If Americans really want change, why don’t they vote for it?

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that American voters really do want something different in their candidates.

We hear the rationales all the time: Politics is too packaged, too plastic, too driven by polls and consultants and focus groups.  What we need is a politicians who says what he (or she) means, means what they say and stands up for his or her beliefs.

From time to time, we get one of those: A Ross Perot or Ron Paul or whatever.  They generate a lot of buzz but then — in the end — the same pre-packaged, consultant-driven and focus group molded empty suit is nominated.

So do voters really want change? Or do they just want diversion for a time before going into the voting booth and voting for the status quo?

If you look at Ron Paul’s base of support, you find younger voters relatively new to the political process along with older voters who are fed up with the same old political pabulum they have endured for too many years.

But neither group generates the kind of numbers that it takes to win elections.

“As more and more voters see little hope of change, the ranks of the disenfranchised grows,” political scientist Andy Hartigan tells Capitol Hill Blue. “When a majority of voters stay home on election day, a minority controls a system of government based on majority rule.”

Four years ago, Barack Obama‘s talk of change brought many new voters into the process. They bought into Obama’s message but they aren’t buying this time around. Obama turned out to be just a repackaged version of the same old political stereotype that has dominated politics for the past several elections.

Which means many of the newcomers to the political process from four years ago now join the disenfranchised ranks who see little use in voting.

So far in this political season, turnout in most of the primary elections and caucuses has been abysmally low. Of the four remaining GOP Presidential candidates, only Paul stirs any real emotion or conviction from followers but Paul’s core base of support hovers around 12-14 percent, which is no where near enough to bring him the nomination.

On the Democratic side, Obama’s campaign crowds are smaller and less enthusiastic than four years ago but he has the advantage of incumbency and a base that will most likely overshadow the eventual GOP nominee.

Wary Republican voters continue to search for an alternative — any alternative — to presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney but the former Massachusetts governor continues to eek out victories and add delegates.  He probably won’t win pretty but he will probably win — more by default than by any real mandate.

Current polls suggest Obama will cruise to through this year’s election to win a second term. He will have the money and the organization. No Republican currently on the ballot beats him convincingly.  Sometimes, Romney or Paul appear to come close but Obama’s job approval is edging upward and whomever captures the GOP nomination may be too bloodied by the bruising primary.

In his classic song, Me & Bobby McGee, Kris Kristofferson wrote:

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,

And nothing ain’t worth nothin’ but it’s free

Sad times indeed when a folk singer spouts more truth than the so-called leaders of our nation.

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20 Responses to "If Americans really want change, why don’t they vote for it?"

  1. Frank  March 5, 2012 at 3:53 am

    There is no uniform defintion of freedom in America, or anywhere else.

    I know Democrats who will support Obama, Republicans who will support the nominee,Republicans who will vomit before they vote for Romney, and a few Libertarians who will come out of their bunkers shoot the bird at the rest of us, and vote Libertarian. I also know people who do not fit into any of those groups. They all are adamant that they are voting for freedom. No one like Perot or Paul can sell the idea that they and only they have the right formula for freedom, because there is no one formula that fits what everyone things freedom is.

    • Todd  March 5, 2012 at 6:11 am

      Freedom is the opposite of government. If you want to find the candidate that defends freedom, just look for the one who votes against every new piece of legislation that increases the budget or taxes. More government equals less freedom. Ron Paul is the only one who even comes close to that right now.
      ————–
      “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
      Thomas Jefferson

      • Frank  March 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm

        Anarchy is the opposite of government. Freedom is a state of mind.

  2. Mark  March 5, 2012 at 5:39 am

    I somewhat agree with you Frank. There is no uniform definition of freedom in America but I ask you the question. Who comes the closest to defining our freedoms provided by our constitution? I am 36 years old and voted for Obama in the last election because I thought he would bring REAL change. Here we are almost 4 years later with him continuing and extending Bushs’ agenda. I’m not voting for the guy who looks or talks the part this year. I’ve done the research and Ron Paul may not look or come across as a slick president should, but his track record, belief in the constitution as well as fiscal responsibility has earned him my vote. Good luck with your choice.

  3. Observer  March 5, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Doug, you ask,

    “if Americans really want change, why don’t they vote for it?”

    But then you answered your own question: A lot of new voters supported Obama in 2008, and have been very disappointed. Why? Because Obama didn’t deliver on his promises.

    Like other politicians, Obama is constrained by the interests of his campaign contributors, especially the heavy hitters (major donors). He is constrained in what he can promise, and even more constrained in what he can do in office.

    For example, Obama’s health care reform package was backed by the biggest health insurance companies. Obama, like nearly all politicians, rarely or never discusses the Canadian system, which is far superior (if you are a patient), and just terrible (if you are a health care insurance company). There are lots of differences between the US and Canadian healthcare systems, but the biggest single difference is that Canada has eliminated the insurance companies from
    healthcare. Which explains why the US system costs nearly twice as much as the Canadian system. And every Canadian has coverage, while in the US about 40-50 million people have no health care coverage.

