Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Secret Ballot


I've just finished watching a great little show on SBS our Multi-cultural government channel about the American Dream. .It's called 'Insight' and involves a panel of disparate people who discuss social, political and community topics and air their points of view, ably chaired by host Jenny Brockie. Tonight she was in New York and among other discussions on the American Dream, she asked the small audience who were they going to vote for, or indeed whether they were going to vote. Some answered candidly, some kept their views to themselves. There were the obvious Obama supporters, the stalwart McCain crew but quite a number of non-committals and this was across a broad section of the NY community from ghetto dweller's to academics.

To me, the concept of a voluntary vote is an alien thing. Here, voting is compulsory whether for your local Council (nope I didn't vote a couple of weeks ago because I believe local councils are irrelevant and I had no idea - even after research - what each candidate stood for, so I'm waiting for my $50 fine to arrive to bolster their dubious coffers) or for State or Federal elections.

However, on a State or Federal level, I always vote. I could just turn up and have my name ticked off the list. I could even write an obscenity on the ballot papers which these days are about 5 metres wide . . but no . . I vote. I take the easy numbered 1, 2, 3 option rather than voting for each individual representative and often use the "How to Vote" card from my preferred political candidate, but I do vote. Often against the grain in my electorate which is considered Blue Ribbon Liberal.

In Australia, Liberal is slightly right of centre. Not as right as the English Conservative party or the American Republicans but right 'ish. Labour is more left, unionised and socialist but the difference between the two political parties has been muddied over the years as unions are less powerful and Australians have enjoyed a decade of affluence under John Howard's (ex Prime Monster's) leadership. Whichever way I vote, it's my decision and it is a secret. I have discussed my politics with my kids and others but never discussed for whom I voted. Adam has voted in only one State and one Federal Election. Clare in two State and one Federal Election so they are still formative in their opinions, interested but not too much but they do my opinion which I give but try not to sway their decisions either way. Let's face it, they're young, many of the policy statements have little relevance for them - but they do have to turn up and on all occasions they assure me they have made a legitimate stand.

My point . . whilst I'm not particularly shy about my politics which are poorly informed, slightly left of centre (and I've been criticised more than once for being pink, leftist or socialist when in fact I'm not that radical) my voting habits are my business and nobody else's. That's why it's a 'secret ballot'. However I do believe that 'making' people at least turn up at the polling booth and taking a ballot paper, does encourage them to vote one way or the other. I've worked on polling booths in the past and you'd be surprised at the low number of Donkey votes.

Sure, you get the odd ballot paper with a knob drawn on it or some home spun diatribe on why that particular person decided not to vote or even the odd obscenity . . but off all the ballot papers, very few . . and I mean, very few - count on two hands few . . did not vote. (For the record, I've worked in polling booths on both sides of the fence).

Voting is an obligation, an empowerment, your chance to have a say, you're only opportunity to shape the government that dictates your future for the next four years - it's a basic freedom that some think worthy of dying for! Even if you just cancel out an opposing vote, it is worth it. Women fought for it and won the right to vote in 1901, Aboriginals only gained it in 1962 and it only became compulsory for them in 1983! More so, if you don't vote, don't complain about the powers that rule you . .

I don't care too much how Americans vote in November although I do have my preferences from a foreign policy point of view - I'd like to see a move away from the Bush regime as his legacy will be only to have involved the coalition of the willing in two nasty wars, one completely illegitimate and let's face it, the man lacks eloquence and his rise to power was highly dubious, through nothing more than a high court ruling. (God, Al Gore must be so pissed off). McCain . . seems sensible/experienced, his offsider dangerous. Obama innovative but inexperienced, his offsider adds legitimacy. Either way, your President is not your ruler. It's the public service that run the country! One thing I do hope for, is that more Americans will turn out and vote - it is your right, your responsibility and something which so many oppressed nations would love to be able to do - value it - take it seriously - turn up at the polling booth so that the best man, the popular leader, the legitimately voted President really does win!


