever - or very close to it - for an election in California. The lower the turnout is, the more hand wringing there is likely to be over how to get voters more interested in elections. And maybe something good will come of that angst. So the little devil on one of my shoulders says: "Don't vote, hope that it will help teach these assholes a lesson."

But then the little devil on the other shoulder says: "You might as well vote, it gives you a stronger leg to stand on when you gripe about the morons running the government."

I'm still undecided.

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