We are only a couple of weeks away from election day, and amongst the politically active people I come into contact with on a daily basis I have noticed two predominant opinions on the matter of voting. One is the “Vote or Die” mentality which actively promotes voting (and in this group I place those who are voting for third-party candidates), and the other is the “Fuck Voting” mentality which actively promotes just the opposite. I want to discuss the logic and reasoning (or lack thereof) behind the “Fuck Voting” notion, but before I get into that I want to make something clear: I do not believe any one vote matters. The vast number of voters in America coupled with the fact that we have an electoral college which makes votes for the candidate who loses that state utterly irrelevant ensures that no single vote counts. So I am not operating under any delusions that my vote makes a difference. I could get in a fatal car crash on the way to the polls and literally nothing in American politics would change. Most people on both sides of the voting issue would agree with me on this. However, voting in a general sense is still a hot topic and still worthy of discussion. Obviously the above mentioned fact is true as it pertains to any one individual, but not to the general populace at large. Voting is essential to any democracy, and voting, in the general sense, does matter.
Instead of beating around the bush I will just come out and say it: I disagree, firmly, with the “Fuck Voting” mentality. I find it lazy, intellectually vacuous, and a shame. Lazy because it is an excuse not to participate in democracy. Intellectually vacuous because I find the logic behind it lacking substance. And shameful because many intelligent, politically aware people fall prey to this argument, all the while thinking they are being a rebel or morally superior by not partaking in voting. I do agree with some basic points that this crowd makes though; namely the hesitation to support the two-party system and the general disgust at both parties and their leaders, however the conclusion they come to based on these feelings is a non sequitur.
Perhaps lazy is not the correct term, but it captures the essence of what I want to critique, which is the idea that with the rights inherent in a constitutional democracy comes a certain amount of responsibilities. Far too many Americans, mostly those who are apathetic and ignorant when it comes to politics, enjoy the abundant rights of our country. They get their freedom of speech, their freedom to move about as they wish, their freedom to consume products and services, etc., but they never even recognize, let alone fulfill, the responsibilities that comes along with such freedom. Those responsibilities include, but are not limited to, jury duty, paying taxes (can’t be avoided), understanding the way their government works, understanding the policies their representatives enact on their behalf, and VOTING. A democracy ONLY works if the people are informed, aware, and minimally active (I would define paying taxes, voting, and participating in jury duty minimally active). If 90% of the American citizenship knows nothing about their government and their representatives, than democracy cannot exist by definition. Luckily, I do not think the number, in reality, is that high; but I do believe the actual number (whatever that may be) is far too high. It is not that most people are dumb, in my opinion, it is that they are dulled down by our educational system and our culture and are just flat-out LAZY. The “Fuck Voting” crowd is usually not apart of the “dulled down, apathetic masses” (in fact they are usually well-informed and politically active and hence have an opinion on voting at all), but by not voting they are neglecting a core responsibility every citizen inherits by virtue of being born under a democratic government, and unfortunately joining the ranks, at least on this issue, of the afore mentioned “apathetic masses” by default.
The reasoning behind the “Fuck Voting” mentality has always disconcerted me, not least for the fact that it is not very logical. I often see a George Carlin quote about not voting posted on social networking sites that attempts to justify this position and it is as follows:
“I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don’t vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote — who did not even leave the house on Election Day — am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created.”
As a fan of Carlin, I am rather disappointed in the logic here. This illogical belief is held by many folks on the “Fuck Voting” side of the debate. The fallacious belief is that by NOT voting, you are in no way feeding into the corrupt, evil doings of politicians; but that is absurd. By not voting, you are not making a statement, or effecting change, or being a rebel, or standing in a morally superior position to those who did vote; you are simply deferring to the status quo. You are playing into the system’s hand generally, but you are playing into the Republican’s hands specifically. It is no secret that modern Republicans have made concerted efforts to decrease voter turn out. They did it in the previous elections, and they are doing it in this election. Republicans know that the lower the voter turn-out, the more advantageous to Republicans it is. Google voter suppression for just THIS election if you are sceptical of my claim, and you will see how many different states are attempting to do this, and they are all being led by Republicans. The irony is that many on the “Fuck Voting” side are lefties who disdain the Republican party, but who are, all the while, playing right into their dirty little hands.
The second aspect of the illogical assumption behind the “Fuck Voting” mentality is the notion that since they hate the two-party system, their non-vote is a protest against it. NONSENSE! There non-vote is not even noticed by the system! They are doing NOTHING but supporting the two-party system. Do they know that in EVERY election there are these magical creatures dubbed “third-party candidates”? Do they know that by voting for them, over time they can possibly gain support and be allowed in debates? Do they understand that in order for the two-party system to have any threat of being dismantled intelligent, informed voters must, at some fucking point, support these mystical third-party candidates? Do they comprehend the fact that the only efficacious way in which they can actively promote the disintegration of the much-loathed two-party system is by actually voting for third-party candidates? So while they are at home eating Cheetos and tweeting about how much of a revolutionary they are, the third-party candidates are struggling to get 0.3% of the popular vote. If you really don’t support the two-party system and are disgusted by the two candidates, than for Christ’s sake, get off your ass, inform your self on the multitude of other options, and support them with the same vigor you use to brag about how you’re not voting!
A Damn Shame
At the end of the day, the amount of smart, informed, politically active and socially aware people who choose to stay home on election day is just a damn shame. With so many goddamn mouth breathers, Fox News addicts, zombies, partisan hacks, and fucking idiots that go out and vote on election day, we need all the informed, intelligent citizens we can possibly get to show up at the polls! I would venture to say that if every person who is staying home on November 6th and not voting because they are disgusted with the democrat/republican duality actually went out and voted for a third-party candidate, the American political system would be shaken to the core. The two parties we have now would likely overreact, revealing the insecurity they feel when TRULY threatened by a third (or fourth, or fifth) option. Instead, 5 people will read this post, 0 will be convinced, the “Fuck Voting” crowd will stay home on November 6th bragging about how rebellious they are on Facebook (sitting under their Che Guevara tapestries, no doubt) patting themselves on the back, and NOTHING will change. The Republicans will be happy with low voter turnout, and both parties will continue to mock third-parties (with the help of the corporate media), ensuring that with each election cycle the third-party candidates are given even less attention.
As for me, I will be voting on November 6th and proudly donning the “I Voted Today” sticker. Who will I vote for? I genuinely have not decided yet (there are many third party candidates, after all). I do know who I will NOT be voting for, and if you have known me for more than 5 minutes, you know as well. Anyways, Happy Voting my friends!