And in other news:
After the events of today, 9% drop on Wall Street, 4% in Australia and most of Europe, the failure of the bail out package to pass by the House of Reps (failed by 23 votes only) and even more surprising, the closure of the House due to a Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year! (WTF! the world's in economic crisis and they close Government for two days - wonder if they're aware it's also Ramadan?) . . .Guess who's market was largely unaffected . . .China . .0.2% drop in the Shenzhen. Now that speaks volumes for us all.

29 comments:

Ces said...

No bailout. People need to learn a paiful lesson. Multiculturalism is a FAILURE - it's divisive. I still get offers for loans and credit cards with unbelievable credit line and it's perhaps because my husband and I are frugal (correction, he is frugal) and don't use the credit card unless we can pay it in full when the bill comes at the end of the month. This means we think we are not entitled to everything we desire like a much bigger house. I always believe that the American people will do the right thing. It's our government that can't seem to get it right. Our saving grace - the founding fathers really knew what they were doing. Voting is a very serious civic responsibility. The media here is trying to elect the next president.

Baino said...

Now my sweet and angsty Ces, how did I know you'd be hot on the trail? Hard one that. I don't think it's an issue of Multiculturism, but I'm not on the ground in the US. I saw last night that the hotshots of Bear Sterns were walking away with salaries up to $180 million pa! I have mixed views on the bail out and whilst I would like to see the banks suffer for poor lending decisions and overcapitalisation, I don't want to see mortgagees hurting either or self-funded retirees who have invested in good faith only to find that their underlying assets have been invested in AIG or Lehners or Bear Sterns. We are not unaffected over here. If the markets are as economists claim "Efficient" they'll sort themselves out without interference from the US Govt. I don't agree, but I understand the Republican reticence to allow a government to 'own' private financial institutions in the American context. Sounds like the media are similar in both our nations, but how else does the average person get their information?
I must say you're the first rightist artist I've ever met! (no falling out now . .just healthy debate . . we agreed!) I think this year, you might find a record turnout in terms of voters. Very interesting times my friend, very interesting!

Thriftcriminal said...

Sure it doesn't matter, Bush et. al. will declare a national crisis and justify their continued power, thereby making the US a dictatorship. Job done.

Miles McClagan said...

My mate worked on a polling booth here in Tasmania where Shannon Noll beat one of the candidates...I guess that was the humourist anarchic joke of the day (or da kidz just dig that Nollsy)...

Ian said...

The great thing about the US Constitution is that it prevents dictatorship. The executive and legislative arms of government are distinct and federal powers are limited.

No matter how much one may dislike Bush, the system is considerably more accountable than that in Britain or Ireland where the head of the executive can be changed without any popular mandate for such a move. Who voted for Brown or Cowen as prime minister? No-one except party cronies

laughingwolf said...

we have two elections before our cuzzins to the south, fed. on 14 oct, civic on 18 [brilliant timing]...

we are not compelled, to vote, and the turnouts show it, with something less than 40% voting lately....

Baino said...

Oh Thrifty you're so cynical! He's gawwn man. . gawwwn I tell you! Do you think they'd bother bailing if it wasn't an election year. Damn . .*you're so cynical Baino*

Well Miley isn't that just the Australian way. . .We'll vote for a dog rather than a bona fide (haha bona fide - pun haha) . .just as well the vote is compulsory or nobody would turn up come polling day. And don't knock the celeb polly . .jeez we got Peter Garrett didn't we? How can we sleep when our beds are burning indeed! *wimpy muso*
Fo shizzle ma nizzle! Nollsy rules (in his own lunchtime)

Ian, I sometimes think a benevolent dictatorship is what we need *slaps self on face* I despair of all the money wasting and lobbying and freaky pre election shit. What's the Country that has a rule of Gross National Happiness? Bhutan? Now there's a principal that seems to work.

