by Benn Ray
In every election, there is a cynical portion of the population that likes to float the "don't bother voting, both sides are basically the same and/or just as bad" argument.
Even in divisive political times like these, there are still those who think (or at least want you to think) voting doesn't matter, as this recent image floating around Facebook reminds me.
But hey, I can understand this feeling. Politics is disappointing business. You can get sucked into a candidate's rhetoric, you can let yourself feel hopeful, only to see that candidate get mired down in political gridlock or get co-opted by the DC political machine, or worse. We are, after all, dealing with human beings here, and we are imperfect creatures.
And really, I don't think anyone denies that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party generally field corporately owned candidates who are there to serve the interests of money over the interests of citizenry.
And even the candidates offered from both sides these days seem to promise ideas from a right-creeping ideology. (Much of Obama's healthcare plan, for example, was taken from what were once considered Republican views while truly leftist views were never seriously considered.)
The one election I think this "Both Parties Are The Same" Fallacy was really most popular was in the 2000 Bush/Gore election.
And that election really provides us with a decent control subject to take a look at.
The vote-dampening cynics (which is what the "Both Parties Are The Same" fallacy is intended to achieve) argued, "Why bother to vote, Gore is just as bad as Bush."
I had friends at the time who actually parroted that meme. And these are intelligent, somewhat socially and politically aware people.
But looking back, if we ask ourselves the following questions, it shows how thin that weak fallacy actually is.
If Gore was elected, how likely is it that the United States would have invaded Iraq?
If Gore was elected, what would the government's response to Hurricane Katrina have been like?
If Gore was elected, after being part of the Clinton Administration for 8 years, how likely would his administration be to continue many of the same economic policies that oversaw one of the greatest periods of growth and prosperity in US history? The same economic policies that resulted in a budget surplus?
If Gore was elected, how likely would it be that we started taking Global Climate Change seriously sooner?
If Gore was elected, how likely would it be that the US military would become internationally known as torturers?
These are easy hypotheticals to ponder, and they clearly disprove the "Both Parties Are The Same" fallacy without even getting into what-ifs like "Would 9/11 have even have happened if Gore was president?" (Many folks would answer "no".)
But we can even apply more logic to this situation.
If both parties were the same, and elections didn't matter - would so many millionaires and billionaires be dropping millions of dollars into the these races? It seems a safe assumption to think that those who control the politicians would know it doesn't matter.
If there are no differences between Democrats and Republicans, than why are Republicans working so hard to disenfranchise the voters and make sure people can't vote in a number of states right now? It really wouldn't matter right?
But here's the thing Republicans know, as do their ideologically aligned brethren libertarians (who are typically the ones who frequently spout this sort of fallacy) - that high voter turnout bodes ill for Republicans - low voter turnout bodes ill for Democrats.
And this "Both Parties Are The Same" fallacy is employed to encourage independents to stay home. It's a vote-dampening argument cynically made libertarians to benefit Republicans.
All one has to do is stop and think about it for a moment. If it doesn't matter, if one party is just as bad as the other, imagine what a Republican controlled White House and congress would look like.
How long would Social Security last?
How long would Medicare and Medicaid last?
How long would any public entitlement or social safety net program last?
How long would public schools survive?
How long would the post office survive?
What would women's healthcare rights look like?
How long would labor unions survive?
Think about the economy. How long would it take Republicans to spend us into an even bigger hole (which is what historically Republicans do)?
How long before we went to war with Iraq?
How long until lack of governmental oversight once again tanked the global economy, again?
Don't bet me wrong, I'd love to see a multi-party system. I'd like to see the Tea Party have the bravery to start their own party and let the Republicans return to conservativism instead of extremist right wing activism. I'd love to see a viable Labor Party rise up and contribute truly leftist ideas to the national political discourse.
But until that happens, we have two major parties, and they do pose differing views of America.
Voting matters. Both parties are not the same. And those who are telling you otherwise are being cynically disengenuous.
And if their boy Republican Ron Paul had gotten the party's presidential nod, would libertarians be floating this argument right now? Of course not.
If both parties are the same, and voting didn't matter, why are libertarians trying so hard to convince you of it instead of taking, say, a more libertarian approach to the subject?