To Vote or Not Vote?

This post is essentially nothing more than a transcribed version of a conversation I’ve had multiple times with different people in the past few weeks. I don’t usually petition people for comments on my posts because, well quite frankly, that looks needy. But this time around I intentionally request input because I’m interested in people sharing their opinion. Very much so, in fact. You don’t have to leave an essay response; even a sentence or two could probably express your conviction. Here’s what all this boils down to: I don’t really feel like voting anymore.

Some people don’t understand this, I realize. Many are so pro-vote they can’t necessarily fathom why anyone wouldn’t honor such civic privilege (some would even say “duty”). Some folks are so passionate about it they put people who don’t vote right up there with draft dodgers. Our nation wants voting to be popular; there’s a massive cultural push to get younger people to the ballots. We employ rappers to lay down the beat and bust out the rhyme to get kids in the line and punch the card. We spend millions of dollars campaigning specifically to that sector of people who might not vote. You’d get the impression voting has never been more serious or important than right now.

And that’s all well and good, but the reason I don’t feel like voting anymore is because of my firm belief my vote doesn’t matter and won’t change anything. Immediately people will respond with, “Every vote counts!” or, “Your vote could be the difference!” I understand what they’re saying, but that isn’t an appropriate response to what I’m referencing. Let me explain what I mean when I say I view my vote as inconsequential.

It starts with party lines. I believe party lines don’t really exist, or at least not as severely as we might think. We create them because we want something to boil our blood over, but in reality it doesn’t matter who occupies the White House or Capitol Building because the same things will keep coming out of those buildings. Some will say, “Healthcare never would’ve been passed is McCain had been elected.” Forget healthcare. I’m more interested in bigger things. Stop for a moment and consider how many similarities there are between the liberal and conservative camps.

No matter who is in office—Democrat, Republican, or if Ralph Nader finally for-the-love-of-God wins something for once in his life—the same script will be followed. Take one. Action:

  • The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer (no matter what the extreme Obama haters say, America is far from becoming socialist)
  • We will continue to bomb the life and beauty out of other countries (we’ve been doing this for decades)
  • We will continue to supply weapons to countries in turmoil as long as it furthers our interests, rather than try to bring about peace (we did it in Iraq while Saddam was in power and we continue to do it with Israel)
  • We will continue to not stand in the way of global corporations’ privatizations of basic human needs in other countries (like water) for the sake of modernity (hydroelectric dams) even though it ruins other peoples’ lives (displacement and forced migration because the dams flood their formerly occupied land); business and government, after all, are not so very different
  • We will continue to horrifically overspend (Myth: Liberals are the only ones who overspend. Actuality: Both sides do; the Bush administration spent more money than the Clinton administration. Truth: Both parties will continue to move us towards bankruptcy)
  • We will continue to support USDA-sponsored asininities, big corn, and stamp out the local farmer

This is a small list. But you get the picture. These are things America has been doing for so long that no matter who is in office, no matter what a politician says on the platform, and no matter how good his intentions are these things will not change. And yet, these are the things I want to see change. But they won’t. So why vote?

I should stop and note I do believe America does good things and isn’t wholly backwards, and I’m thankful I live here. But we’re talking about voting, which means campaigns, and you never hear candidates on the campaign trail with this slogan: “Here to Continue the Good.” Platforms are built out of the mantra of change, so since today’s post’s topic is voting, I’m focusing on the American negatives on my list of things needing amelioration as a potential voter seeking change.

But even if a candidate comes along who is passionate about reversing all of the things (and more) I just listed, could I still bring myself to vote for him? I struggle to say yes, because he won’t succeed in doing it. And then he’s just another really promising politician who broke a promise to his constituents. And even if a guy did get elected and began to move and shake things up to where some of these wrongs were being rectified, he wouldn’t last a second. Too many powerful, rich individuals stand to lose too much if these aspects of our nation and her foreign dealings were to end. Any politician who began to stick his fingers into those pots would be assassinated expeditiously. So why vote?

Because it’s an honor and a privilege that other people would die to have? “Nelson, we have democracy. People are dying to have what we have!” Sure, the people in the Middle East are bringing about revolutions because they want democracy and a fair say in their government, but they’re in a different position than I am. And it’s worth noting the change they’re bringing about is not happening through voting. They’ve resorted to revolution because voting is no longer sufficient in their country, which is slowly, but surely, how our voting power is beginning to feel. (So now I wonder this: How far off is America from another revolution of her own? I hope very far; revolutions are ugly. But you do begin to wonder.) Why vote?

Now, I know some people might play the military card: “Men and women have died so you could have the right and freedom to vote.” That sounds nice, but I’m not really sure that’s true. I think they fought so I could live with freedoms, and while voting is one of those, I don’t think it was their driving impetus for going over to the European or Japanese theatre. I think they fought so as to keep America safe from invasion and takeover. But two, “freedom to vote” implies that I have every right to say, “No thanks,” because the ultimate freedom is the liberty to choose.

To patriots this attitude may seem careless, immature, even blasé. But it’s anything but apathy; rather, I care very much about how my country acts in the globalized culture because of the ripple effect she induces. With that in mind I have trouble justifying giving my vote to people who will only continue to stir the waters, rather than calm them. But then again, governments have rarely produced peace. Often that’s the labor of citizens working apart from their government.

Again, I don’t hate my country. I think it’s amazing we have a consistent history of peaceful changeover of party power. Most people in the world don’t live with such a blessing. I also think it’s great we have the chance to have a say in our government—I won’t argue that—but I’m now wondering how effective my “say” really is. In high school people would always say, “You can always write your Congressman!” Um, okay . . .

Maybe things just move so slowly you can’t really tell anything’s happening. It’s true there won’t be quick fixes. No one guy will get in office and rectify everything, nor am I expecting or asking for that. But where do you even begin to start when the list of bullet points won’t even slightly begin to go away with whomever ends up in office?

So why vote? I would love to hear different rationales.

Much love.

  1. Caity Hannon said:

    Nelson, I rarely leave comments ever on blogs, however your current blog post linked to this post and I thought I would read why you may or may not vote. In many ways I agree with you. Sometimes I am not sure if my votes would really matter and more often than not politicians disappoint me. That being said, I always make sure I vote because despite the outcome I know I voiced my opinion. Nothing frustrates me more when I hear people complaining about presidents and senators and then they say they didn’t even vote. If they had voted I am more likely to listen and respect their point of view. I would say voting gives us the right to be happy or unhappy and voice those concerns and frustrations. Hope that makes sense. ~caity~

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