The following is another of my navel-gazing posts that have nothing to do with OpenNMS. Please, as always, feel free to ignore.

Tomorrow in the United States we begin the final process to electing a new President. I hope that by late tomorrow evening we have a decision, but with the fact that presidential elections have been so close in the last decade means that there is a small but significant chance that we won’t know the outcome for some time.

Ever wonder why elections have been so hard to call since 2000 or so? My theory is that there are really no significant differences between the two major candidates.

I think this started with Bill Clinton. With the success of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns, Clinton realized that he needed to co-opt some of that populist message. Thus started a blending that Presidential candidates use to try to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, resulting in a blurring of their differences.

Now many of you reading this will say that I’m full of it, and that Romney and Obama are totally different. I disagree. As the figureheads of the Republican and Democratic parties they share the same agenda: consolidate power into the hands of the few and use that power to control the rest of the populace.

I was trying to sum up my feelings in a few words, but Conor Friedersdorf in this column in The Atlantic summed it up nicely:

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican candidate in this race is trustworthy or desirable as a leader. Obama is a left-leaning technocrat who habitually breaks his promises and is eager to assume near dictatorial powers in the realm of national security. He has little regard for the Constitution or the recklessness of the precedents that he’s setting. And Romney? He’s a right-leaning technocrat who unapologetically breaks his promises, is eager to assume near-dictatorial national-security powers, and has little regard for the Constitution.

Now I happily voted for Obama in 2008. I was tempted to vote for him again, mainly because the Republican attacks on him were, if not outright lies, quite often wrong. Take spending for example. Obama is attacked for “spending our children’s future” yet the growth of government spending under his administration “has actually been trivial compared to the last 4 presidents.” His administration is attacked for health care reform. As a small business owner who provides health care insurance for our employees I’ve seen my rates double – twice – in eight years. Something needs to be done. While the plan that passed is far from perfect, the idea of just repealing it and going back to the status quo is appalling. Finally, Obama is criticized for not creating enough jobs, but the Republican controlled house refused to implement any of his ideas by rejecting every jobs bill he proposed. It’s okay to disagree, but you better have a solution of your own if you want credit from me. It’s easy to just say “no” to everything. Considering the conditions he inherited and Congress, I think Obama has done an amazing job with the economy.

No, where Obama fails is in the area that is nearest and dearest to my heart: civil liberties. My view is that government should provide a level playing field and then get out of the way. More and more I’ve seen government taking an active hand in trying to control the populace. 9/11 has been used to reinforce the idea that people should do two things: live their lives in fear and buy stuff. When dealing with a person who is inconvenient to handle as either a criminal, subject to the rule of law, or a prisoner of war, subject to rules such as the Geneva Convention, why not create a new category called “enemy combatant” subject to no rules? Guantanamo is still open, the Patriot Act was renewed and strengthened, drones are being used to spy on American citizens and the NSA is building a huge data center to do the same on the Internet. And that’s just a small part of it.

So if Obama hasn’t earned my vote, that means it should go to Romney? No. I don’t see Romney doing anything better and he would probably make things worse, faster.

This year I am voting for Gary Johnson. While he has zero chance of winning, he is the only third party candidate on the North Carolina ballot, and while I rarely identify with the “Big L” Libertarian party, I like Johnson. It would be nice if his voice could have been heard in this election.

What’s most important to create viable third parties is a candidate to receive matching funds for their campaigns. In order to do so, they must get at least five percent of the vote:

Minor party candidates and new party candidates may become eligible for partial public funding of their general election campaigns. (A minor party candidate is the nominee of a party whose candidate received between 5 and 25 percent of the total popular vote in the preceding Presidential election. A new party candidate is the nominee of a party that is neither a major party nor a minor party.) The amount of public funding to which a minor party candidate is entitled is based on the ratio of the party’s popular vote in the preceding Presidential election to the average popular vote of the two major party candidates in that election. A new party candidate receives partial public funding after the election if he/she receives 5 percent or more of the vote.

I think the only way out of the quagmire created by the Republicrats and the Demmicans is to have several strong parties so that rule has to be more of a compromise instead of just “an endless slap fight” between two of them.

Still, several people have accused me of throwing my vote away, especially since the race is so close in North Carolina. That argument was almost enough to sway me, especially when thinking of things like the Supreme Court (where I would probably be more happy with an Obama appointee than a Romney appointee). But then two things happened.

First, Justice Roberts, a Bush appointee, cast the deciding vote confirming the legality of the health care reform bill’s individual mandate. I have always hoped that once a person makes it to the country’s highest court, to serve pretty much for life, that they leave partisanship at the door. Roberts demonstrated this.

Second, my friend Ron on Google+ pointed out that there will never be a way to break the two party system without some of us “throwing our vote away” on third party candidates. He said he was in it for the long game, and that convinced me. In fact I stated that we should carve a plaque stating that “On this day, someone’s mind was changed via a discussion on the Internet”.


And anyway, I’m looking forward to feeling superior no matter who wins. Something has to change, and soon, before we degenerate into throwing shoes.

Let me close with this scary quote from Carl Sagan, taken from his book The Demon-Haunted World and shared with me via G+:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.