I played the end of Fallout 3 last night. For those of you who haven’t played it, it’s a video game set in a post-apocalyptic future in Washington D.C. Awesome setting, absolutely dreadful writing. There is exactly one well-written character in the game, and many of his lines are just quotes from actual U.S. Presidents.
The game has multiple endings, and the one I played last night has a massive, giant, gaping plot-hole in it. I won’t give it away–it would take forever to explain anyway–but in brief, the player is forbidden from making the most logical choice simply because the game writers wanted to force a choice on the player. There’s a perfectly logical ending that’s best for everyone, but the game won’t let you pick it. (In fairness, they did subsequently make an add-on that will let you choose this option, but I don’t have it.)
I’ve talked in the past on here about good and bad video game writing. I could talk about the writing in F3 is an example of the latter, and contrast with the brilliantly constructed plot in its sequel, Fallout: New Vegas. But we all have bigger things to worry about, what with the election coming up. And it is along those lines that forced choices in Washington D.C. set me thinking.
There are exactly two real choices for President this election, as there in almost all other elections of late. Yes, there are third-party candidates, but they cannot win, and unlike Ross Perot in ’92, are unlikely to even attract enough votes to make the real candidates take notice. Thus, as I have written before, the question is not “is this the best person for the job?”, but, “is this person better than this other person for the job?”
I support President Obama. I think he is clearly better than Romney. But is he the best person for the job? I don’t know. Theoretically, of course, the primary system would produce the two best people for the job, but an incumbent President who faces a primary challenge is virtually sure to lose, and so no Democrat had any reason to challenge Obama this time around. And Mitt Romney, for his part, put on an absolute clinic on how to game the American electoral system. He discovered that he could simply say one thing in the primaries, and the opposite in the general campaign, and face no real consequences for it. His campaign even told everyone they were going to do that, and it still worked.
It is well-known that some voters blindly give their unwavering support to one party or the other, but the bigger issue is that even when people attempt to escape from the false dichotomy of Republicans and Democrats, they still allow the parties to dictate the terms on which political decisions are made. That’s why the word “centrist” annoys me so much; it still permits the parties to set the agenda, from which the “centrists” only mix and match their selections.
I sometimes think it would be better if the system worked as follows: the politicians were all effectively independents most of the time, but during election season could choose to align themselves with some party if they felt so inclined. In other words, the candidate would nominate the party, rather than the party nominating the candidate who has best worked his way up in the party. (If you think about it, why should low-ranking local officials need to have a party affiliation?) But maybe this has already been done and failed. And it does have its drawbacks–most notably, there’s still the question of how to keep the number of candidates manageable. Elections would all end in ties if every adult were easily able to run. So, how do you decide who is qualified to be a national candidate without involving the party system?
Well, as I said, I think Obama is the better candidate, no question. I don’t even really understand why so many Republicans are eager to vote for Romney, as he is apparently willing to throw away their platform to win a debate. I don’t actually know what he plans to do, though the best guess I can make is cutting spending and causing another recession. So, by default, I have to support Obama for President.