The futility of voting

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Much of the American history we learned in school is myth. Thomas Jefferson, the author of our Declaration of Independence, enslaved his own children. The bombing of Hiroshima was not done to save American lives (because Japan was ready to surrender) but to demonstrate American might to Russia. And, of course, there is the ethnic cleansing of the Native American. These myths are part of our national consciousness, and help sustain the 250-year notion that America is a City on a Hill, a new Jerusalem whose mission is to make the world safe for democracy.

We here in Oak Park cling to our own myths. Part of our civitas is that we have an active participatory democracy. We are proud of our very high voter participation in last month's election. Many of us stood in line two hours to cast our votes at village hall in the early election process so we wouldn't have to stand in line two hours on Election Day. Voting is a sacrament in our democratic religion.

Yet our elections in Oak Park are surely a great futility. Along with golf, cheering for the Cubs and finding the perfect gift for your spouse, there is no greater pointlessness than voting in an Oak Park election. Let's take a look at this year's election ballot. Barack Obama carried Illinois, a state as blue as the deep Pacific. The outcome was never in doubt. Danny Davis rolled up almost 58,000 votes, defeating Ms. Rita Zak who had 9,000. Not exactly a squeaker. State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th) and state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-8th) waged a vigorous campaign against the same opponent — Unopposed. There was not much issue discussion in those two contests. Voters were left to speculate whether Mr. Ford would have won even if he had been charged with, say, bank fraud.

As was, is now and ever shall be, the Democrats won every county election in landslides. Republican practice dummies for State's Attorney, Clerk of Circuit Court and Recorder of Deeds were crushed. The Democrats were crowned in every "contested" judge contest as the vibrant Republican Party failed to field a candidate — except for the Illinois Supreme Court in which Democrat Theis beat Republican Riley by 30 percentage points. Every single judge got the 60 percent necessary to be retained even though bar associations rated some of them as corrupt, lazy, disrespectful and/or stupid. We live in the equivalent of a 19th-century English "rotten borough." Our votes are utterly without consequence.

Really, what is the point? Even worse, we don't even acknowledge this reality. It's like we're living in the Matrix or Orwell's Oceania. Our leaders and newspapers tell us how important it is to vote, and we somehow honor our traditions and shared sacrifice with a zombie-like like shuffle to the polls. That may have worked in ancient Athens or today in some quaint New England town meeting. But not in Oak Park, Illinois.

Nevertheless, cheer up. We have our local village elections coming up in the spring, when we can vote in an election for trustees in which the Village Manager Association- endorsed candidates have lost just a handful of times in the last 50 years.

Oh, right.

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