Stand Up! You Are an American!

I’m a terrible American.

Tuesday marked the first time since I’d turned 18 that I didn’t vote. Like many an antihero, my patriotic impulses were thwarted by bureaucratic BS. My car was up for inspection this week, see, and I had no time before D-Day to get it checked out. My father-in-law offered to take it to a guy he knows, but in order to do so, I had to drive the car over to his place after work yesterday. This took a good chunk out of potential voting time.

Plus, I hadn’t re-registered in my new neighborhood. So in order to vote, I’d have to go back to Greenpoint, which is nigh impossible to do in the evening without a car. Beyond rush hour, the local buses run like a fat asthmatic kid with a torn ACL. Long story short, time, tide, and the affairs of the DMV conspired to thwart my civic duties.

But if I’m honest with myself, I can say that if I really, really, really wanted to vote, I would have found a way to do so. I didn’t.

I feel horrible for not voting. I feel as if I’ve broken the seal on a disciplined part of my life. Like when you decide that you’re gonna be healthy and exercise and eat right. And you do, and you’re really good about it for weeks, maybe even months. Then one night you’re out with some friends and they order some Buffalo wings or something else horribly fattening and gut-searing. You debate it for a minute, then you say “what the hell” and eat them. You might go back to being healthy the next day, but don’t fool yourself–that diet is over, even
if you don’t know it yet.

Will this seriously endanger my future participation in a republic of, by and for the people? I doubt it. But I feel bad that I allowed difficult circumstances to let me off the hook. As if that will make it easier for me to opt out next time ’round.

If I lived in a state with more at stake, I definitely would have made more of an effort to get to the polls. If, say, my vote could’ve impacted the balance of power in Congress. Or even if any of the local officials and/or referenda up for election were close races.

Living New York, however, meant that these scenarios were not at play. Hillary Clinton spent roughly Seventy-Twelve Billion Dollars just so she could bury whatever masochistic troglodyte the Republicans nominated to be sacrificed upon her altar. I don’t even know who was running against Elliot Spitzer, and I doubt many other people did, either. My district has been held by a Democrat since Hannibal crossed the Alps, so it’s doubtful my vote would have made much of a difference on that front.

Then there are those other weird races that always wind up on the ballot. Judgeships. Attorney Generals. Dogcatchers. And Sheriffs, because we need someone in power just in case we gotta recruit a posse to catch some cattle rustlers. But I don’t feel like I should even vote for these races, because I don’t know a thing about them. God forbid I vote for a state comptroller who uses his newfound power to construct a Kitten Crushing Machine on the taxpayer’s dime. And then I’d have to feel guilty every time I saw someone with a bumper sticker that said, DON’T BLAME ME — I VOTED FOR THE NON-KITTEN CRUSHER.

Plus, my lack of voting didn’t deter what I consider a favorable result: Bush’s boys got their collective ass beat. I sat up all night, watching the Daily Show, then CNN, scarcely able to believe it. I mean, for months I figured that the Democrats should clean up in the this election. The war in Iraq is going horrifically, diverting troops from the much scarier powder kegs of Iran and North Korea. The economy’s in the toilet. The Jack Abramoff scandal sucked away what little integrity the party’s ruling elite pretended to have. And to top it all off, the Mark Foley scandal proved that their leadership was all set to shush away a nasty little Congressional pedophile until those nosy jerks in the mainstream media sniffed him out.

But I figured that this was too good to be true. Surely, a Party Machine as well-oiled and evil as the Republicans wouldn’t let their complete assing up of the country influence the election. Any second, Bush would pull Bin Laden out of a hat. Or he’d just play to his base and unsheathe the usual paleo-conservative boogeyman: LOOK OUT–QUEERS! Or he’d wave something shiny in everyone’s face until the polls closed.

But I guess America can abide such a lethal mix of arrogance and incompetence for only so long. Six years seems about right.

Did you see Raiders/Seahawks on Monday Night Football this week, when Oakland QB Andrew Walters got sacked 5000 times in a driving rain while the entire stadium roared at Concorde-level decibels? The Republicans suffered that level of humiliation. Except, imagine that instead of just being not a very good football team, the Raiders had been flipping off and waving their cocks at the crowd for the last six years leading up to Monday night, then got pimp-slapped by every single fan in the stadium on Tuesday. Payback’s a bitch, innit?

My first voting memory: I don’t know how old I am, but I am little enough to be held by my mother. She brings me into the booth and instructs me to be quiet, but she might as well have told me to fly; both requests were equally impossible. Pointing to the logo on top of one column, I scream out, VOTE FOR THE BABY! The “baby” was the tasteful insignia of the Right To Life Party, which was a tiny, disembodied embryo floating in imaginary amniotic fluid. My mom scowled at me and made her selections. I wanted to pull the lever, but I was convinced that this would not be possible. Or rather, my mother yanked it and left the booth before I could protest too loudly.

In 1988, I was in sixth grade. That must have been an American history year in the curriculum (as opposed to local history, when you learned about the Algonquin and the Iroquois for seven months), because we all “voted” for the president. They even used a real voting machine, painted that ugly gray-green somewhere halfway between Olive and Newborn Baby Poo. I was the only douchebag who voted for Dukakis. Or at least the only one stupid enough to cop to it. And in retrospect, I can’t remember what compelled me to do so; it’s not as if I had some grand political awareness at that point in my life. It was probably just an innate love of the underdog. Anyone who was that big of a dork had my sympathy, if not my respect.

By 1992, I was in high school, and my institution forced all the grades to vote for our Commander in Chief. I joked that I was gonna vote for the craziest candidate on the ballot, just to see what happened. I figured I’d vote the Socialist ticket and get carted to the principal’s office. When I stepped in the booth, I found not only a Socialist, but a Communist on the ballot as well. The candidate’s name eludes me now; probably Moron McAnachronism. Seriously, in 1992–immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc–you’d be better off selling Betamax equipment than the Communist Manifesto.

I’d like to tell you that I voted the Red Ticket. But I seriously believed that I would get in trouble for doing so. Or at least I believed the possibility was large enough to warrant pause. I pussed out. I voted for Clinton.

And what did we get in return? Eight years of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. It’s easy to see why people were sick of that by the year 2000.

Speaking of which, I have a program from the 2000 World Series. One of the features asks several baseball-related questions to the presidential candidates. Al Gore’s responses are all lengthy, verbose, and highly political–he’s even careful not to upset the designated hitter-loving constituency. Dubya’s answers are extremely brief, almost curt. To a world that hadn’t had much exposure to the man yet, this might have been confused for a straight-shootin’, no-nonsense attitude. After six years of living in the man’s long cold shadow, you can’t read his responses without seeing that Press Conference Scowl of his, or hearing that Retard Snicker of his.

With Dubya set to be unemployed in a few years–and if he decides the follow Rummy’s path to early retirement, I sure as shit wouldn’t shed any tears–there’ve been many rumors that he’ll wind up Commissioner of baseball. I can’t think of anything that could possibly keep me from watching baseball, short of a strike. But that would come real close.