    The polls that I’ve seen indicate that US voters would pick the Canadian-style health care system, IF THEY HAD A CHOICE. It’s popular, even in the absence of a high-profile public campaign in its favor.

    • woody188  March 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      If you consider Canada’s population is 33.5 million and the US system only costs twice as much, then the Canadian system is the worst of the two per capita. Think about having to wait 6+ months for a procedure. Also, many Canadians come to the US to see specialists. But on the flipside, there is no such thing as medical bankruptcy in Canada, unless you figure the government share of medical debt into the equation…

      • Jon  March 6, 2012 at 5:37 am

        The U.S. system costs twice as much *per capita*.

        And yes, for huge piles of money, the very best care is still found, for now, in the USA, because when those doctors were going through school the USA had a well-funded educational system.

        This is a) not an option for the general public, and b) not a situation likely to last.

        J.

  4. Hal Brown  March 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Let’s remember that when we elect a presider we also shape the judiciary, and especially the Supreme Court.

    The Founders, in their wisdom, connected the Executive with the Judicial by enabling the president to nominate justices on Supreme Court and other federal courts. As a check to this they required the Senate to approve nominations.

    When we go to the polls every four years to elect a president we elect someone who will attempt to follow through on their promises. However we must realize that we aren’t electing a dictator or king, or (thinking of Santorum) a Christain version of an ayatollah.

    We are electing someone who may or may not be able to implement their promises. Our government runs best when Republicans and Democrats are willing to compromise.

    Many would argue that Obama squandered his honeymoon years on pushing through the health care initiative, albeit with compromises the Republicans and the health care industry could accept. The premise is that he didn’t take into account the Republican rout in the 2010 congressional elections so what I assume was his grand plan for his first term ground to a decidedly inglorious halt.

    We are also electing someone who we trust to deal with national and international threats. It’s the question of who you want to handle the 3:00 AM phone call.

    Romney, the likely opponent, is saber rattling over Iran. Do we trust him to make the most prudent decisions about this.

    Romney has pandered to the far right and is now a social conservative who would like to give the government control of a woman’s body.

    Now to the so-called “politicians who says what he (or she) means, means what they say and stands up for his or her beliefs.” Doug used Ross Perot and Ron Paul as examples. Perot never held elected office but never waffled on his beliefs. Paul was a congressman and as far as I know did vote his beliefs. I respect him for that. I don’t see any indication that Paul (or for that matter any Republican who ran this year) as showing any sign of being willing to compromise, or personal open-mindedness or flexibility.

    Being president in my opinion requires knowing both how and when to compromise. I requires the ability to deftly negotiate so in most cases the end result of compromise achieves the anticipated results. A president should never be blind-sided by the result of a compromise.

    Now, to Doug’s supposition that Americans really do want something different in their candidates. I think that on the left, many American want a miracle worker. On the right I think a more complex and diverse psychology is at work which is both naive and self-serving and in many ways contrary to American values.

    Naive: Because they believe every outlandish promise, and every exaggeration and lie made by their candidates.

    Self-serviing: They want to impose their values on everybody.

    Contrary to American values: Our system believes that minorities have rights, and that the majority rules system applies to election but is tempered by our judiciary.

    Once again I have added a comment that is longer than Doug’s column. A column, I would add, that most people won’t read and that some will read selected parts of and lambast me by taking something I wrote out of context. Welcome back Doug.

  5. Hal Brown  March 5, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Correction:

    Once again I have added a comment that is longer than Doug’s column. A COMMENT, I would add, that most people won’t read and that some will read selected parts of and lambast me by taking something I wrote out of context. Welcome back Doug.

  6. Sandy Price  March 5, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I read every word you, Hal, and Doug write.

    The voting public is confused about what the candidates really want in the white House. In the early days of the GOP, they wanted the government out of their lives and everything left to the States. The wars ended that plan! The African Americans and Women got the vote and White America panicked.

    The GOP has become the voice of Christian America and in doing so managed to slander people of color and women.

    Trying to get the truth to the voters is impossible when television is their source of information. I welcomed the Internet hoping the American people would have a place to learn and debate on a one-on-one ability.

    Stay with us Chief, we need your guidance.

  7. griff  March 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    We already did. Ha ha ha ha ha!

    We do every four years. Ha ha ha ha ha.

    Because we are the most lazy, ignorant people on the planet.

  8. Geeza  March 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    It would be nice if for once in my lifetime I could see a President who could not be bought by special interests, who had a solid reputation of being incorruptible, who had a track record for voting based on principles and who genuinely believed in upholding the constitution.

    If anyone needed a litmus test then the NDAA was it. And as usual Ron Paul was once again the only candidate who spoke up against it.

    I don’t care if the Flipflopper, the Bible-Basher or Moonraker have iron clad guarantees to win the nomination, I’m voting for Ron Paul.

