Yeah, the box office is here again. Let’s talk about some numbers that actually are important.
Election Day is tomorrow here in the United States. Many states allow for early voting and many people took care of that. There are also absentee ballots and stuff like that.
Now, Gabbing Geek doesn’t really pay, so those articles I crank out are done out of love and not profit. That’s good considering how often my articles crack the top ten daily posts. I’d probably owe Jenny money. But what I do for a living is work for the federal government. That means the election every four years can have a great effect on me and my job, moreso than it does for most other Americans. Congress, not the presidency, influences your life much more.
But it also means because of an old law called the Hatch Act that I am barred from doing certain partisan things. It’s a bit complicated. I can vote, obviously, and I can discuss my views in private, obviously, and I can donate to a political cause, obviously. Where it gets hairier is when it comes to public statements. I can’t run for office myself so long as I have my current job, a job I’d like to retire from someday a few decades from now. I can’t make a statement that implies the agency of my employment endorses a candidate. I can’t use my office to somehow influence an election, which is somewhat laughable considering what my office is, but it is still a thing I am legally barred from doing. I’m not sure I can volunteer to work on a campaign at all. I certainly can’t use my place of employment to do such things. Point is, I play it safe since I started my job and rarely discuss my political opinions openly online. I used to, and I do have many opinions on such things, but I won’t endorse a candidate one way or another. Well, I will say I won’t personally support a Libertarian since those guys might not believe I should even have my job as it would be “unconstitutional” or something. I think that’s safe to say, legally speaking. You can probably make an educated guess where I stand if you read between the lines of a lot of things I’ve posted in the past, but that’s no guarantee.
But I can discuss the importance of voting and outright being informed. I know my audience is small and is made up of maybe twelve people on a really good day, and Jimmy’s Canadian so that doesn’t mean much. But I will say what I have to say now anyway all the same.
Voting does a good deal. When we vote, we are making a choice. We don’t always get what we want. Minority views are not going to win elections, though the beauty of our American system of government is that we have majority rule with minority rights. In fact, I’d say one of the biggest problems with the electorate in my country is many voters, left and right, don’t understand how our national constitution works. The checks and balances system is designed to protect the views of the minority, as well as to make change incremental when it happens. Compromise is a must, and both the big parties need to understand that. No matter who wins in the next few days, I would not expect instant sweeping changes of any kind rippling through the country. Change will occur, and some of it could be OK, but my personal opinion is presidents have more power to make things worse rather than better.
As an example, I remember Neil Gaiman being quoted in The Sandman Companion on the Prez issue being in part inspired by his liberal American friends being disappointed that Bill Clinton didn’t turn America into a liberal paradise. George W. Bush didn’t make it a conservative one either, and Barack Obama didn’t have any more luck than Bill Clinton. What these men and their predecessors and successors all were were the voice and face of our great nation. They have more power individually than anyone else in the nation, but the last eight years should have taught all Americans just how limited that power is thanks to our Constitution. If we measure success by the amount of legislation a president gets through Congress, our most successful presidents were men like Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan, all of whom spent time cultivating relationships and influence on Capitol Hill, the place that actually does have power to affect our day-to-day lives much more than one individual in the Oval Office. The presidents of my adult lifetime (Clinton, W, Obama) did get things done to one degree or another, but they all had differing relationships with the other side of the aisle. Clinton seemed capable of working with the GOP in his time, while Bush didn’t have to worry about the opposition most of his presidency, and Obama came to office during a period of hyper-partisanship that it is doubtful anyone could have done much of anything with.
So, it is important to remember we elect a president, not a king or dictator. There are many things they simply cannot do. They cannot raise or lower American taxes. That’s the work of Congress. They are still bound by American law. Military personnel, for example, may all serve the president under the position of “commander-in-chief,” but the oath all soldiers take is to the Constitution, not the president, and they are obliged to disobey any order from any level that would have them commit crimes. True, presidents have inordinate amount of power in the realm of foreign affairs, but the Senate still needs to ratify most treaties or allocate the money presidents want to spend on just about anything.
Did you know, for example, that a member of the Senate blocked efforts by President Obama to send relief money to Haiti after the bad earthquake there during Obama’s first term? There really wasn’t much Obama could do about that aside from, if he had the funds, write a check out of his own personal pocket. It’s doubtful he had such funds in that case.
In fact, I think one of the biggest problems in the American electorate is knowing how little power the government has in many cases. Our government has no control over international prices for commodities. That’s determined by the business of trade and of supply and demand. Our government can influence such things, but there is no government control over, say, the price of oil.
It’s also helpful to know what level of government does what. There probably isn’t much the federal government can do for inner city crime. That’s a local issue. The same is true for education and public schools. Many issues are local and state issues the federal government has little say over. And if the federal government did attempt to have a say over such things, there probably should be a huge push-back by locals.
There’s a natural tendency among people to seek out individuals predisposed to agree with them. That’s a little something called homophily. It means people of like minds congregate and then the members actually make themselves more extreme in their views by not having a single dissenting voice to make them question how right they might be. That little voice is important. No one is right all the time. There is no perfect candidate. Everyone is a flawed human being.
Thomas More, among others, believed in a concept called “humanism”. What is that? It’s the idea, among other things, that no human being can have the perfect idea. Good ideas are possible, but every idea can use improvement. The best way to improve ideas is to have other, preferably learned, individuals offer suggestions of improvement. Perfection for the humanists was saved for the realm of God alone, so even having more educated people offering suggestions can only make an idea closer to perfect, it will never be exactly perfect. That’s a good way to think. Always look for a way to improve the lives of yourself, your loved ones, and your community. Don’t expect someone to swoop in and save the day without your help, and don’t think anyone of any level can solve a huge problem working alone. Do you want to do something about some issue? Good luck getting it done alone.
And that’s another problem with the presidency. Our last three presidents were basically Washington outsiders. Six of the last seven all fit that description as well. Do you know where the worst place to effect national change may be? The Oval Office. Presidents need allies and contacts, and while all six of those men took more experienced individuals as their running mates, if you really want change, don’t vote every four years. Vote every. Single. Year. There are elections of some manner every year. If you want to affect change, that president you are pining for will need allies and supporters, people who have proved certain ideas work on the state and local level, so elect them locally first and move up the ladder. The presidency should be the last office you want to capture. That Third Party candidate won’t do squat without the same party holding seats on Congress or various statehouses across the country, or without compromising a great deal. And despite the fact that our government is built on compromise, compromise is the very thing many idealistic or third party voters often hate about our system.
Again, there is no perfect candidate. The president probably cannot make your life better.
Though putting the wrong person in there can make your life worse. And no plan or idea makes everyone’s lives better. Negative side effects hit someone for just about everything.
Oh, one last thing: if your case can be made by a meme, you have a terrible case. Good arguments take time and space to develop. And I say that as someone who thought this was one of the best posts we’ve had here at Gabbing Geek in a long time.
And now the Box Office.
- Doctor Strange $85 million.
- Trolls $45.6 million.
- Hacksaw Ridge $14.8 million.
- Boo!: A Madea Halloween $7.8 million.
- Inferno $6.3 million.
Go vote, my fellow Americans.