This post was originally published on Salty Eggs.
"If voting changed anything, it'd be illegal."
"It doesn't matter -- both candidates are basically the same."
"The lesser of two evils is still evil."
I've been noticing a bit of this sentiment lately, and I have to wonder about the people behind these statements and their priorities. What do they stand to gain -- or lose -- with this year's presidential election? Most, I'm sure, would reply that nothing will change. Well, I'm one of those people who actually stands to lose a lot -- and I mean a lot -- if Mitt Romney wins. But I'll get to that later.
Let me preface this by saying that if your beliefs really are that different from the two main candidates, and you align with only a third-party candidate, I guess I can't really argue that. But if you're mostly in agreement with left-leaning or center-left policy, and you're upset with President Obama, letting Mitt Romney win is not the solution. And it's pretty clear now that without his base supporters -- especially in a swing state like Florida -- Obama could very well lose this election. That's why I'm asking everyone I know to think about the real-world consequences, rather than dream of some utopia where politicians are free of corporate interests and completely beholden to the people. I'll make this easier for you: That's not going to happen in your lifetime, if ever.
When someone's first critique of President Obama concerns our use of drones, I have to wonder: If that's a deciding factor in how they'll vote Nov. 6, then either these people have family in Pakistan or the Middle East, or, more likely, their lives are so comfy-cozy that immediate real-life problems like health care and jobs don't mean anything to them.
I can empathize -- sort of. The first time I voted was the 1996 general election. I voted third party. I was 20 and brimming with ideals, having certain things engrained in my psyche after years of listening to punk music, not to mention everything I read in Maximum RocknRoll and other far-left fanzines. But even then, I knew Bob Dole stood no chance of winning, so I felt pretty safe that I wasn't unwittingly helping him get the keys to the White House.
Ah, but things were far different then. The country was in decent shape. The economy was alive, our military wasn't mired in the Middle East, "9-11" was a type of Porsche, and the Tea Party was something we read about in history books. More important, congressional Republicans weren't as far to the right as today. As much as I couldn't stand Gingrich and pals, they are preferable to the likes of Mitch McConnell and Allen West.
Sure, most of us can agree that the use of drones is a shitty thing. If I remember correctly, it was one of my big problems with Clinton. I was in college and living with my parents at the time, so I had the luxury of not having to deal with the real-world issues I care about now. But it's important to put things in perspective, weigh the options and consider the consequences -- and think about how it would affect your own life.
For me, it's a no-brainer, given my current situation. I've got a pre-existing condition. Well, two actually, and they're both pretty serious. One is an autoimmune disease that is causing my liver to fail (I'm currently on the transplant list), and the other is Crohn's disease, which has greatly affected my mobility, limiting what I can do and where I can go. Thankfully, I have a job that allows me to work at home most of the time -- but I also have a job that won't last forever. I've been around enough to know that. That is my single greatest fear: What happens to me on the day I'm no longer employed and insured? As long as insurance companies don't want me, the only jobs I can apply for are those with benefits. And as someone in the newspaper business -- which continues to be a black hole of employment for writers and editors -- the thought of job hunting is... it's just something I don't want to think about. At all.
Say what you will about the Affordable Care Act, but that pre-existing conditions clause is the greatest thing in the world for someone like me. And knowing that Romney would overturn the ACA and has no plan for insuring those with pre-existing conditions (despite what he pretends to suggest), this is the first time I'm actually scared of the outcome.
Here is my nightmare scenario: Several years from now, my company goes belly-up and I'm out of a job. By this time, I'll have had a transplant and be on a whole new regimen of medications -- medications I know will be expensive enough with insurance. Add to this the possibility of my Crohn's disease getting worse and making me even less mobile than I am now. Job hunting is tough enough when you're healthy; try finding a job when half the time you can't get out of your house. If I were able to broaden my search to include jobs without benefits, that would make a huge difference. I could do freelance work from home. Hell, that's an interesting prospect regardless of how healthy I am.
Lately, I've been discussing this issue with people in the U.K., Canada and other countries, and they think it's ridiculous that the United States, supposedly the best country in the universe, is still struggling with the providing national health care. We're a joke -- a sick joke. Most people don't have serious health problems, and I realize that. But many do -- and many more can easily become sick. For the first time, the United States is attempting to deal with this problem, and now this Romney guy is wanting to take it away. As my friends in the U.K. would say, bollocks to that, mate!
So what is Romney's plan? COBRA? Who can afford that? I'd have to get a second job just to pay for that each month. Again, I know there's room for improvement with the ACA, and I would like to see those improvements made sooner rather than later. But for the people who view it as an attack on their "freedom," I would ask them to look at it from the perspective of those it would benefit. Compare the cost of having to purchase insurance (or pay the penalty) with the costs of not having insurance and having to undergo serious medical treatment. It's not even close.
One thing that is close is the presidential race. Way beyond comfort levels. So before you cast your vote for Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr, Mickey Mouse or whoever, I humbly ask that you consider the "sick vote."
For me, this election is not about party or ideology. I'm simply looking out for my future, and hoping the only life preserver I've got isn't yanked away by other people's misunderstanding.