Part of me wants to get some long lingering thoughts on Iraq out of my head today, but after yesterday’s speech and all the attendant and generally expected reactions I feel ever more frustrated and annoyed. As it is, the admittedly all-too-obvious headline I was going to use in part has already been done via Tim F. at Balloon Juice today so probably that’s a good thing.
Instead I found myself thinking about something that’s neither surprising nor satisfying considering I live in a democratic republic and not a direct democracy. Next year’s elections are in all likelihood going to be seen as the most heavily contested and considered to be vitally important in some time, even allowing for all the intense rhetoric that elections inevitably bring. (In comparison to something like 1996, for instance, there’s no contest, and even 2004 seems a bit tame now.) There are plenty of reasons why this is the case but that can and should be argued elsewhere. For myself, though, I’ve realized that unless I move somewhere within the next year and a half — a very unlikely possibility, though you never know — that my vote simply will not matter.
This may seem like stating the blatantly obvious — again, it’s a republic, not a democracy. Yet due to a combination of factors along with general historical accident, here’s what the likely situation is going to be come November 2008, barring something radically unusual (hopefully not tragically so):
- The presidency — the big one, of course. However, a GOP candidate has not won in California since the elder Bush in 1988. Even in 2004, with antipathy towards the younger Bush running high but not as high as it would later and Kerry proving to be a terribly uncharismatic figure, the latter still carried California 55 to 45 percent. This is absolutely no guarantee that whoever wins in the GOP primaries will not end up carrying the state — the writers on this polling geek site suggest that the issue of illegal immigration could complicate things, though I have my strong doubts about that. At this point I’ve no reason to doubt a Democratic candidate will win the state by a comfortable margin, while my local precinct in OC will go for the GOP candidate equally comfortably if not more so.
- The senatorial seats — out of contention, barring personal misfortune on the part of the current officeholders. Senator Feinstein was reelected in 2006, Senator Boxer runs again in 2010.
- My local representative in the House — again, assuming no personal misfortune, that would be Dana Rohrabacher in the 46th district, who won in 2006 59 to 36 percent, and who I will vote against as I have always done since moving to the district. The likelihood of an upset is incredibly slim.
Meantime there’s no gubernatorial race, as Arnie won reelection last year. So the presidency and the House aside, this leaves me having to decide on state and local issues for the most part, even while the political campaigning for next year has already long been in overdrive, while still being months away from whatever the first contests that elect delegates for the conventions will be.
This leaves me in a strange looking-glass scenario — I am still determining how best my energies will be spent next year, and it’s certainly in the interest of the country that the candidates of either major party in the presidential election be the best possible in the field to serve the country as a whole, however beholden to maintaining a general status quo they will be regardless. If one of them is an obvious disaster then the election will merely confirm it, if both are then the country is stuck with deciding the lesser of two evils, a situation I suspect will be the one that we all face in the end. This potentially makes the California primary the most important election I could participate in next year, but as the current primary system is closed rather than open and I am registered with no party, I must observe and encourage rather than help directly decide.
None of which is to sound like I am discouraged from voting — far from it. Neither does it mean that I am halted from contributing time and money for any particular candidate should I so decide. But it also means that much of the next fifteen months’ activity will likely be somewhat academic to me. I’m honestly not too sure how I feel about that right now, but it’s a position likely shared by many others, who will speak and act as they do but otherwise must mostly watch and wait.