I'm an Independent, and always have been. My politics are generally to the left of the Democratic Party and over the horizon from the Republicans; I'd have been a mainstream Democrat in 1934, but the Overton Window has shifted so far to the right it's in the next room. Still, that's not why I'm an independent.
I've never affiliated myself with one of the major political parties because I don't like either one of them. They're in it for the money. They don't solve problems. It's all about the campaign cash. This nation would not be in the state of perpetual crisis it is today if we had a third party, a fourth party, or more. Because each of them would stake out a different segment of the political spectrum, and so huge swaths of the electorate wouldn't be rendered voiceless.
I start with this so that you understand that my politics are not represented in this election. I am voting for the lesser of two evils, as I usually do. You don't have to agree with my policy opinions to agree that our system is badly broken.
No greater evidence of this damage exists than the way in which Mr. Romney has successfully campaigned. If this was a traditional election season, you might vote for him because he has conservative policy positions with which you agree, or you might vote for him because he's not the incumbent. But this has not been an ordinary year. Mr. Romney has offered the electorate fifty kinds of nothing, and it's been selling like hotcakes.
This is a new approach: the Republican candidate has taken both sides of dozens of issues, and sometimes more than both. Both sides is the same as neither side, from a policy-making standpoint. They cancel each other out.
He has taken directly contradictory positions on most of the important issues Americans are concerned about. For example, he has supported spending and austerity. Military buildup and tax cuts. Getting government out of healthcare, but into reproductive rights. Trade protectionism and expanded trade agreements. Will you vote for the Romney who wants to end our wars, or the Romney who wants to get back into Iraq and supports an Israeli strike on Iran? China, he insists, is our friend and our enemy. He's against FEMA. He's for FEMA. Against the auto industry, and for it. He doesn't believe the government can create jobs, except for the 12 million he's promised to create as president.
He's a candidate for all Americans, or only 53% of us.
You can pick and choose between dozens of diametrically opposed policy positions he's taken. That's got to make it easy to vote for him: he's promised to support precisely what you want. And what everybody else wants, too. Surely, this should set off a warning bell in the back of a voter's mind?
I believe Mr. Romney decided to campaign in this openly disingenuous way because the news media are addicted to the horse race. Following a desperately lackluster campaign by the Republican ticket, the pundits pounced on a poor debate performance by Mr. Obama and declared Mr. Romney the winner. And the polls soon followed. The media abandoned the issues of Mr. Romney's missing tax returns, his serial untruths, his plutocratic backers, his lack of real policy ideas. Paul Ryan was portrayed as some Washingtonian boy genius, not the partisan, pandering Pecksniff he's well known to be inside the Beltway. Our media wanted a photo finish, presumably because it would mean another easy billion dollars to their broadcasters and publishers. They got it. After all, they're in it for the campaign cash, too.
This was Mr. Romney's one brilliant, daring calculation this election. He guessed the lure of the race would be greater than any devotion to reality the media might have, and it appears he was correct.
So now it comes down to this: Americans have a choice between a moderate Eisenhower-Republican-style president in Mr. Obama, or an entirely new creature: a man who believes in nothing, who seems to exist entirely in negative space. Which of his contradictory policy positions would Mr. Romney adopt once he's president? I don't know. Nobody knows. I don't think Mr. Romney himself knows. And I don't think he cares. Which might mean he's the ideal candidate for our times -- because millions of Americans don't care, either. They have given up on our political system. They believe it is beyond repair.
Ultimately, a vote for the Romney ticket is a vote for nothing. It is a sobering thought to consider that millions of Americans are ready to make that choice.