Monday, August 19, 1996

Week of 08/19/1996

Political Prostitutes..
Do you sell out your vote come election day?
- by David Matthews 2

Shocking title, isn’t it?

No doubt when folks see it there will be a lot of people who will be upset by it. Maybe you’re one of them.

Now before you start barraging me with E-mail, bear with me for a minute and read what I have to say.

There are basically two kinds of political prostitutes. The first kind is the kind you’ve heard about in Washington. They’re the folks you and I elect to represent us. The ones who supposedly have solid "values." But on key bills they’ll start to get a little greedy. You’ve probably heard of times when the President would meet with members of Congress over a bill they really want to get passed. But the key thing is those meetings aren’t about getting the bill passed as much as it’s about negotiating for passage of that bill. Essentially our representatives say "What will you give me in order for you to have my vote?" And what they get usually is some legislative pork, which you and I all consider to be bad… except somehow when it involves your own district.

Then there’s another form of political prostitution that goes on during every election year. And unfortunately the ones usually selling out are the voters.

Let’s take this year’s Presidential election for example. How many of you who plan to vote for the Republican ticket actually support everything the GOP’s platform? How many of you disagree with a lot of what the platform has to say, but plan to vote for Bob Dole anyways? If so, you’ve essentially sold out your views just to help the Republicans win.

Not so, you say? OK, ask yourself WHY you vote. Do you choose a candidate on how they match your viewpoints and your opinions? Do you choose a candidate based on who you feel would best handle that office? Or do you choose a candidate just because you don’t want someone else to win the election? If you chose the latter, then it means your views are subject to negotiation, and thus up for sale.

The subject of abortion has been a thorny issue for Republicans on both sides. The pro-life side currently has a controlling vote on the hierarchy of the GOP. Pro-choice supporters, knowing they didn’t have the support in that hierarchy to change the party’s platform, tried to have some mention of "tolerance" in the platform. They lost decisively. They threatened to stage a "floor fight," but instead struck a deal that would make mention of their dissent at the appendix of the platform. Essentially they were looking for a statement, and ended up with a footnote. And for this, the pro-choice Republicans said they somehow won. In the end, however, they sold themselves out to the pro-life crowd and the GOP hierarchy so that they will get Bob Dole elected and Bill Clinton out of office.

In comparison, however, the pro-life members of the GOP have never wavered from their stance. They were even threatening to leave the GOP and form an independent party of their own if things did not go their way. In the end, they didn’t sell themselves out, and they won their struggle to have the party reflect their views.

Now that’s not to say that the GOP is the only political party plagued with such a dilemma of selling out the opinions of the voters. The Democrats have the same problems as well, especially when many special interest groups who supported Bill Clinton in 92 now feel betrayed by him. Electronic users felt Bill Clinton understood them, but he sold them out by signing the Communications Decency Act. Same with pro-choice supporters, who were also betrayed by the CDA, since it imposes a "gag-order" on any mention of abortion on the Internet. Gays and lesbians thought they had the President’s support, until he announced his intention to sign a "Defense of Marriage Act" that would allow states to not recognize homosexual marriages.

The question is, then, will those people who feel betrayed by both political parties still continue to support and vote for those parties? If so, they have essentially sold out their viewpoints to the politicians.

So what then, you ask? Who ELSE can we vote for? Well there’s plenty of other groups people can support- if they know where they are. The non-partisan Project Vote-Smart has at one point listed nine different political parties with candidates running for President alone. And many of those political groups have been working hard to get their views recognized and to get their candidates included in debates. But all their work would be for naught if the voters continue to prostitute their support to the two major parties.

So the question you really need to ask yourself is this- Why do you vote? And are your opinions really up for negotiation? Is it more important to vote from your heart and support a candidate you feel would best reflect your views, or would you rather vote with someone you know doesn’t reflect your views but rather has a better chance of winning?

Think about it. But don’t think too long. November is fast approaching…

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