None of the Above

I had every intention of sitting down this week and writing about our upcoming mid-term elections. If the predictions hold true, we will see record levels of apathy as folks stay home and avoid the polling booths this year. Republicans will, it seems, regain control of the House and Senate as they run campaign after campaign in districts gerrymandered to insure victory. Rest assured, plenty of Democrats are resting easy this week as they glide to re-election in their own voter controlled districts.

I kept avoiding the topic, though, because I tend to get all worked up about the idiocy that has become American politics and soapbox rants are rarely as satisfying as we might hope.

The main thrust of my blog would have focused on the dangers of our increasingly partisan elections. While I realize Americans have long had a distrust of politicians, I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t increasingly faced with worse (and less qualified) candidates across the board. In Texas, for instance, Ken Paxton is under investigation for violating the Texas Securities Act, and he’s already admitted guilt to a variety of felonies. He faces the distinct possibility of being disbarred at some point after the election and even if he wins, he will likely be ineligible to hold the position.

Ironically, he’s the Republican candidate for Attorney General and he’s favored to win because he’s a Republican not because he’s more qualified than his Democratic opponent. He will be the person responsible for upholding the very laws he is accused of (and has admitted to) breaking.

It’s a little like asking Walter White from Breaking Bad to be in charge of your anti-drug campaign.

My guess is folks from across the country can do one of those <insert candidate here> things for politicians from both parties guilty of a crime yet still on the ballot. I would also anticipate that the very worst candidates are those running in states or districts that are a lock for one of our major parties.

Understand that I had no intention of discussing candidates with whom we might disagree or even those candidates who espouse political philosophies we dislike. I’m not even talking about the phantom illegalities favored by conspiracy theorists. Nut jobs have always been part of the political process.

My goal, instead, was going to be to discuss how candidates like Ken Paxton show just how cynical and abusive political parties have become in America. In Texas, Republicans win not necessarily because Texas is a “red” state or because we don’t trust Democrats. In 2012,. 4.5 million Texans punched Mr. Romney’s ticket and 3.4 cast a vote for President Obama but Texas has ~13.5 million registered voters.

We have no idea what the other 5.7 million people think. In essence, “None of the Above” won the 2012 presidential election in Texas. All those folks who stayed home probably felt like my friend who refused to vote for either candidate.

Like other states where political parties have rigged the election in favor of rich donors and drafted voting districts that often look like Rorschach tests, we simply must recognize that America’s apathy at the polls is a direct result of how disconnected most of us feel from the political process.

Candidates and donors in this current mid-term election will spend around $4 billion.

The goal of politics over the last 25 years is to appeal to the narrowest, most frightened voting block possible. Americans say the economy is the most important issue facing us today, but the group most likely to head to the polls cast votes based on social issues.

No offense to anyone but a candidate’s stance on abortion or gay marriage isn’t really relevant to his or her understanding of the federal budget and the economy.

What we are seeing, though, are elections decided based on issues that are relevant to increasingly small slices of the population but issues that take on disproportionate importance every two years. Worse yet, because districts (and even states) are so dominated by single political parties, voters get caught in a veritable vacuum of discourse where increasingly small groups of people dominate the conversation and the decision making.


The centrist voter, that person who recognizes that government is sometimes the problem but not always, is forced to vote for the better of two bad candidates, the least horrific of two unqualified people, or not vote.

Our elections, I had planned to write, have become a complete perversion of the democratic ideals of America where personal attacks have replaced policy debates because too many candidates have become slaves to the party line. The net effect, then, are parties (and their donors) who pick candidates who will serve as placeholders and secured votes, not competent, sentient beings with an ability to think and make decisions based on the available information instead of based on the beliefs of the biggest checkbook.

Fortunately, I decided to avoid writing about politics this week so I wouldn’t get so upset.


About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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