Pick your poison — or don’t

Published 10:53 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Depending on your perspective, the 2016 election is either winding down to its low point or spinning into high gear. Either way, the polls show that most folks around the country agree the wheels seem about to fall off our nation’s electoral process.

The only person Americans trust less than the losing presidential candidate on Nov. 8 will be the winner. It seems impossible to imagine two less desirable candidates, and most Americans just seem flabbergasted that after all the political churning of the past months, what we are all left with is just rancid and foul.

Which of those two will get your vote?

Many people for whom I have the utmost respect are convinced that they have a sacred duty to choose one or the other of those poisons. I, however, continue to believe that poison is poison, and one brand of it is hardly better than another.

Do I have a duty to vote? Yes, of course. And on Nov. 8, that’s just what I’ll do. I’ll vote in the local, state and federal elections being contested in my borough, choosing in each case the person I believe best fit for the job. But I will not choose which presidential poison I’d most prefer to inflict on the nation.

Think of this as free-market voting.

Consider this scenario: You’re hungry, and someone says you can have either Burger King or McDonalds for dinner. But, like me, you’re trying to lose weight and have a healthier diet. Why not choose to skip dinner or go home and fix a salad? By doing so, you have sent a message to fast food restaurants everywhere that you’re done with their fattening foods.

In fact, that’s just what has happened in America in recent years. Go to any of those restaurants today and you’ll find menus that include salads, fruits and grilled, rather than fried, chicken. The addition of healthy items to those menus is a direct result of more Americans having chosen to eschew the unhealthy choices.

When McDonald’s saw it was losing health-conscious customers, it responded by adding healthy (or, at least, healthier) choices to its menu. But if those customers had simply said to themselves, “Well, these are the choices they’re giving me, so I guess I just have to go with it,” the changes never would have taken place.

In the long run, free-market voting should work the same way.When the major political parties see that many voting Americans would rather opt out of the presidential portion of the ballot, instead of choosing the least unpalatable poison, they will be forced to adapt by offering better “products” for the menu.

This isn’t a solution for putting McDonald’s out of business. If that’s your goal, then perhaps you should eat all your meals at Burger King. But don’t then be surprised when your doctor tells you that you’ve done your body great harm. And don’t be surprised when Burger King responds by giving you more of the unhealthy food they see you buying for every meal.

If you want to change the fast food industry, you’ll have to stop giving that industry your business until it responds with healthier choices. Similarly, if you’re truly tired of the choices America’s political parties are giving you, perhaps you should stop pulling up to their drive-through windows every four years.

Res Spears is a former reporter and editor of The Tidewater News and is currently the managing editor at the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at res.spears@suffolknewsherald.com.