Speaking of clowns, election time is soon to be upon us. Time to review How to Vote. If you feel that properly researching each and every candidate and ballot proposal is too tedious and time-consuming, I’ve developed a simple formula that will streamline the process a bit.
1. The propositions are more important than the candidates. Read the election guide. If you don’t understand what the proposition is supposed to do, flip to the back of the booklet where they have the arguments in favor and against the propositions. You don’t even have to read them; just take note of which argument uses the most exclamation points, and vote against it. Exclamation points, all caps, underlines and italics are the prime indicators that the argument is one of emotion rather than reason.
If it should happen that both sides are given to hyperbole, skim down and see who submitted the arguments and rebuttals. One side will likely have a contrived title such as “Citizens United for a Safe Whatever-the-heck.” If the other side happens to list an actual organization, or better yet, an actual person with a title below his name, you are most likely safe in voting against the fake grassroots group with the phony name.
2. Vote NO on bonds. Almost always. Bonds are the most expensive way to finance any government project. They should only ever be used to fund physical infrastructure, projects that will still be in existence and serving their function long after the bond is paid off. (And I’m talking about actual public work here, not some semi-private “partnership” where the NFL bamboozles a city into building a new football stadium, shifting the cost to the taxpayer while they walk off with all the profit.) A bond to pay for a bridge is an investment; a bond to pay for a program is fiscal insanity, like using the credit card with the highest interest to pay for your pizza party. If a project is that important, they can find another way to raise the money.
3. There’s always somebody to vote against. If you don’t know who to vote for, or don’t want to vote for any of them, pick the guy you hate the most and vote for whoever has the best chance of beating him. For example, here in California, Gray Davis was an absolute failure as a governor. He was up to his eyeballs in helping Enron to screw the whole state. Plus the guy thought he was king. He told the Sacramento Bee as much; he announced that the purpose of the legislature is to carry out his policies. And he was for sale. A popular joke of the time was: “How do you get Gray Davis to change his position on an issue? Tell him the check bounced.” He was also (according to Jill Stewart at the now-defunct New Times) a full-blown psycho given to fits of rage. Threw things at his staff. Literally, he’d pick up a knick-knack off his desk and hurl it at somebody. It’s a wonder he wasn’t arrested or sued.
That’s one example, but there’s another point to consider: Most career politicians start out by running for School Board, City Council, or Judge, or some other low-level office. This is your chance to kill a political career before it gets started. Read your local paper and check out interviews with the candidates. Look them up. Find the scumballs and vote against them. It’s your civic duty.
4. If you don’t know something about the candidates, don’t vote. Nowadays you can sit down with Google and work through an entire ballot in about 45 minutes, looking up voter guides and candidates’ websites and actually voting intelligently. It’s not that hard. Let me show you why it’s important.
In the 2006 election in Los Angeles, over 236,000 people voted for the least-qualified candidate for judge that I have ever seen. He ended up with almost 40% of the vote. Clearly a half-million people flipped a coin. Fortunately another 100,000 voters showed up for the other guy, so this incompetent didn’t end up on the bench. You can read the whole story here.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. You could read all the initiatives all the way through if you like, but it’s not always necessary. Most times, all you need to know is who is paying for the campaign and whether their argument is based on fact and reason or fear and emotion. Guess which side you should vote for.