Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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American Elections

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Those elections in the U.S. are getting a lot of attention these days. They're not our elections, so in principle this shouldn't be our business over here. But thanks to the wonders of an ever shrinking world it will be in some way or another.

Of course I am a lot for kicking Dubya out of his office – if only to not have to see his grimace on telly any more. On the other hand, most people agree that John Kerry won't be much better and may only be better for everybody outside the U.S. from a psychological point of view: Just think of the Iraq mess. Even if other countries would be prepared to help out there, wouldn't they look downright stupid to do this with that brat in charge who'll just use the troops he saves to start another unnecessary war?

And there are of course many other things which I find hard to understand. Ignoring the antique electoral system in the U.S. and the dodgy electronic voting machines for a while – there'll still be at least a third of people voting republican. Are there that many rich people?Or are they stupid after all? And if there are so many, how comes I haven't met any of them yet? Every American I spoke to so far seemed to be a decent/reasonable person in that respect. (My favourite explanation being that they don't talk to foreigners perhaps...). But keeping in mind that every country gets the government it deserves, I hope the best for our American friends. Good luck. If it's more years of the same stuff, we should close the borders (fingerprints for everyone!), loosen the economics ties and offer asylum to the Americans who need it.

All right, just rambling along. Fun abbreviations I frequently misinterpret: GOP – Government owning party, they bought it, so they own it, right? DNC -> DNRC - Dogbert's New Ruling Class.

And why the heck do people have to register to vote over there? Doesn't that just look like a tool to keep poor and uneducated people out of elections? And shouldn't the government have data about you or your whereabouts anyway, for your residency, taxes and so on?

October 8, 2004, 1:08

Comments

Comment by Chuck: User icon

OK, I’m an American, not a Republican (Libertarian), but I feel I have to come to the defense of Republicans. Income has very little impact on party affiliation. There are just as many rich Democrats as there are rish Republicans. Businesses in general donate as much to candidates who are Democrat as those who are Republican.

Theoretically, the difference between the two dominate parties in America is not money but philosophy. Republicans claim to support smaller government (lower taxes, less bureaucracy, etc.) while Democrats claim to support more government intervention (affirmative action, environmental protection, etc.).

Honestly, from a libertarian point of view, I see very little difference between their actions, regardless of their originating philosophy. If I were forced to join one of the two parties, I would probably side with the Republicans, but it’s by a narrow margin. But I’m not rich by any means, although I am self-employed. I would probably be called lower middle class given my income.

Chuck

October 8, 2004, 1:33

Comment by Michael McCracken: User icon

I’d have to agree with Chuck that it’s a common fallacy that Republicans are rich and Democrats aren’t. The truth seems to be that they both occupy a similar spread. There certainly are rich Democratic contributors…

Sven, why does it surprise you that one has to register to vote? They have to keep track of how many times you vote (hopefully <=1 and not after you die), and I’m not aware of any other government ID that is strictly required, if you don’t require any licensing (drive, work, etc), you can get by with only a birth certificate, which is never updated.

October 8, 2004, 2:28

Comment by Jason: User icon

I don’t see how registering to vote would “look like a tool to keep poor and uneducated people out of elections.” There’s no fee, no test.

October 8, 2004, 6:29

Comment by Gummi: User icon

I don’t know, I took the “rich people” comment as more of a, “Repubs like billionaires more than millionaires. Are there really that many billionaires?” :)

There’s not that many differences between Republicans and Democrats, but the election has more to do with individual policy than a party platform. It’s not a parliamentary democracy over there. One could argue it’s more of a plutocracy.

The most prominent difference that does come to mind is the old Reps give and attract more wish-fulfillment, ego massage than the Dems. Not a great difference but a significant one, nonetheless.

October 8, 2004, 7:41

Comment by ssp: User icon

Chuck, Mike: interesting comments. Looking at what comes out of Republican policy, my impression is that it mainly benefits people who are rich and corporations. If you’re rich you don’t have to care about public schools, welfare and so on. In fact, public schools being bad will be in your interest as it ensures that your kids will have better education than those of many others.

Re registering to vote: I find this curious because I never had to register. In Germany you have to register where you live and are automatically registered to vote. Before the election you are notified where you have to go to vote. And on election day you’ll have to show up with your ID and they have a list where you’re crossed out after casting your vote - hence eliminating the most obvious ways of fraud. (And I read that in the US, it’s forbidden, but entirely possible to register for elections in several states and cast multiple votes as the registers aren’t national.)

It’s quite simple, no electronics, it even leaves a paper trail (I never understood why making a cross on a sheet of paper is considered harder than using a computer or those ‘dimple’ things).

When I lived in the UK (where thanks to the EU I was eligible to participate in city council elections), the system seemed to be similar and I didn’t have to register either.

Jason: If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you’ll be less likely to get round to registering to vote in time. If you don’t know about the whole process you may not even try.

Oh, and one more unrelated thing I forgot to mention originally: I read that each of the big parties spends more than a billion dollars on bidding for the presidency. That’s an awful lot of money. It could be used for many more reasonable things.

October 8, 2004, 12:03

Comment by Jason: User icon

“Jason: If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you’ll be less likely to get round to registering to vote in time. If you don’t know about the whole process you may not even try.”

Ok, I see what you mean. Both of those are reasons why it’s possible in many states to register on the day of the election at the polling place. Also, in many states you can find volunteers in front of stores asking everyone if they’ve registered to vote… not a perfect solution, but it’s better than nothing…

I remember registering with the city when I was in Germany (and then unregistering when I left)… couldn’t you say the same thing about the poor and uneducated with regards to that form of registration? Especially poor and uneducated immigrants?

October 9, 2004, 0:59

Comment by d.w.: User icon

This is a horrible generalization, but there’s kernel of truth to it: traditionally, the left has been more interested in garnering higher election turnouts than the right because the conventional wisdom holds that younger, less-affluent voters (which are the ones the registration outreach programs target) are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.

During the “Jim Crow” period (roughly speaking, between the end of slavery and the civil rights movement), it was a matter of policy in many areas (using such mechanisms as poll tests and the like) to disenfranchise the poor and minorities. This is very (well documented)[http://www.google.com/search?q=%22jim%20crow%22%20%22voting%20rights%22].

The good thing is that voter registration is largely trivially easy thanks to the (“Motor Voter” act)[http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/nvra/activ_nvra.htm] passed about 10 years ago. Additionally, at least in Michigan (not sure about other states), simply voting in a recent election is sufficient to register you for future ones.

October 9, 2004, 2:46

Comment by ssp: User icon

Jason: I agree that it’s not a big deal if you can register right before going to vote. This would just make it a minor annoyance (and perhaps open the door to fraud? - shouldn’t the register be checked thoroughly before people can cast their vote?)

Regarding German bureaucracy – as you’re required by law to be registered, you should be anyway. (And this ties in with taxes, social security and so on. I think it’s even explicitly stated in most rental agreements.) I have no idea how foreigners are handled in the system, though.

October 9, 2004, 18:12

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