2020 for the Win

In the year of our lord of holy capitalism, 2016, I did not vote. At age 36, I have voted one time in a presidential election. During midterm elections, I was more engaged in comparing Sprouts and Vons weekly ad flyers than candidates.

I’m not proud of discarding a right people die for, but I will express some defensiveness and genuine confusion if you want to kill me for it. Here are the questions I struggle with:

1) Does being a conscientious American, shouldering my civic duty, simply mean voting red or blue down the line without any effortful analysis or original thought?

2) If the first and last time you know the name of your congressman is when you open the ballot, and you don’t understand the difference between state and U.S. senators, how much did your input help optimize outcomes for our country?

Photo credit, both idea and blurry execution: Wife

If you spent more time figuring out how to post your “I Voted” sticker to social media — in a subtle, clever, cute or tactful way that accomplishes the overriding intention of virtue signaling — than actually looking at policy differences, is democracy better off?

In other words, should there be a requisite level of diligence to earn the right to vote? And if we both didn’t reach that level, yet we both pay our taxes and treat people kindly, do I deserve more ill judgment for skipping rather than guessing?

3) Perhaps the hardest conundrum… Even if I do all the research, what should be my criteria for selecting a candidate? The one who is best for my family, or more total families across the country? Or all of humanity?

Trump generally is good for the stock market. I own a lot of stock relative to total assets. Our hallowed free enterprise system is built largely on a belief that people pursuing their own self-interest is the best way to run the shop.

So if you’re telling me to vote, can I do it for myself? Or should I try to somehow project the number of people who will benefit more on a daily, tangible level under each candidate? With that kind of processing power, I’d also like to take a shot at helping out Einstein with uniting general relativity and quantum mechanics.

If my civic duty is to look out for all of humanity and our children, shouldn’t I more or less be a one-issue voter on climate change? If I want to prioritize Black people getting a fair shake, would it be more principled to write in someone who would actually shake the racial tree rather than settle between 70-something white men who already had their chances?

Just be specific with my objective: What is the subset of people I should be thinking of when I vote? A candidate almost by definition cannot be the best choice for everyone; otherwise there would be no other candidates.

In my liberal echo chamber, all these exhortations to vote really just mean vote against Trump. This is fine, but call it like it is. Don’t scream about the importance of voting rights and democracy when you only want to enable those who agree with you.

I’ll come clean and say I have no interest in urging any potential Trump supporter to vote. I hope tons of them stay home because the margin of victory this year might mean more than it ever has.

While picnicking off one of the marinas in Newport Beach, Calif., last weekend, it was challenging not to stare at a group of children partying aboard a boat with a Trump flag. If not high school, I would say early college. Hello Orange County.

Assume they were 18. I don’t feel they’re obligated to fill out a ballot, not one bit. I don’t want another Trump vote tallied just because it happens to be the name flying over daddy’s boat.

This is extremely prejudiced of me, I know. It’s worth noting there was a house on the marina with a Trump flag, and the people on the porch were friendly and playful with my son.

Perhaps those young boaters were taking AP Government study breaks below deck and care deeply about the democratic process. I doubt it, and I doubt the value of people voting just to vote. I don’t see how no vote is any worse than an uneducated vote if you don’t really care.

I care enough to vote this time because Trump is such an unrelenting assault on intellectual rigor. Listing more reasons would cause an ice cream headache due to volume and severity. Plus I forfeited my right to complain in 2016 when I sat in the stands instead of joining a team.

It really is similar to sports. Actually sports are a little better in that you at least hear impartial broadcasters and stats. Consuming politics is a feast in confirmation bias, like Uncle Rico reading his high school’s booster newsletter for his source of truth. Watching a presidential debate has nothing to do with learning about platforms, just shiny-object entertainment and hoping your side scores more points.

You pick a team, wave the flag or sign, vilify the opponent, cheer unconditionally even if you don’t follow the sport or players until the final stretch. I only started watching the Dodgers this year in the NLCS and don’t know much about baseball.

But I decided I wanted them to win, and that was that. They won; I felt happy; life resumed. Those who get rich off the sport stayed rich. Most everyday people saw no difference in their everyday lives.

It’s just a game, for politicians and us. If it weren’t, if governing were more about statesmanship than gamesmanship, Amy Coney Barrett would not be on the Supreme Court right now.

The Republican-controlled Senate blocked Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland four years ago when Justice Scalia died in February, saying it was too close to November and voters should have a say via the presidential election. (This, by the way, likely got more social conservatives to turn out for Trump.)

By that logic, when Justice Ginsburg a.k.a. the Notorious R.B.G. died this September, We the People should have gotten a say in who filled her seat with our votes this Tuesday. Instead, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put a rush on pushing Barrett through confirmation. These are lifetime appointments.

It’s a pretty strong indicator of hypocrisy when you can argue against McConnell by simply quoting him word for word. But if the Notorious herself could weigh in, presuming some self-awareness and rap game to match the nickname, she might drop:

Don’t hate the player, silly goose, hate the game.

Ginsburg could have retired in 2013 and allowed President Obama and a Democrat-controlled Senate to pick her successor. Even at 80 years old and a survivor of cancer twice, she bristled at any suggestion of retirement. Kobe, Jordan, Brady… you don’t tell them when to leave the game.

Essentially it was a gamble, assuming Ginsburg cared to align the future of the court with her 27 years of liberal work for it. The big, risky bet: When she eventually did leave her seat, Democrats would still be in control.

The Republicans won the Senate, and then the presidency. Ginsburg went for it on fourth down and didn’t make it. Her team threw tantrums on the sideline, but they didn’t have the ball anymore.

That’s how it works. You can’t turn the ball over and then cry about what plays the other team runs.

I’m not saying Ginsburg was wrong in squeezing out seven more years. I’m not even sure timing retirement to play keep-away with her seat before a tenuous election is any better for We the People than expediting a confirmation in the same scenario.

It’s not about what’s good for We the People. It’s just the game. This year I picked my team and hope we win.

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