Sunday, February 12, 2012

Voting Illiteracy by Jersey Campbell

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something.” – Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve said this at least 58 times before, but I need to say it again. I’m an NBA fanatic. I love basketball. More specifically I love good, world-class athlete basketball with pristine ball movement, 80s era Celtics floor spacing and sound team defense.
                  So imagine my dismay when the NBAtv fan night ballot box is closed and the winner of the polls ends up being a Heat – Cavs game. Don’t get me wrong, the team the Cavs are right now are slightly better than the team we all expected them to be, plus they have the early season rookie of the year in Kyrie Irving. But to be voted as the team the NBA universe wants to watch on Fan Night? Come on, man! Maybe Lebron is THAT big of a draw that no matter who the Heatles play the world will want to watch (which is why organizations prize superstars so much, disregarding building solid basketball teams in favor of going after big names. Hey Knickerbockers, how’s that working out for you?). But every week on fan night the marquee game the fans choose is easily the second or third best game of the night. This week the fans chose Heat – Cavs over games featuring better basketball matchups like Pacers – Magic and Blazers – Grizzles. The Heat are on TV twice a week, do we really need to see them a third time?

                  This, in a nutshell, is not only why I don’t vote in elections, but it is also why I do not trust people to make intelligible decisions when choosing “representatives.” The tyranny of the majority is only a tyranny when the decisions made by the majority are dumbfounded and stupid as shit, a la Heat – Cavs, Yao Ming being voted as a starter in all-star games every year (even when he played only a couple games in the season leading up to all-star weekend), or the real possibility of Newt Ginrich being the next president of the United States (in the case of presidential elections, every option is the worst option).
                  I don’t trust voters and consequently, I don’t trust who voters vote for. The collective action of voting can be legitimate only through a rigorous process of deliberation. First, all alternatives must be presented in a fair manner. Second, proper facts and viewpoints should be revealed to give voters an accurate representation of what they are voting for and against. Third, the alternatives must be deliberated and debated to discern the validity, effectiveness, and equity of each. Without these processes taking place, voting is no different then choosing a policy by throwing a dart at a marked dartboard.
                  Voting, taken by itself, does not constitute participation or activism. In Benjamin Barber’s book titled “Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics in a New Age” he asserts that voting is the least substantial part of the democratic process. It should be the last step in a long process of consideration and deliberation. When the people marching to the ballot box are improperly informed, the results are rarely acceptable and often disastrous, like Allen Iverson being voted as a starter in the 2010 NBA All-Star game over ballers like Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose. For the sake of this country- and the world- I hope the people voting for Iverson that year were tweens who grew up playing the NBA 2K series and still thought A.I. was a great player, even though they watch basketball as frequently as I watch hockey, which is never.
                  If the people voting for Iverson are the same people voting for senators, members of the House, the president, and other elected officials (as I believe) then we’re in trouble. Obviously, electing representatives is a much bigger deal then choosing which teams play on NBA Fan Night and who starts in the All-Star game, but they both point to the same problem- those responsible for making these decisions are misinformed, miseducated, and intellectually malnourished. I’m gonna jam a pencil in my eye if I’m forced to watch Carmelo’s bum ass start in the all-star game this year over more or equally deserving candidates Josh Smith, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani (who unfortunately just got hurt), and Corey Maggette (kidding). And no matter how much I advocate in favor of Bosh Spice and LaMarcus Aldridge, NBA groupies who don’t watch basketball except for the occasional Sportscenter highlight are still gonna want to see Melo and Blake Griffin announced with the starters before the All-Star game in Orlando (Blake deserves it I guess. Even though he’s not the best PF out west, he is definitely the most exciting).
                  The People are always right, except they aren’t. The People are often wrong. Blaming The People for electing officials who promised to make gold nuggets out of used tampons is useless. Fool me once… The People have been fooled too many times, shame on the easily duped People.
                  Voting is something that should be sacred, it should be something that we all take seriously, but we can’t take something seriously when NCAA football head coaches tell their interns to fill out their weekly rankings for the Coaches’ Poll (which can decide who will play in the National Championship game). We can’t take something seriously when elections are decided by people who couldn’t tell you what the National Defense Authorization Act is. We can’t take something seriously when the official elected ignores most of the promises made on the campaign trail. 
                  To throw your support behind a candidate, or an NBA player, or a cause means nothing if you do not thoroughly understand what you are voting for and against. K.V. Sart has a recent post that touches on our responsibility to revisit established norms and cultural practices; this is the type of reflection and examination needed before we are sufficiently qualified to vote on a particular candidate, topic, all-star, or policy.
                  What Mr. Sart explains so well is that conclusions reached generations ago can dominate current thought without ever going through the gauntlet of revision and criticism. This is relevant because the valor needed to revisit old dogmas should be the valor present in reviewing new issues before we head to the ballot box. The fate of our lives depends on it. Without it, we’re all throwing headless chickens at the master chart of the U.S. Treasury Deparment.

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