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Mike Johnson '11: Omens and prognostications

As September turns into October, and October meekly limps away into November, the nation prepares for its glimpse into the ugliest part of American politics — midterm elections. Historically a time of mudslinging and the bludgeoning of the majority political party, the midterm elections are a time when candidates can take advantage of diminished voter turnout to rally zealous bases and actually win a race.

In major election seasons — those that take place every four years — voter turnout surges because a majority of Americans care more about who runs for president than about who runs for state attorney general. But in midterm elections, what is already "bad" turnout dips even further, and candidates can get away with what normally wouldn't fly in years multiple of four.

Take Christine O'Donnell, for example, the semi-professional dabbler who has stated her clear position that abortion should be illegal in all cases, including those of rape or incest. She asserts that homosexuality is a choice, and that the "afflicted" are suffering from an "identity disorder." The Tea Party darling of Delaware trails her Democratic opponent by nearly 20 points yet remains in the race because, in American politics, angry voters will vote for anyone.

If you prefer a Western rodeo, look no further than the Nevada Senate race, where the option of "none of the above" may garner up to a third of the vote because of a unique provision in the state constitution which allows voters to vote for no candidate. At this point, either Harry Reid or Sharron Angle could win the election with approximately 40 percent of the vote, and we as a nation sit back and watch, as if that's perfectly okay.

The implications of the Nevada race should echo throughout the nation. Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, may be reelected to office despite 60 percent of voters — not to mention those who don't bother to vote — not wanting him in Washington. This isn't an argument that senators should no longer be directly elected nor a suggestion that perhaps presidents should be. That is not what I argue. Rather, I argue that more people should vote for "none of the above."

The lesser of two evils has far too long plagued this nation. The sense that people will vote for Christine O'Donnell despite disagreeing with her policies simply because she's a Republican is distasteful. Social issues and political wrangling are beginning to show the cracks in the once-perfect veneer of our constitutional code.

The ever-widening gap between stances on policy issues is worsened by an oversaturation of media exposure. Like meth addicts, the American people decry their reliance on television media for their news, yet tune in every weeknight for Bill O'Reilly or Jon Stewart to tell them who is right and who is wrong. The simple truth that so many voters turn to a comedian for news updates should explain the dire situation we inhabit.

There will always be disagreement in politics — that's the point. But the vitriol on both sides needs to end or this nation will slip into a spiral, eating itself alive. When each voice just shouts louder than its opponent, no one will be heard. There are a lot of valid issues that we as a people should be discussing, but not at the expense of our humanity toward each other.

Democrats are not all socialists. Not all socialists want to destroy democracy as we know it — one ideology is economic, the other political, and neither is necessarily anathema to the other.

Republicans are not all warmongering morons. They don't all think that evolution is an adorable story told by a guy with a sweet beard. They don't all believe that white people are the best.   

This is a conservative nation. It takes a long time for things to get done. We're a lot like the Ents in "Lord of the Rings." Since it takes such a long time to do things, we shouldn't do things unless it's worth taking such a long time to do them. But, just like with the Ents, once we set our minds to it, we can do some pretty incredible things. Reread that sentence, and emphasize "we."

Brown is not insulated from the trend toward vitriolic discourse. On campus, you either think that the University is a nefarious corporate entity or you support fascism. You either support Palestine or you support apartheid. One former student is even suing Brown because he felt oppressed on our liberal campus due to his conservative beliefs.

This situation cannot remain unchanged. There are a myriad of groups on campus trying to change the climate at Brown. Go to one of their meetings. Shut your mouth for couple of minutes, and open your eyes and your ears. It's amazing what one can learn that way.

Mike Johnson '11 is looking for the Entwives.


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