August 24, 2012

The Most Important Election Ever

Obama romneyIn the run-up to every single presidential election I can recall, I have been told by many people that the upcoming election is the most important election of our lifetimes. Every single one. I'm not exactly surprised that it is happening once again. I'd have to be a fool not to have expected it. So is this election really the most important ever? I'm not so sure. In at least one respect, it may even be relatively trivial.

As the decades have slipped by, it seems to me that the gap between the Republican Party and the Democratic party have narrowed in some important ways. Undoubtedly, the two main parties are still very far apart on some of the wedge issues. But take a look at the relationship of both parties to Wall Street. The Democratic Party cannot even pretend to the party of the people very well these days. Corporate bailouts and the abolition of financial regulation have happened on their watch too. Same for defense spending. And looking at Obama's record (as opposed to what he says he wants to do), we'd have to say that the parties are now comparable on civil liberties and taxes.

I've heard many people say that even if Obama is not much more desirable than Romney, we have to stay focused on the Supreme Court. But again, Obama has shown that he's not interested in picking liberal judges. So the best case scenario is that we end up with someone slightly more liberal than whoever Romney would pick. That would still be good but maybe not great.

To be certain, I would still prefer that we elect more Democrats than Republicans. But I am also becoming convinced that neither of the two big parties are adequate. In promoting Democrats, it often seems that we are simply talking about someone who is somewhat less bad than their Republican opponent. It is unsettling to think that who ends up in the White House might not matter all that much. I'm not ready to give up, but I can understand the sentiment of those who say we should do so. Maybe I'm just feeling burned out.

Which of the two main candidates would be better for atheists? It depends on which specific issues you are focused on. I don't think Romney would be great on church-state separation, but Obama has not been very good in this regard either. And although Obama has not been great for science, I have to think that almost any Republican would be worse because of the rampant anti-intellectualism in the GOP. It would be somewhat embarrassing to elect a Mormon president, but we've had plenty of Christian presidents who believe things that are nearly as silly.

I suppose whatever is in our near future will probably always be perceived as the most important thing ever. It may be adaptive to think that way, and it is certainly understandable why corporate media for whom ratings translate to advertising dollars would push such a way of thinking. If voter turnout in the U.S. is any indication, many people hear the message without being moved by it. Or perhaps they share my suspicion that some of these elections aren't the most important things ever.