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Someone tried telling me the other day that this upcoming election between Obama and Romney was “really important.”
“Oh, you’ve gotta vote in this one,” they told me. “This one really matters.”
I love when people say stuff like this. I especially love it when they whip themselves up and start layering it with hyperbole. By the time they’re done talking, it goes from being your average, run-of-the-mill, everyday “really important” election to “probably one of the most important elections in all of our nation’s history.” These people are so in-the-moment, they sound like Chris Harrison doing a teaser on The Bachelor. “Coming up: One of the most dramatic rose ceremonies you will ever witness.” Sure it is, Chris. Didn’t you say that last week? Somehow every rose ceremony is one of the most dramatic ever?
And somehow, every election is one of the most important?
I don’t doubt that some people truly believe this November’s contest matters for our country. I just don’t think they’re thinking clearly—perhaps because they simply don’t want to, or maybe because they don’t have the facts. But not only is this election not one of the most important elections ever, but I would argue it is actually less important than the last one, and possibly one of the least important in history.
The reason people think this election is so important is because they believe, for whatever reason, that it pits two competing visions for America against one another, with only one vision capable of winning. It’s the same thing we were told in 2008 (the previous “one of the most important elections ever”), and the same thing we’ll be told in 2016 (the next). The truth is nothing could be further from the truth. This election does not pit two opposing visions against one another. It pits one vision against itself.
That vision is the status quo. It is the vision of keeping things exactly how they are. It is the vision of a two-party political system in name that turns out to be a one-party political system in practice.
This vision has split itself into two: a Democratic side of the coin, and a Republican side of the coin. It is still just a single coin. It doesn’t mean a thing.
As long as our elections keep pitting these two sides of the same coin against one another, our elections will only get less important, not more.
I find it interesting that we’ve seen two large scale political protests over the last several years: Tea Partiers protesting Big Government on the right; Occupiers protesting Big Business on the left. What nobody saw fit to mention, because no one connects the dots anymore, is that both of these movements were against the same thing. They were both against Bigness. They were both against being abused and controlled. One side thought government was the problem; the other thought it was business. But our Big Government is bought and sold by Big Business. It is Big Business in bed with Big Government that’s the problem.
This is a problem both parties are equally on the hook for.
It’s an arrangement both parties wish to preserve.
So don’t buy the hype. Don’t buy the idea that this election is one of the most important elections ever. And certainly don’t buy the totally false idea that this election puts two competing visions for our country at odds. This is not an election of Obama and Romney. It is an election of Insert Democratic Candidate Here versus Insert Republican Candidate There. What those two protest movements really told us was that what everyone wants in this country is liberty. As long as these parties continue driving a wedge between us, convincing us what we want are two opposing things, we will never have the liberty we are after. We’ll just have more of the same.
And if you really want this to be one of the most important elections ever, do yourself a favor: Do something different. Don’t vote for Obama. Don’t vote for Romney. Buck the trend. Vote for someone else. Vote for a different party. Write someone in. Do as much as you can to spread the vote thin and let these guys know we no longer think the Democrats and Republicans are the only two options.
You want two competing visions for this country? You can have it. You can have the status quo with its defenders on one side, and you and me and everyone else who wants something different on the other.