    • woody188  March 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Wait, which one is Moonraker? :grin:

      • Almandine  March 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm

        Eye of Newt – double bubble…

  9. woody188  March 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    I don’t know why we hold elections if candidates aren’t held to their public promises or even their whole platform on which they were elected. Bush Junior was against nation building, and landed us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama was going to restore the Constitution and quit the wars, then he expanded them and took more rights away.

    What’s the point of elections?

    Oh right, to placate the masses…

  10. Jon  March 6, 2012 at 6:10 am

    I’m afraid I’m with woody188 on some of this. The system itself is defective, and so there is no candidate to vote for.

    With ‘first past the post’ and ‘winner take all’ results, there can be no 3rd parties. It has been mathematically proven that under those conditions all rational voters and voting must devolve into a two-party system.

    (Not that all voters are rational, but hey… ;-P

    With ‘winner take all’ there is no minority representation. None whatsoever. Voting for the “Green” party in South Carolina is, for all intents and purposes, pissing into the wind, and so why bother? Might as well stay home.

    And sometimes there isn’t even majority representation. See Gore winning the popular vote, and Bush winning the Electoral College vote, and ask how many Gore supporters had their voices heard during the Bush administration.

    The system itself is defective. Until there is proportional representation, voting for change is completely pointless.

    Finally, the status quo is by far the best-funded of all campaigns. After all, it is those who have profited the most under the current regime who have the most financial power to enforce that what is will continue to be.

    So no, there will be no peaceful change. But those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable* – Sooner or later.

    Jon

    * Paraphrased from a quotation attributed to John F. Kennedy. The Arab Spring is a case in point. J.

  11. Hal Brown  March 6, 2012 at 8:52 am

    How have we gotten this far without writing about the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? To quote Wikipedia that “was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions.”

    The money pouring into Republican PACs from corporations and from a few billionaires makes it impossible to be non-partisan on this subject. Whether you believe Obama was sincere in his stance against PAC money being used in his campaign, it would have been nice to put this to the test. Unfortunately he had to back off and endorse Democratic PACs.

    Jon writes that that the best funded campaigns are always for maintaining the status quo. Ironically, despite screams of anguish from the corporatocracy, the Obama status quo up until now has benefitted them greatly. What they seem to be afraid of is the change the Democrats have been trying to make in said status quo.

    In this election the Democrats have to try to play catch-up with the Republicans who want to derail Democratic initiatives to make corporations and the super-wealthy pay what they claim is their fair share of taxes.

    In my opinion it is a pipe dream to hold elected politicians strictly to their campaign promises. I would like to see a candidate stand a chance of getting elected is he or she added a real politics proviso to promises saying “I will do my best to make good on these promises.”

    Instead we have an electorate that wants Democracy to work but somehow believes we can have a president with the power of a dictator.

    If there is one thing that stand a chance, however remote, of being achieved to make our elections fairer it is to ban PACs, have public funding of campaigns, and a strictly enforced limited on how much an individual can contribute so true grassroots efforts can make a difference.

    Of course we could always make lies and distortions a capital offense in campaign debates, speeches and advertising, but then I am getting all Jonathan Swift again.

    • woody188  March 6, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Yes, money as free speech is ridiculous. That decision created a huge imbalance and threatens the core of our system of government. It gives the wealthy a disproportionately louder voice than those less wealthy, more so than even before. It can be argued the poor have no voice now.

      But we also need to point out that Obama has been the recipient of the lion’s share of PAC/corporate money, far more than the Republican candidates combined. I think that says exactly who Corporate America is supporting.

      Obama/Democrats only jumped on the “tax the rich, tax the corporations” issue to promote the differences in the Parties, knowing full well how it would be received. You fell for it. Follow the money, not the rhetoric.

      It might be a pipe dream to hold elected politicians strictly to their campaign promises, but shouldn’t we at least expect them to not do the opposite of what they say, the opposite of what their Party supposedly supports, and the opposite of what the average American claims to want?

      Compromise, sure, but the opposite?

      And why is it impossible to restore our rights as outlined in the Constitution? Because the bureaucrats and some law enforcement claim it would hinder their ability to catch terrorists? What a load of BS. We didn’t need these spying on our own people abilities for hundreds of years and we survived. We don’t need them now.

      • Hal Brown  March 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

        My search for a breakdown of contributions between Democratic and Republican parties only came up with the following which seems to indicate both parties are about even: Open Secrets 2012 Presidential Candidate Fundraising Summary.

        As far as I can tell Open Secrets is a non-partisan organization. If anybody can find any other contribution data for this election this please post it.

        • woody188  March 6, 2012 at 4:31 pm

          You are right, I only included the “final four” Republicans and not drop outs. And in Obama’s defense, supposedly 47% comes from small donors, which only Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all come near that same number, But Mitt only has some 10% from small donors.

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