Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - I Voted Today

I Voted Today
by Sinclair Noe

DOW + 133 = 13,245
SPX + 11 = 1428
NAS + 12 = 3011
10 YR YLD +.06 = 1.74%
OIL + 2.80 = 88.45
GOLD + 31.90 = 1717.90
SILV + .84 = 32.12

Normally, I spend the first couple of hours of each day throwing back some coffee and reading, maybe a little writing. Not today. I still had a cup of mud, but I showered fast and headed out the door. I drove to the local high school and I voted. I like going to the polls on election day. It's more satisfying than mailing the ballot in early. And I like going to the local school to vote. Even though it was early morning, there were several young students on the campus. They saw people going into the polling place, and I hope it made them think about the process. I missed the crowds. I think many voters were dropping off kids at the school and then going inside to vote, but I beat the rush, if there was a rush. I didn't see any lines. Maybe that means something about the outcome or the voting patterns; I don't know what. I put my ballot into a ballot scanning machine, and a poll worker said “thank you” and he handed me a sticker that reads: “I Voted Today”. I stuck it on my shirt and told the fellow “thank you.” I felt good, I felt like a citizen.

Yes, I know my one little vote doesn't count for much, but I like going through the motions. The whole idea of voting has been drummed into my head for so long that I really believe it makes some kind of difference. I'm not crazy enough to imagine that any one election hinges on my vote. I'm part of a mass collective, a big pot of bubbling citizenry: messy, neat, stupid, brilliant, natty, informed, clueless, proud, bigoted, cruel, compassionate, hardworking, lazy, simple, complex, determined, and easily led astray. And we all go into voting booths and try to force one another to create a world that we would prefer. And we all go into voting booths and negate one another's delusions. That's the card we have to play, and we play it. And my card is as strong as yours, and yours is as strong as the billionaire’s, and the billionaire's is as strong as retiree, which is as strong as..., pick anybody.

And somehow, it seems to work. Go figure.

It's not perfect. The two major parties get their pockets stuffed by monied interests, and the list reads different but the interests aren't. Even if a person sneaks into political office with a pure heart, I doubt they can escape without heavy baggage. It all seems like a big, expensive game. Even if I think I'm voting for right and light and goodness, all I'm really doing is expressing my preference that it is better than wrong and darkness and evil. But I don't think it is really a game, and certainly not a race. So, I don't always try to pick a winner when I vote. Sometimes it turns out that way; sometimes not. I try to vote my conscience and the result is that I never feel like I've wasted my vote.

If you are looking for the horse race aspect of the election, here it is. A guy named Nate Silver has been running a website called fivethirtyeight.org. He looks at all the polls and pools them all together.

The national polls now range from showing a 1-point lead for Mr. Romney to slightly more than a 4-point advantage for Mr. Obama. The FiveThirtyEight forecast of the national popular vote is within this range, projecting Mr. Obama’s most likely margin of victory to be two or three percentage points, approximating the margin that George W. Bush achieved in defeating John Kerry in 2004.
Averaging polls together increases their sample size - making them much more powerful statistically than any one poll taken alone. But the errors in the polls are sometimes correlated, meaning there are years when most of them miss in the same direction. Mr. Romney remains close enough to Mr. Obama that he could fairly easily win the popular vote if there is such an error in Mr. Obama’s favor this year. Mr. Romney’s chances are less, however, of winning the Electoral College. The large majority of polls in battleground states over the past three days have shown leads for Mr. Obama. On Monday, for example, 19 battleground state polls found leads for Mr. Obama, as compared with just three for Mr. Romney.
Among 12 national polls published on Monday, Mr. Obama led by an average of 1.6 percentage points. Perhaps more important is the trend in the surveys. On average, Mr. Obama gained 1.5 percentage points from the prior edition of the same polls, improving his standing in nine of the surveys while losing ground in just one.
Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College have slipped, and are now only about 8 percent according to the forecast model - down from about 30 percent 10 days ago.

I don't know if the odds will play out as predicted. It will be interesting. I'll be watching the news reports tonight, maybe even late into the night. The major networks probably are going to take their time in declaring a winner; once bitten, twice shy. The odds-makers and prognosticators have made their calls but anything could happen.

I read Der Spiegel this morning, the German newspaper has already called the election; they say America lost the election:

Regardless of who wins the election, total capitalism is America's true ruler, and it has the power to destroy the country. Romney, the exceedingly wealthy business man, and Obama, the cultivated civil rights lawyer, are two faces of a political system that no longer has much to do with democracy as we understand it. Democracy is about choice, but Americans don't really have much of a choice.

The German newspaper goes on to say: “The truth is that we simply no longer understand America. Looking at the country from Germany and Europe, we see a foreign culture. The political system is in the hands of big business and its lobbyists. The checks and balances have failed. And a perverse mix of irresponsibility, greed and religious zealotry dominate public opinion. The downfall of the American empire has begun. It could be that the country's citizens wouldn't be able to stop it no matter how hard they tried. But they aren't even trying.”

I know my one vote doesn't determine any election but I know that elections are determined by the people who show up to vote. The only way the politicians know what's important to me is if I tell them and the only time they have to actually listen is when I tell them with the ballot.

And so, on the first Tuesday in November we all vote. If you're fed up with politics and you don't vote, you have still voted. There is no such thing as not voting. If you prefer to spend the day cleaning lint out of your navel rather than casting a ballot, you have effectively doubled the value of someone else's ballot. The powers that be realize that if you don't vote, it doubles their vote. Maybe someday everybody will be so disgusted and ill-informed and cynical that you just throw up both your hands and quit voting. Bad politicians get elected by people who don't vote.

I think my vote has value. If it doesn't then why has there been $6 billion dollars spent on this election to try and influence my vote? There have been efforts to suppress votes, and they inevitably fail. People will stand in lines for hours; people will wade through flood-waters, and we've seen that people around the world are willing to risk their lives to have their voices heard by way of the democratic process that we seem to take for granted.

I think your individual vote is more important than ever. There have been millions and billions spent this past year in a cynical pursuit of power and influence. So far, the money seems to have purchased lies, smears, mud-slinging, distortions, counter-lies, manipulation, and more than a healthy dose of cynicism, but it's still a better alternative than violence to determine a government. Unfortunately, that seems to be the choice. We either make democracy work or things turn really nasty. We know that bullets can change the course of history; we've seen it played out in World Wars, Civil Wars, and in all sorts of gruesome deaths.

Ballots can change history, too. It's this crazy, radical idea that we can change things without destroying everything. And everyone is included; we can all throw our ideas and dreams and visions in a box, shake it up and live with the results until such time as we have the chance to vote again. It is a crude, imperfect process and sometimes I'm personally displeased but it has produced the most prosperous civilization in history; if we can hold onto it.

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