The Folly of the American Voter, or Montezuma’s Revenge Makes for a Crappy Election

unnamed-55First things first, a little Midterm Election public service announcement:

If you’re not sure where to vote on Election Day (Tuesday, November 4—as in, tomorrow), visit Google and type “WHERE TO VOTE.”

A Polling Place Lookup tool will pop up at the top of the query results page. Then just type your residential address to find your local polling station.

Google also boasts a “HOW TO VOTE” tool, but I was disappointed to discover it doesn’t take one straight to an “ELEPHANTS PROHIBITED” sign. (Come on, click the link; you know you want to. This one is pretty nice, too.)

And if you haven’t actually voted in a while and are unsure what kind of identification you need to bring to the polling station, here’s a STATE BY STATE VOTER ID LAW guide.

Beyond this, you’re on your own. “D” stand for “Democrat.” “R” stands for “Redskins Supporter.” And “I” stands for “I’m either a closet Sanders Socialist or a Rootin’-Tootin’ Putinist.”

By the way, if you were planning to vote straight-ticket Republican: “No Civilization for you!”

Now down to brass tacks.

Odds are, someone you love or perhaps respect (or formerly respected)—has voted for the likes of Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Mitch McConnell, even Rick Scott.

Hell, on November 4, 2008, 60 million Americans voted for Sarah Palin. 60 million. We are talking about the only political candidate in world history who was guaranteed to cause her nation more embarrassment than Nero did for Rome.

Since day one, my Forward Progressives bio has read:

His foremost writing interests include religion, unraveling theodicy and trying to understand why voters commonly vote against their own self-interest.

I have to confess that I haven’t made a lot of progress on that last clause. With Election Day literally within reach, my brain has started to itch as I consider the millions of U.S. citizens who are about to cast votes against their own political self-interest.

I still can’t face the fact that 54% of Americans are opposed to Obamacare for reasons other than that the Affordable Care Act doesn’t go far enough toward creating universal healthcare. Yet by supporting candidates determined to devolve our national healthcare system, voters aren’t just hurting themselves—they’re standing in the way of Civilization.

And to those who support anti-regulation candidates—be it with respect to the financial services industry, agriculture, manufacturing, you name it—the only thing bigger than their own self-disinterest is their naiveté concerning the Problem of Evil. Why do you think the Founding Fathers were so determined to establish checks and balances in the first place?!

And those are just two political subjects. The list goes on and on: the perpetuation of the military industrial complex, environmental preservation and global warming, education, distribution of wealth, etc. Millions of Americans will head to the polls on Election Day and willingly vote for political leaders whose agendas are designed to hurt their constituents. It’s enough to make one go Howard Beale on the world:

“I’m a human being, goddammit, my life has value!” Yours does too! So don’t do this to yourself, to me, to your community!

In the meantime, I continue seeking to know why nearly half, or just over half, of 80 million-plus individuals are about to give themselves the voting shaft. Here are two theories, which at this time of the year I apply like an unguent to my political psoriasis-afflicted scalp.

The first is what famed historian Barbara Tuchman calls “religious mania.” The second is what I call Lottery Politics—although I think that Porn Politics might be a more apt term.

Religious Mania and the Folly of the American Voter

Barbara Tuchman was a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian whose great success was her ability to readably present the complexities of history.

In 1984, Tuchman published The March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam, a book I highly recommend to anyone who simply cannot understand why the Republican Party appears hell-bent on tanking not only the great democracy project known as the United States of America, but also our Little Blue Planet, to boot.

The March of Folly is an analgesic for those who suffer from watching the American electorate vote itself into oblivion. It helps to know we’re not alone in our historical “wooden-headedness.” After all, the citizens of Troy wheeled the Trojan horse into its walls. The Avignon Popes partied like it was first-century Rome. And would-be emperor after would-be emperor marched on Russia in the dead of winter.

One of the greatest examples of political folly in The March of Folly is the defeat of Montezuma by Hernán Cortés, who with his small expedition of 600 men and 17 horses (against a population of 5 million citizens) rolled across the Mexican peninsula and toppled the Aztec Empire with nary a struggle. Today, couch potato scholars point to European disease as the source of indigenous holocaust in Central America. But they forget that the initial Spanish conquering was due to Montezuma’s fundamentalist religious concession that Cortés was the god Quetzalcoatl reincarnated:

One cannot quarrel with religious beliefs, especially of a strange, remote, half-understood culture. But when the beliefs become a delusion maintained against natural evidence to the point of losing the independence of a people, they may fairly be called folly. The category is once again wooden-headedness, in the special variety of religious mania. It has never wrought a greater damage.

Wow. Read that quote again. Sound familiar?

It’s so simple: Pastor Pillows the country over have convinced millions of U.S. voters that Jesus the Door-to-Door Salesman stands at the door with a Glock, waiting to be invited in to sell us hedge funds, chastity belts and Dallas Cowboys bumper stickers. These voters generally haven’t bothered to read the Bible critically, if at all. They crave simple answers to complex questions, and the greedy Gordon Gekkos of this world are more than happy to pump out simpleminded crack rock talking points that coincidentally happen to favor corporate psychopathy.

It’s so much easier to live the life of a sheep, even if that means every once in a while the wolf gets to gnaw your rump.

Lottery Politics: the Scratch-Off Voter

It’s mindboggling how the poor in the United States have been brainwashed to defend the plutocrats. Instead of Stockholm Syndrome, it’s Stock-Share Syndrome.

(Then again, our political cousins across the pond are infatuated with a nobility that sits on more wealth than God, which few seem to mind despite a 20% national poverty rate.)

You really have to be a special kind of ignorant to think that some corporatist living in a Hamptons mansion deserves his segregated, gold-plated life while you and your family lives paycheck to paycheck trying to avoid the Walton Family benefits wrecking ball. And yet…

Seriously, as you read this, some lower middleclass guy on a couch in Des Moines is sitting and cheering Kevin O’Leary saying that it’s terrific that nearly half the world’s population has less wealth than the world’s 85 richest people.

Yeah, right, and I suppose the next thing you’re going to tell me is there’s an African-American Republican U.S. Senator from South Carolina. Um…

So why are so many down-on-their-luck citizens prepared to cast votes favoring the agendas of capitalist bullies?

While Rush Limbaugh and Joel Osteen are a formidable one-two punch, it’s important to remember that we live in a lottery culture. While America is the Land of the Free, it’s also the Home of the Ponzi Scheme.

Millions of Get-Rich-Quick Americans fork over a few bucks on a weekly basis on the off-chance (actually, the 1-in-175 million chance) that they can spend the rest of their life in the lap of unearned luxury.

They imagine themselves rich. They’re convinced they have what it takes—minus a few hundred million bucks—to clink flutes of Dom Pérignon White Gold with the Koch Brothers.

Such greed is seeded within as part of a healthy capitalist upbringing. So many Americans sell their political souls on conservative scratch-off cards. Welcome to economic idealism, baby.

Why did I refer to this as Porn Politics above? Think about it. This is fantasy excess and piggishness lived vicariously through Wall Street molls.


You have one vote to cast on Tuesday.

Will you vote against your own self-interest? Will you vote with religious folly? Will you vote for a fantasy existence you’ll never have?

Or will you vote to preserve and build Civilization? With a vote that makes proud the sons and daughters of democratic freedom who marched on Berlin and Birmingham?

The choice, simply put, is yours.

Our Little Blue Planet depends upon you.

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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