Monday, May 30, 2016

None of the Above

The theme of these essays, as shown above, is that behavior has consequences.  Positive behaviors usually result in happy outcomes, unwise behaviors in disaster.  (“Hey, guys, watch this!”)  In Biblical terms, we reap what we sow.  Common behavioral choices of the many combine to set the current state of our society.

When behavior has good results, it is repeated.  When it has bad outcomes, lessons are learned.  But when behavior has no consequences, that behavior usually continues.  People follow the path of least resistance.  Status quo is easy and comfortable.

This applies to both business and personal life.  An employee who ignores safety rules must be dealt with.  A CEO who makes foolish strategic decisions is asked to leave.  A family dog that soils the carpet must be trained.  Few would dream of ignoring these behaviors, knowing that doing so merely invites more of the same.

Now we face an election where the two major political parties are close to picking their candidates for the White House.  As of this writing, the presumptive candidates, Hillary and Donald, have disapproval ratings of 56% and 65%, respectively.  More and more people with a wide range of political views are vocal in expressing their wish to be able to vote for “None of the Above” and force the parties to start over.  (The only objection to this approach is that election fatigue has already set in and most people are getting sick of the bickering.)

Why do we continue to go from one election to the next having our choices reduced to mediocre candidates, ones that the majority views with disapproval?  Considering that behavior ignored is behavior continued, isn’t it time to stop holding our noses and voting for the “lesser of two evils”?

In a few short months we will be hearing public service announcements urging everyone to exercise your right to vote.  Perhaps we should instead exercise our right not to vote, or at least not to vote for one of the major parties.  We have a right to free speech, but in the interest of civility we don’t exercise it all the time.  We have a right to own guns, but not everyone chooses to do so.  We have a right to observe the religion of our choice, but less than 40% report attending services regularly.  So what’s all this fuss about the right to vote?  How do we send a message to the major parties, when behavior ignored is behavior continued?

One way would be to vote on every question and every candidate on the ballot, but to skip the presidential race.  Leave it blank.  That’s allowed, and I’m sure some clever statistician in the media would report that only 50% of those going to the polls voted for either one.

Another would be to cast your vote for a third party.  What if the Green Party and the Libertarian Party each got more than 15% of the vote and another 10% voted on other races but cast no vote for president?  Would that send a message?  Would that satisfactorily represent our disappointment in the repeated behavior of the major parties?

No matter what we do, one of those two is going to win.  But if the winner can’t say, “I have a mandate,” if it’s clear to the “winner” that he or she got support of less than 30% of all those who did go to the polls, would that send a message?  Would it keep either one from becoming overly ambitious in office and convince the major parties that they must do better next time?  Would it also send a message to Congress that we are fed up and that the President doesn't have our support?

Perhaps we are just getting what we deserve.  The news media know our tastes and interests better than we do.  They keep ratings up by spending more time on Prince’s lack of a will than on Kim Jung Un’s continued nuclear threats and irrational behavior.  They spend more time on Target’s and North Carolina’s positions on the restroom controversy than reminding us of the 2.4 billion people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet.  Then they close the broadcast with a video of cute baby bears.  We play into the hands of the media and the politicians by going along with whatever they offer up and not demanding better.

Some will say, “No, no, I want to make my vote count, not to throw it away.”  But that’s just asking for more of the same.  Don’t think of it as wasting your vote.  Think of it as sending a message, a desperate attempt to answer poor behavior with lesson-laden consequences.  If enough have the guts to send the message, it might do some good: and we can't be any worse off.  It’s no different from dealing with an unsafe employee or an un-housebroken dog.  A vote for “None of the Above” or “Neither of the Above” is a vote for progress!

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