Now Wuffa that's my point. If you don't have a compulsory vote you only get the 'interested' people voting and not a true representation of the populace. Unions have relied on that method for years. I had no idea Canada had elections this year too . .Your Govt. is almost identical to ours, basically the Westminster system with a Prime Minister and Governor General, Senate and House of Reps etc?

ian said...

Baino,

How did you not know Canada had an election? Doesn't everyone know these things? ;-)

Nick said...

Right behind you, Baino, voting should be compulsory. I used to favour a voluntary vote but I changed my mind when I realised like you that the pathetically small turnouts we now have are quite unrepresentative of public opinion. A voluntary vote also encourages people to take no interest whatever in politics and thus allows unscrupulous politicians to get away with murder.

The US and UK governments should never have allowed all the reckless lending and hyper-borrowing that has brought so many banks to their knees. I read that the Bank of Spain regulates Spanish banks very tightly to prevent exactly that sort of irresponsibility. Which is why Santander is so healthy and busy taking over British banks left right and centre.

Anonymous said...

Speaks volumes because China has America by the balls - not only did they bankroll the Iraq War but with their dollar reserves could cripple the US economy at a stroke ...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ces too, the banks need to take some pain.

Ces said...

No, I am referring to Multiculturalism not in relation to the election, just by itself in a society already divided by so many factors. :-) Angsty? Haha! Still I like that you think I am sweet. I like rightist artist. Yeah! I am proud to be conservative and politically incorrect!

Ropi said...

Well here some people thinks that one vote doesn't count so they don't go and many votes are lost in this way.

Christopher said...

Ropi sez, "Well here some people thinks that one vote doesn't count".
I'm not sure where "here" is, but if it's the United States (where I live), then I have to say that, yeah, a lot of times I feel like my vote doesn't count. And I've often asked myself, why do I bother voting? In local elections my vote might actually make a difference, but, because of the way Presidential votes are counted, I don't think it would make a difference if I voted this year or not. The state where I live will go overwhelmingly to McCain, and my vote or lack of it won't make a bit of difference.
That's something to keep in mind about American democracy: a candidate can win the popular vote but not be elected. It's a majority per state, not the majority overall, that determines the winner.
And even in local matters I'm not sure my vote always counts. We can write to or call our representatives, but we constituents aren't the most important factor in determining their decisions. When it's convenient for them our representatives say, "98% of my constituents called to say..." but when we the people tell them one thing and their party leaders tell them something different, they go with their leaders and tell us we don't know what we're talking about.
Yeah, I'm cynical. Years of having politicians look me in the eye and say, "Who cares what you think?" have made me that way.

Moon said...

Interesting, I am split on the made to vote thing ... my point is, if you can't be arsed to get you butt to a polling station, you don't care enough to know who you are voting for ... however, I do also believe that if you don't vote, you have no right to moan when things don't go your way !

Megan said...

Oh goodness wouldn't the lawyers have a field day if one could be fined for not voting!

Baino said...

I know Ian, I'm so ignorant! Then things tend to go in one ear and out the other!

Interesting that you've changed camps Ian. I do think that if say, Adam and Clare had a choice about voting, they wouldn't. Having to makes them think a bit about which side they'll take even if their conviction isn't strong. We're very highly regulated here as well and the banks are just fine but that doesn't stop emotional selling down by the markets. We still dropped 4% purely on the back of the US slump.

Notso, I don't know about China's reserves but they are incidious players in the world. Fortunately, they need us more than we need them at the moment!

Ropi, is the vote compulsary there? Also you're country is pretty 'new' to the electoral system, it might take a while for people to realise they have an opportunity to make a stand.

Chris, Ropi is Hungarian and only just 18 so probably hasn't had an opportunity to vote yet but I'm sure he will. He's very aware of goings on in his own back yard.
I feel that way sometimes being in a liberal seat and largely a sometime labour voter which is why I look at it as just 'cancelling' out an opposing vote. I don't really understand the elecoral process over there but still maintain that it's not the President who rules the country, it's the wheels of government that propel him/her along.

