Sunday, March 02, 2014

Nature versus Nuttier

Version 0.4

Nature Versus Nuttier in Texan Politics

Whenever I notice there is an election for which I am a qualified voter, especially an official governmental election, I feel obliged to participate. Recently two things reminded me that this is an election year in Texas. One was my voter registration certificate and the other was a bunch of unsolicited spam from rightwing lunatics. As a result, I initiated an attempt to perform my civic duty, and I ran into more of the usual obstacles. An old friend (actually one of my first computer mentors) asked me to explain what happened, and I decided to prepare this public statement of the situation

There are two underlying and extremely basic principles in this presentation: (1) Change happens and (2) Democratic government is good. Why do I need to start so far back? Because my conclusion (which will follow from considering these principles) is so sad, which goes back to the overlying theme of this particular blog, which is that America really is close to its end this time around.

As long as we are alive, as long as we participate in the flow of time, change happens. Some people argue that change is the very nature of time, but my concern is with two types of change that I'll call evolutionary versus revolutionary. Something of a strained metaphor, but evolutionary change is similar to the evolution of a species. After enough generations, the species is going to be different, but there is a line of continuity there. Revolutionary change is different because there is a serious break there, in the natural metaphor corresponding to the extinction of a species. In general, the niche is still there, but some other species (or several species) will fill it.

Now it's time to justify democracy and democratic forms of government. The basic problem of government is that groups of people are more powerful than any individual, and we are social animals that are going to live in groups and we need rules and laws to limit the chaos. The difference with democracy is that each individual can feel a vested interest in the survival of the society because they participate in it, at least to that degree. Rationally I know that my vote is unlikely to make any difference, and the likelihood goes down as the scale of the election goes up, but I still feel that the act of voting gives me some stake in the system. Maybe my candidate didn't win this time, but I can always hope to pick a winner the next time, and therefore I should go along with the system and even try to make it better.

Now the background of the current situation is that the elections in America have been turned on their head. Instead of voters picking someone to represent them in the political process, the professional politicians pick the voters who will keep them in office. The mechanisms have varied over time, but the current mechanism is legalized bribes, and the most cheaply bribed politicians write the laws on behalf of the greediest and least ethical businessmen. Since the goal is to make more money, of course American politics has become a kind of monetary game, where the goal is to buy just enough votes so that you have just enough representatives to dictate the rules of the game. In the last election, most voters wanted Democratic Party politicians to represent them in Congress, but the gerrymandering and other mechanisms resulted in a House of Representatives that is dominated by neo-GOP politicians. Getting too far afield in this paragraph, and I've said this stuff before, but...

Let me get back to my own situation, eh? I still have this delusion that democracy is good and that I am morally obligated to vote. However, over the years it continues to become more and more difficult for me to actually do it. I think that is a systematic thing. I am categorized as a troublesome voter who mostly opposes the elected politicians, and voters in my category should be discouraged from voting whenever possible. Over the years my so-called franchise has become more and more restricted and ever harder to exercise.

This year I sent in the forms and received a response that, although my forms were mailed before the deadline, they were received too late. I have no way to check that, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out they were 'mislaid' for a few days to make sure they were too late. I was told that there was still an option via FAX machine, if only I knew where one was and had the special knowledge required to send an international FAX.

If they actually wanted me to vote, then they could simply have assumed that I wanted to vote. Based on my past record of voting in almost every election in the past, then it's a safe bet that they could just send me the ballots if they wanted me to continue to vote. Even on this issue of the FAX, there is a viable alternative that I suggested and which was ignored. My suggestion was that they accept a scan of the FAXable forms attached to email--but that idea is evidently too convenient (for those pesky little voters) to even consider or respond to. It's just one of the suggestions I've offered several times, but...

Another option I considered was asking a friend in the States to FAX the form domestically, but I decided against that on the grounds that they might get prosecuted for improperly assisting an actual voter. These days one of the top strategies to disenfranchise voters is to go after people and organizations that try to help people vote.

Then again, even if I got the ballot, Texas persists in using a really bizarre and oddly sized ballot that is rejected by all of the international standards. It's only a minor injury added on top of the insult, but it's a rather expensive form of stupidity that they must have noticed over the years. Well, that they must have noticed if they actually had any sincere interest in encouraging votes, that is.

Now we get to the awkward punchline and the relevance of the stuff about evolutionary versus revolutionary change. In my situation, the only possibly meaningful election I can still participate in is the so-called Republican primary in Texas. I suppose it's possible the clerks who have been working so hard to prevent me from voting are just sincere public servants, but I think it much more likely that they are sincerely partisan as a job requirement of modern Texas. In the old days, that was actually tilted the other way, in favor of the so-called Democratic Dixiecrats of Texas, and the most meaningful election was the Democratic Primary.

How could my vote have mattered? Confession time. It could have mattered by voting in the primary against the candidate I dislike more. In other words, I think the neo-GOP has rejected any possibility of evolutionary change and they need to experience the revolutionary change of going extinct so that a better species of politician can take their place. Stretching the metaphor again, but sometimes a species commits suicide without regard to the competitive competition. In natural terms, the species goes crazy and commits itself to extremism that results in extinction. It certainly isn't pressure from the Democratic species that has forced the neo-GOP down this road. Rather, Abe Lincoln's progressive and liberal Republican Party evolved into the increasingly conservative GOP of Teddy and Ike, but has now branched into an evolutionary dead end as today's neo-GOP.

Anyway, I wanted to write more on the topic, but I also wanted to finish today, so the compromise is to decrement the version number and publish it as is... In closing, I want to clarify my personal policy regarding moderation: Spammers go away. Anything else is going to get approved, but I admit that I may take the last word if I strongly disagree with your comments. In extreme cases, I'm just going to say something like "See what an extreme lunatic supports the neo-GOP" and not waste any keystrokes arguing with the fool, however I'd actually be grateful to get useful new data or superior reasoning that obliges me to learn something new.

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As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...