Merging Black Friday with Election Day

In the U.S.A. elections get held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That’s by statute, and only for general elections for federal office. States hold general elections occurring in the same year on this day as well, as it’s logistically easier.

It also makes sense for certain political factions that get a boost from synergies between top-of-ticket and down ballot elections.

But there’s another big event in November that could also benefit from the sort of synergy: Black Friday.

Black Friday takes place on the Friday after the fourth Thursday in November. It is a shopping holiday, where people buy gifts to give one another during the winter solstice and religious holiday season.

Estimates for the number of post-Thanksgiving weekend shoppers approach, if not exceed, the number of voters (something around 200 million for the weekend, 100 for the day), so it might make sense to merge the two in some way.

Imagine the scene, thousands of deal-addled post-Thanksgiving zomboids having to use their near-empty faculties to make their selections at the polls. Think of how much more ravenous the relatives would be in the Thanksgiving Dinner political discussions, if the votes were soon to be cast.

Think of Thanksgiving leftovers while watching the election returns, or better yet the arguments about whether to watch the football game or the results. Yes! Think of the conundrum and chaos that the sports-affiliated networks would have, cross-comentating the games and the votes (“That’s another House seat for Alaska Polytechnic, and the Republicans have picked up ten yards on a penalty.”).

The most straightforward way would be to simply push voting back to Black Friday or that weekend. Polling places could be relocated to malls, helping drive both shopping and voting.

But if the colder weather and commercial nature of Black Friday makes the whole spectacle a bit too raucous, maybe stores could simply offer discounts for those who had voted on the usual Election Day. That would also help avoid the problems with people traveling (though having a large contingent of the electorate absent might force jurisdictions to open their absentee processes and generally expand voting access, to pick up the slack).

Of course, we only hold federal elections biennially (except in case of special elections), so we might miss the combined force on the odd years (except in states with odd-year elections). We could always hold elections for the roles in the Christmas pageants or king of the mall or such.

Logistics aside, some sort of greater recognition of the relationship between this pair of November events would be appropriate. The shopping season refills the coffers for the corporations that contribute large amounts to the politicians’ campaigns.

In early November we pick the leaders that we pay for in late November. Sort of a restaurant arrangement, that.

On the other hand, given the scary ideas our politicians spout these days, maybe we would be better off merging Election Day with its closer peer, Halloween.

America Lets Ohio Choose 2012

The upcoming Ohio-elects-the-president election is upon us. But do not lose heart, there are plenty of predecided races in your area to choose from!

Take where I live, for example. I can vote for the known winner or known loser for congress! I can vote for the unopposed candidate in 21 races (of 39 total; more than half are unopposed, and the only race with more than two choices (excluding write-in) is for president).

Ain’t democracy grand! I can vote up or down on a total of 11 amendments to the state constitution, none of which will actually force it to be rewritten in whole.

For the presidential election, my prediction is either 303-235 or 290-248 with Barack Obama winning a second term.

For the senate, 54-46 for the Democrats (with Maine’s Angus King, running as an independent, caucusing with the Democrats).

For the house, between 234-201 and 230-205 for the Republicans.

Political Distance

With the election’s temporal location quickly converging with our own, this post examines the political proximity of the two major candidates.

One way of picturing the difference is conceiving of a Cartesian plane, one which a society moves around in. It may be roughly similar to the so-called political spectrum (Wikipedia: Political Spectrum), or maybe not. Maybe instead of a plane, it’s a linear space, a motion picture, showing society’s position at each frame, which is animated over time.

In reality, that space is simply a set of nodes representing the various states of society. We have a graph. The graph interacts both with our actions and the natural world, constantly producing new states of reality. There are small decisions, like sipping water, or one human’s life (compared to the scale of society). Big decisions, like spending whatever portion of our resources on devices of war compared to devices of exploration.

In any case, what direction and distance each candidate wants society to walk in, and where they would like us to end up, is one measure of their political distance. Not that they could agree about where we are in the first place.

In wilderness survival, a lost person is meant to seek out running water. A stream flows to a river. A river flows to a larger river, and eventually to an ocean. Society tends to build up around water. Follow the water down, and you’ll find your salvation. Not to mention people need water anyway, and running water tends to be the best place and form to get it as clean as possible in the wild.

Maybe there is a political equivalent to streams and rivers? Maybe we could tell our leaders to follow them down? That’s maybe a topic for another day.

Today I find interest in the unexplored terrain. The fact that both major candidates agree that so much of the land is not worth visiting. And that we must stick close to familiar ridge lines.

For example, the mass incarceration of humans. For example, the laws governing copyrights and patents. Military budget. Energy production. Transportation and population densities.

So there are some differences. Or, take one where the gap is wider, the laws governing immigration. Even for the more sensible candidate on that issue, it is not a coherent idea of where we are or can go.

Economies are the aforementioned streams and rivers of this landscape. People emigrate for economic reasons. They already follow the flow. Without ending the flow caused by poor conditions at the source, and the desire for cheap labor and contraband at the destination, the dams will not hold. Improving the aqueducts will only reduce the flow so slightly.

Neither candidate will stand to eliminate the war on drugs, which is akin to using forced human labor to carry the water, at gunpoint. Increasing the contraband production locally would reduce that economic stream, but at the price of increased pollution in the local economic water supply. Reducing the vigor of the local economic waters, too, would make them less appealing to the laborers that immigrate unlawfully. But it again harms the lands here.

So, even though one candidate is quite ahead on the issue, he is equally unwilling to take the real, full path to the destination.

At best, he calls for better aqueducts, will will prove inadequate.

Still, slight progress is plausibly better than regress or stagnation. The closer we approach real solutions to our problems, the more likely we will gain a vantage of the true destination.