Hiya Moon, welcome back you old married man! True, but as I said, after working in polling booths there are remarkably few donkey votes and I've worked in both Labour and Blue Ribbon Liberal electorates.

Megan, it's a fineable offence unless you have a good excuse and can get an exemption. Even if you're in hospital, polling booths will come to you. People seem to either vote or cough up. About $150 from last count.

Baino said...

Ooh Ces, missed you there. I know, you're right and I'm left (by US standards but then anyone slightly left of centre in your fair land seems to be a communist) but you're not mean about it! I'd prefer you speak your mind than not. Multiculturalism seems to work quite well here. Race is rarely an election issue but then we have a largely caucasian population.

Jay said...

I agree - people should at least turn up to vote unless they have a very good reason.

@Ces - I don't think it's multiculturalism itself which is divisive, I think it's the fact that it's being implemented in a PC way. You must accept everyone and everything, You must not comment on other ethnic groups habits/religions/fashion sense/menus/whatever. You must print official notices in six different languages. Personally, I'd rather see true integration.

But back to voting. One big issue over here is that many of the voters are disenfranchised because all of the main political parties have the same agenda. None of them are interested in pulling out of Europe, for instance. That's just for an example, there are many other issues we can't vote on, and it fosters apathy at the polling booths.

kj said...

it's easy for those of us who have enough money to critcize those of us who have to decide 'this bill or that bill" each paycheck. what can look like entitlement is often plain old vanilla survival...

:)

Baino said...

Jay, that's very much the case here, there is very little difference between right and left and in the current economic crisis, they're virtually sleeping with each other! My father always said that a good government was only as good as it's opposition. A strong opposition keeps the bastards honest. And here we have a weak government and a weak opposition so far. Although Kev's only in his first year so benefit of the doubt . . it's been a tough one!

True kj I understand the American paranioa about state ownership but in this case, the rescue package will go ahead - mind you it still comparable to emptying the Titanic with a thimble despite the big numbers. The pain to the taxpayer across the board is minimal but the repercussions of not doing so are unprecidented.

Quickroute said...

It's compulsary for Argies to vote even if abroad - I think it's a good idea but have rarely bothered to vote due to the choices i.e. dumb & dumber

Baino said...

Quickie . .same here. I was reading the Financial Standard today (such is my work life) and Russell Crowe has a a solution to the Bail Out package: "The easiest way to solve the crisis would be for the US government to give US$1 million to every American" . . now that actually sounds like a plan!

Miladysa said...

I agree with you that voting should be compulsory. I grew up on stories of how my ancestors fought for my right to vote and I never fail to use it.

If I had my way everything would be re-nationalised tomorrow, water, gas, electric, telephone, public transport. It was so much better that way. Public ownership here means that some massive foreign company bleeds us dry and we have to speak to call centres in India whose knowledge of our problems and customer service skills could be written on a pin head.

Some of my views are far left, others far right, others still in the middle. I decide on the subject/policy NOT the party/personality.

Baino said...

Miladysa it was only recently that I found out the Brits don't have a compulsory vote either! I'm a bit like that, I thought I was left then did a quiz and found out that I'm actually quite right on some things (ha well I always knew I was right). I'm a classic swinging voter. I agree with you on nationalisation of essential services. Our phone company is half government owned, electricity subsidised, water is still public as is health and education (with private options of course)

Many Americans however, look at public ownership as socialist and don't like the idea one little bit.

ian said...

Baino,

Did you see that the Canadian PM has been using Johnny Howard's speeches!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7645593.stm

PS. The Irish Government guarantee to banks is €400 billion in a country of four million - that's a whole lot more than Crowe is offering.

laughingwolf said...

exactly baino, the old brit system....

Baino said...

Poor old Russ, it was said tongue in cheek! Actually our Northern Territory Minister for Education was caught out last week for pinching a speech from The West Wing! Of all the people to plagiarise!

Thought so Wuff!

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