Economists have long claimed that voting is an irrational activity. After all the chances of a single vote altering an election in a big city like New York are tiny beyond measure. Even if the polling place is close the chances of your being hit by a car are probably higher than those of your vote mattering. Meanwhile you're burning a significant chunk of your day to go out there and do your irrelevant civic duty. My first year of eligibility, 2000, I agreed with this thinking. Since my vote wouldn't matter, why bother? We all know how that election turned out. If a few hundred more Floridians hadn't thought that way, well, the world would be a very different place. Of course New York is not like Florida, and Gore carried it easily, so strictly speaking I was right. My not voting had no negative outcome. Still, after the dust cleared, I decided that if I was going to expect people in Florida to vote I should probably do so myself, and I have voted in every election since. None of those votes has mattered.
This election was different though. It wasn't just that in the only major race, mayor, Bloomberg had a 20 point lead. It wasn't just that most of the positions being voted on were slightly less important than municipal dogcatcher for Muncie Indiana. It was that none of the candidates were remotely appealing. They all seemed like they'd screw up the city in their own unique way.
Mayor Mike hasn't been terrible for Gotham. He's basically an old school Republican. He cares about business and a little about fiscal responsibility, and if he can help some people out while he's in office he'll do that as well. In some ways I'm glad he's around, just because it means that the Republican party will still run sane candidates in some states. Bloomberg has stated that he, personally, is in favor of gay marriage. He's not one of the religious right crazies that iconoclast will serve for the rest of his life. On the other hand there's plenty of stuff that Bloomberg's done wrong. The smoking ban is an unjustified exercise of government power in everyday life. You may not like smoking, I may not like smoking, but to basically outlaw it throughout the city is going too far. At some point we have to let people make their own decisions. If there was a huge demand for smoke-free restaurants then people were free to open restaurants that didn't allow smoking. The fact that very few did says something. Bloomberg's also an asshole when it comes to unions in general and education in particular. I don't hate him for this as much as my ex-girlfriend does, but I don't like structured curricula in general. I remember being a student and I learned nothing from those sorts of drills. They're a waste of time.
Then we get to Ferrer. What a useless candidate. He lost to Bloomberg in '01 by a lot, so what made Democrats think he could win in '05 when Bloomberg's not just a candidate with bottomless pockets but an established incumbent whom many people actively like? Nothing. His was a sunk ship before it launched, and the party knew it. It's one thing to send a sacrificial candidate out against an established incumbent with a war-chest larger than many governors, it's quite another to send out the same candidate who lost the last election with absolutely no new ideas.
So why vote?
I didn't know.
Ultimately I decided to do so because while not voting sends a message, it doesn't send a clear message. Is the non-voter turned off by the candidates or just disconnected from the political process? Disgust or disinterest? Voting for third party candidates sends a clearer message. I voted for candidates from a variety of parties, none of whom had a chance to win. I voted for a candidate from the Green party and one from the Libertarian party. One candidate was from the "Rent is too damn high" party. He got my vote.
In the end I'm glad I voted, but I'm rather shaken by the sheer lack of choice presented me. It's not just the lousy mayoral candidates, for a number of positions the Republican and Democratic nominees were the same people. It's not exactly a shock that politics in this country are screwed up and that the Democrats and the Republicans are two sides of a single, mediocre, coin, but it still sucks to be confronted with it at the voting machine. I probably should have requested a write-in ballot and just put down Christopher Walken for everything. Maybe next time.