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Score one for the Status Quo

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
June 16, 2006


It's rather fitting that Brian Bilbray was reelected to congress on June 6, 2006. After all why shouldn't a political mercenary replace a disgraced war hero in representing military contractors on behalf of California's 50th district? Hardly surprised, Bilbray's 6/6/6 win seems more a Shakespearean plot point, than a victorious mandate. Bilbray didn't win, the rest of us lost.

And the clouds continue to gather.

The true winner in the 50th district was the status quo, the same status quo that elected the discredited, greedy, and ethically challenged Randy Duke Cunningham, to 8 terms in congress. Not surprising the same people who endorsed the criminally compromised Cunningham in 2004 are the same people endorsing Bilbray in 2006.

Score one for the status quo.

Looking at the voter turn out for the special election is clear only a minority of eligible voters bothered to vote. Crunching the numbers, the picture is pathetic, making this writer wonder why we spend trillions of dollars fighting a war in Iraq in the name of democracy, when democracy is all but dead in the United States of Apathy.

Of the 351,289 registered voters in the 50th district, a mere 130,416 took the time to vote. That's about 38 percent. Imagine if you tried to drive 38% of your car to work, or took only 38% of a test, or attempted to pay 38% of your bill at a local restaurant. How about sending 38% percent of your child to school only 38% of the time.

Government fails the people only when people fail the government. 38% on a test is a failing grade. Continuing with this metaphor, consider Brian Bilbray's 49.33 % of the 38%. Half of 38 is 19 right? Nineteen percent does not a majority make, nor a representative government sustain.

Of the 155,313 registered republicans in the 50th district only 64,554 voted. That's less than half. Of the 104, 283 registered Democrats, 59,021 cast a vote. And these are just the registered voters. I wonder how many eligible adults don't even bother to register in the first place? What is the voting age population of the 50th district? Figure in that variable and Bilbray's vote percentage shrinks even smaller.

Electing a professional politician/lobbyist now seems the least of our problems. The bitter truth of 38% voter turnout, at a time of war, economic free fall, and a looming ecological crisis is reason enough to send condolences to those mourning the death of democracy. When a majority of voters don't vote, the system is obviously in critical condition.

Why pretend then that democracy works, when it clearly doesn't. On the federal level it takes millions to lose an election, so only millionaires and the well financed can afford to "represent" the people, and the corporatists that keep them in office…or not.

Could it be nonvoters have just abandoned the façade of democracy altogether? Waging war in the name of democracy, the Bush Administration has reveled more than most people can comprehend. Having lost faith in government to do anything other than to protect the status most people opt out of voting to concentrate on keeping up.

More numb than bitter, Bilbray's election is a true reflection of where and when we live. Bickering over human migration and same-sex coupling, we are a population of motoring monkeys dashing about on ribbon of asphalts. Believing that we are exempt from the laws of nature, we begin to distance ourselves from other systems supporting our continued existence.

Just as people no longer value simplicity and truth, people don't vote because people no longer value voting. Following that implication to its natural conclusion, there is evidence the majority of people no longer value the right to vote because they know their vote no longer holds any value. To invest time or energy into something of little or no value makes no sense, right?

On the downside of hope, it is hard for me to see anything positive about the election of Brian Bilbray. Sure, we get to vote again in November, and again every other year, that hardly helps reduce the growing sense of anarchy.

I am beginning to wonder if more of our cherished institutions of self-governance are as empty as the representative governance and corporate democracy? I'm also beginning to wonder if voting enables the façade of governance to continue to the detriment of all.

How does one measure 38% of no hope?

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