James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

Since your ballot won’t matter, why not vote against both Obama and Romney?

Posted by James McPherson on June 25, 2012

Newspapers tell you every election season that your vote counts. I’ve even said so myself in my pre-blog life, including six years ago with a guest opinion in my local newspaper. But at least I noted that people were “least interested in the local issues they could most influence and which usually affect them most. They’re much more likely to vote in national elections, especially if political ads and talk-show spin generate enough heat (though rarely much light) about inflammatory ‘threats’ such as flag burning, homosexuality, immigration and terrorism.”

But here’s a secret that all those folks who keep predicting (probably incorrectly) a close presidential election don’t mention — however close the election is, your vote probably won’t matter at all. “You have a better chance of being killed by a meteorite than you do of having your vote determine the next president,” I heard a political science professor professor say years ago. With that sentence in mind, I’ve since told my students, “If you go to the polls thinking you’ll affect the presidency, make sure you’re looking up as you go.”

Your vote won’t be rendered meaningless by voter fraud, by the way, or probably by voter suppression (though the latter is far more likely, regardless of what conservative jokers may claim). Your vote probably won’t be negated by Republican-controlled electronic voting machines. No, your vote for president — unless you’re a resident of one of a half-dozen to a dozen states — won’t matter because of where you live.

As I noted in a recent post that contained links to several electoral maps, most states are already out of the running unless something dramatic happens between now and November. That’s why, as CNN noted today, a new Barack Obama ad campaign “will run in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Florida.” If you don’t live in one of those states, your vote for president likely won’t matter at all.

But wait, you say. A generally “blue state” like Washington could shift, leaning toward Mitt Romney or a virtual tie. It’s even remotely conceivable to imagine that a state such as Idaho or Texas could move toward the Obama side. But so what? If either of those were to occur, it would mean that the election was about to become a landslide. And the winner would be known long before individual Washington or Idaho votes were counted.

I’ve voted in heavily red states most of my life, and therefore have not voted for either major party candidate in most presidential elections. When I lived in Idaho and Arizona, I knew that the Republican candidate would get all of my state’s electoral votes. And since failing to vote at all might be viewed as simple apathy, instead I’ve voted for independent candidates who were most in line with my views. That is an especially appealing approach to me when we have two conservative candidates both fighting for the same corporate dollars, as we do now.

The so-called Republican “war on women,” Fox News, the economy, a gutless Congress, events abroad, the Supreme Court’s immigration decision today or its health care decision on Thursday may change the outcome of the election — but not the effect of your vote. (By the way, the Court ruling most likely to affect elections in general is another from today that is getting less attention that immigration or health care; it states that the court’s previous abysmal “Citizens United” decision overrides state election laws.)

So here’s what I suggest: Unless you live in one of those very few true battleground states, cast your presidential ballot for anyone other than Obama or Romney. Well, maybe not Ron Paul, because he’s crazy. OK, he’s not the only one, so even him. More importantly, how about reading up on your Congressional and local races? There your vote might actually matter.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Medicare & the missing McCain

Posted by James McPherson on July 9, 2008

Despite battling brain cancer, Ted Kennedy showed up (to a standing ovation) in the Senate today to help pass a veto-proof Medicare bill. The bill blocked a 10-percent pay cut for doctors, whom many Republicans apparently think are overpaid when they accept Medicare. Kennedy was escorted into the chamber by Barack Obama, who also voted for the bill.

And John McCain, whose Web site boasts that when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid he would “reform” the payment system to cut costs, because, “Medicaid and Medicare should not pay for preventable medical errors or mismanagement”? He was the only senator to miss the vote entirely, traveling to Ohio and California to campaign just in case those folks didn’t know he was running for president. As Washington Post blogger Ben Pershing points out, “Yesterday marked the two-month anniversary of the last time McCain cast a Senate vote, on April 8. The Medicare vote marked the 76th consecutive tally McCain has missed.”

McCain also has called for some seniors to pay more for their Medicare benefits, while trying to cobble together a health care plan that would actually cover someone who cost sick or hurt while costing taxpayers nothing. That may not be a bad idea, especially for those who marry as well as McCain did.

McCain refused to comment on another health issue–why he apparently thinks it’s OK for the government to pay for Viagra but not birth control (duh… guess which he needs?), saying, “I don’t know enough about it to give you an informed answer because I don’t recall the vote, I’ve cast thousands of votes in the Senate.” Just none lately.

Pershing also notes that McCain criticized Obama for an alleged flipflog on terrorism (in which Obama voted exactly like McCain probably would have), while also skipping that vote. What is it that politicians tell the electorate all the time? If you don’t vote, don’t complain?

Next day update: Blogger “Jordan Says” has nice comment with YouTube video of McCain’s reaction when asked the Viagra question.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »