Tag Archives: Voting

We are Townsfolk in a Spaghetti Western

ClintAre you old enough to have watched those wonderful old Spaghetti Westerns? The typical story went something like this…

When the townsfolk people of some poor dust bowl are abused and impoverished by a gang of ruthless cutthroats, they elect an unsavory drifter as “sheriff” to protect them. A bloody shootout ensues, involving lots of gratuitous gunfire and dynamite explosions.  When the smoke finally clears, it never ends all that well for the townsfolk. Most of them are dead or wounded and their ramshackle town is pretty much reduced to a smoldering wood-heap. Their “sheriff,” having done what they asked of him, rides away from the dead bodies and the smoking rubble with saddlebags overflowing with their life savings.

None of those townsfolk were crazy extremists. They were just regular folk, farmers and shop owners, out of options and fearful for their futures. They were driven by desperation and circumstance to put their faith in the toughest, meanest, bad-ass Alpha male they could find.

Many of us lament that we vote so many arguably dangerous people into high office. Not only into the Presidency, but into the Congress and the Senate and even into the Supreme Court. Too many of these office holders hold frankly crazy views on science, on climate change, and on evolution. They advocate for policies rooted in their faith in the twin religions of capitalism and god. They take extreme positions on guns and militarization. They hold crazy Libertarian and Free-Market views on health care and social programs and racism and sexism and sexuality and abortion and deregulation. They seem to have no scruples whatsoever and will make any ridiculous argument, propagate any lie, to pursue their self-interest and ideology.

No wonder chaos ensues.

We generally blame the crazy extreme of our population for this situation. We argue that our lunatic fringe, driven by their zealous energy and amplified by Gerrymandering, have disproportionate power over electoral outcomes. If only we moderates could take charge, then we’d elect sane, reasonable, and compassionate leaders!

But I want to suggest that moderates are culpable as well. It’s human nature, or at least American nature. Even moderates, like the townsfolk in a Spaghetti Western, turn to crazy and dangerous individuals when they are looking for someone who can make a difference in their lives.

Look at it this way. Most of us are understandably concerned about our physical security and economic self-interest. When we’re worried about home security, we don’t hire someone like ourselves to protect us. We hire a bad-ass body guard, or maybe we adopt a vicious pit bull and buy a deadly semi-automatic pistol. If we are worried about going to jail, we don’t want the most reasonable and knowledgeable lawyer to represent us. We rather want the most aggressive and unscrupulous lawyer possible. We want a lawyer who is willing to say or do whatever it takes to protect our interests, law be damned.

Similarly, to protect our physical and economic security, we elect representatives that are far more extreme than we are. We find the nastiest, most crazy representative we can to fight for us and defend our interests. Even if our head tells us to hire someone smart and reasonable, we are overwhelmingly attracted to the brutal, unreasoning Alpha male (or female).

Part of our decision process is our calculation that no leader can be fully successful. So for example if we believe it would be good to eliminate fat from social programs, we elect a leader who says he wants to dismantle all social programs. We figure that maybe at least he’ll be successful in getting rid of that waste and abuse we are so outraged by. When our elected leader ACTUALLY dismantles vital social programs that we value, we are shocked and outraged. Even though the crazy candidate campaigned on throwing out the baby, we figured he would really just get rid of that dirty bathwater.

So when extremists vote, they tend to vote in someone much more extreme than they are whom they believe will fight hardest for them. They make extreme demands that they don’t necessarily hope to achieve. And then even those same extremists express shock and anger when that representative they worked so hard to elect actually does succeed in achieving what they demanded. I don’t think it is so much about voting against our own self-interest as it is about adopting a pit bull to protect our baby.

But moderates do the essentially same thing. Even moderates in large numbers buy guns as “reasonable” protection, then lament when they are used to shoot up a school-full of kids. Even moderates vote for the Alpha male to keep our country safe, then express outrage when he lies us into an unnecessary war. Even moderates vote for extreme “strongmen” (or strong-women) whom they foolishly believe will become reasonable and restrained and diplomatic upon taking office.

Just like in those Spaghetti Westerns, we moderates and lunatic fringe alike, have elected President Trump and a dirty dozen of tough, extreme bad boys to save us. One has to wonder what will be left of America when they get done protecting it. Or will Trump and the corporatist elite around him merely ride into the sunset of America with saddlebags packed full of our life savings?

 

 

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Maximum Voting Age

Lots of young folk under the age of 18 are perfectly capable of registering sound, informed votes in elections. But notwithstanding our many child geniuses, we still acknowledge that on average enough young folk are not yet capable of voting intelligently. This justifies our imposition of a minimum voting age.

SeniorVoteBy the same logic we ought to have a maximum voting age. Of course many old folk (like you and I obviously) are perfectly competent to vote intelligently right into our 100’s. But on average, age makes us old farts increasingly likely to make really, really stupid voting decisions. And when it comes to elections, even slight statistical tendencies are all that matters, not the presence of exceptions.

Look, we old folk can’t run a 4 minute mile like we used to. And although it is politically incorrect to point this out, our brains are just physical organs as well. They wear out too and while some age more badly than others, our mental faculties invariably degrade with advancing age.

This is evidenced in innumerable ways that tangibly impact elections. We don’t necessarily get wiser, but we do get slower-witted. We definitely get more gullible, increasingly more likely to fall for transparent scams by Nigerian Princes or Donald Trumps. We get more jaded and senile and closed-minded and angry and embittered and are more likely to respond to similar Tea-Party appeals. We are more likely to vote out of fear and to be swayed by the angry voices of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. We are more likely to cling to old racist and bigoted and homophobic attitudes. We are less likely to understand the nuances of the modern world and imagine that a loaf of bread is still 25 cents and that the Internet is “a series of tubes.”

And moreover, we old folks are the very idiots that voted-in morons like George Bush who lied us into war (at least 33 well-documented lies) and also voted-in a whole insane asylum full of climate change deniers to Congress. So what specifically is there about our track record of wise decisions that suggests that we same old folks will make better voting decisions in the future?

Besides, we old folks had our chance and it’s time to let the younger generations have more say in their future and stop dominating elections already. If advancing age made us generally more likely to vote for a stable future planet for our descendants, that would be different, but age seems to only make us even more likely to vote according to our VERY near term self-interest.

So my very politically incorrect recommendation is to establish a maximum voting age of say 65. Once we retire from working life we should retire from voting as well. I acknowledge that this has no chance of becoming law, but we could still think about voluntarily stepping back from deciding the future of others. At the very least, we should strongly consider deferring to younger voters and supporting their candidates like Bernie Sanders whom they can see quite clearly is a better choice to serve their longer-term interests and those of the planet.

Fellow old folks, you’ve had your chance to screw up the country and have nothing more to prove in that regard. Step out of the way now and let the younger generations have their chance!