Sunday, June 25, 2006

Taste of Champaign, Where I Annoy Socialists

I went to Taste of Champaign yesterday, which is becoming too big for its own good. Literally gobs of people fill West Side Park for the event, which I walk through every day to get to work. It’s funny how possessive I am of familiar places. What are all these people doing in my park? And where are the drunk guys who usually sit on the picnic tables? Well, technically there are still drunk guys sitting on picnic tables, but the familiar ones have been replaced with city-approved citizens having a good time.

In order to maximize the amount of money that can be extracted from everyone, you have to stand in long lines to get tickets, and then stand in more long lines to exchange those tickets for food at the vendor tents. It is a bit like a casino, where they want to decouple the activity (in this case the very small amount of food you get) from the actual amount of money you pay for it, so you don’t realize you’ve just paid three dollars for 2 nuggets of chicken satay.

I shouldn't complain too much though. It is run by the Champaign Park District and the proceeds go to scholarships for kids. I don’t mind being extorted for a good cause.

Anyway, on three separate occasions I ran into someone from the Socialist Party who wanted me to sign their petition to get on the ballot. I argued with all three of them, annoying them all greatly, and never did sign it.

Before I get shouted down for being anti-democratic (after all, I wasn’t being asked to vote for them, just to allow them to be on the ballot), let me explain. I have nothing against socialists. I'm too much of a realist to be an actual socialist, but I’m actually quite sympathetic to their values and desires to see more equity in society. I’m pretty confident that if Jesus were asked to choose between being a socialist and a capitalist, he’d have a handy parable about why the values of socialism (equality) are superior to the values of capitalism (greed). I just don’t see how running as a third party does anything to help their cause. Quite the opposite in fact – the only way they can affect an election is to help elect more Republicans, and by doing so, increase disparity.

The unfortunate truth is that our current political system is winner-take-all, and the only votes that matter in the end are the ones that are cast for a winning candidate. It seems to me that if they want to make the world a better place, they’d infiltrate the Democratic party and run where they have a chance of getting elected. And if they can’t win primaries, it should be obvious that they can’t win a general election either, and their time would be better spent working on the wider culture rather than running for office.

My question for each of the socialists was this: Why are you spending time helping Republicans, when you could be putting your energy into changing the winner-take-all system by advocating for instant runoff voting or for a proportional representative government like they have in Europe? Only then will 3rd parties matter, and not be counter-productive to what you are trying to achieve.

The ironic answer they gave me was: It is impossible to change *those* things. My response is that it is impossible to get elected as a socialist, but if you are going to fail at something, do it in a way that doesn’t hurt your cause. It should be a lot more possible to enact instant runoff voting, since there are multiple 3rd parties that can band together to work on it.

So, I didn’t sign the petition. I’m glad they are free to collect signatures and free to run if they collect enough, and that I am free to not help them waste their time on tactics that are at best doomed to fail, and at worst actively harmful to the cause of equality.


Brownie said...

"Literally gobs of people fill West Side Park..."

Exactly how many is a 'gob'? Since you said "literally gobs", I took it upon myself to find out how many a gob is. Unfortunately, there is no real, imaginiary, integral or whole number associated directly with the word "gob" as far as I was able to determine.

However, digging a little further, we find that gob originates from the old English, or Anglo-Saxon, and refers to the mouth or the jaw, possibly even the head. In which case we may infer that "gob" refers to the number twenty-two (22), which is the avereage number of teeth belonging to an average human being.

Of course, if "gob" refers to the entire head, we may have to extend this number to include all the bones of the head, either including or excluding the bones of the middle ear, depending on preference, in which case we come up with a number somewhere between 30 and 60. I feel this is a good numberic approxiamation for the word "gob".

If however, there were more than 60 people in the park that day, I would suggest you utilize a more appropriate word. "Buttload," perhaps.

Just a thought.

Dan S said...

Hmmm. I like that. "Literally buttloads of people", which extends the joke to include both the quantity *and* quality of people filling the park...