Friday, November 2, 2012

Why Voting Doesn't Matter

Five reasons why participating in “representative democracy” is total B.S. 

Next week, millions - perhaps more than 100 million - people will or already have cast their votes to determine the next President of the United States. By writing about the 2012 election, I know I’m automatically dating myself, but at the end of the day, this spiel is more or less about the entire process of electoral politics more than it is one - ultimately, pointless - presidential contest.

The “moral good” of voting is bashed into our heads as soon as we’re old enough to know what “democracy” is. Of course, it’s kind of a moot point, seeing as how we here in the U.S. of A live in a representative, constitutional republic as opposed to a “true” democratic state, but the message remains unmistakable: it’s your DUTY as a citizen to vote, and if you refuse to cast a ballot, you’re personally responsible for the detrimental social costs that unfurl over the next four years.

Evidently, that little principle has never seemed that logical to me. So, what your saying is, if I open the door for a guy to ransack my neighbor’s home, I’m somehow LESS CULPABLE if I were to stand next to a tree, not doing anything at all? I’m not exactly what you would call ‘le philosophe,’ but that shit don’t make any sense to me, from a rationalistic standpoint.

Since I’ve been able to vote, I’ve done so just twice - one, so I could vote for a quasi-deranged Democrat candidate for governor during the 2006 Georgia primaries, and the second just so I had a convenient excuse to skip half a day of work later in the fall. As for how or what I voted for that fateful day in November, I really can’t tell you…primarily because I just Christmas tree-d my way through the electoral process, mashing buttons on the electronic display like I was playing “Donkey Konga” or something. I’ve never voted in a U.S. Presidential contest, and as the Almighty as my witness, I promise each and everyone of you reading this that I never will, either.

A lot of people wonder why I refuse to participate in the “electoral process.” In fact, it’s been asked of me so dadgum much that I decided that I pretty much NEEDED to write an article about why I know - not “think,” “feel” or “believe” - voting is pointless, stupid, arbitrary, fruitless and, at the end of the day - far more detrimental to the social quality of the nation than non-voting ever has been or ever will be, times about 3.3 trillion.

Open wide, America, because the truth train is a-comin’ to derail all of this overly-hyped voting hullabaloo nonsense in 3,2, and 1...

The whole “one man, one vote” shtick is an utter load of it 

When people ask me why I don’t vote, my answer, up to this point, has been pretty brief. “Because my vote doesn’t matter,” I generally told them. At that point, they would give me these impassioned pleas as to why it’s my responsibility as a citizen to engage in participatory politics, at which point I always wanted  - but never had the huevos con chorizo - to tell them the following:

“Listen here, sir/madam/transgendered person, what you’re telling me is that my vote - my single, individual vote as ONE human being - somehow makes a difference in this giant raffle contest you call an ‘election.’ Well, if that’s the case, than how come our elections are decided based on THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE as opposed to a popular vote?”

For those of you unfamiliar with what the electoral college is (mostly, Floridians), it’s this elaborate, B.C.S-like tiebreaking system we use here in the States that gives state electorates certain point values based on individual populations. Therefore, in the electoral college, really big states like California and New York and Texas are worth nine zillion points while worthless shitholes like Wyoming and the Dakotas are worth negative three or something. It’s an utterly unfair and antiquated system - it goes all the way back to the late 1700s, for crying aloud - and it not only devalues my vote as an individual stakeholder, but TOTALLY ELIMINATES it. So even if the dude I vote for gets more TOTAL votes than the other dude, if the other dude “wins” just the right proportion of states, he can completely overcome that whole “populism” bullshit and find himself el Presidente even though a MAJORITY of the country voted for the guy that didn’t “win.”

Well, it gets worse, because not only is there a national electorate, there’s also a state electorate, which means your individual votes DOESN'T COUNT two different times before it ultimately gets discarded and funneled out of the electoral process altogether. So yeah, your vote DOES matter…just as long as you live in a county or parish where everybody votes for the same guy that you vote for, and everybody in the state votes for the same guy that you vote for, and enough other states vote for the same guy you vote for. So much for “individuality,” huh?

You aren't getting representatives of your interests either way

There aren't a whole lot of politicians I generally admire, so of course, one of the few that I do is a dead Canadian-Scotsman that may or may not have been a proponent of eugenics in his youth. If you’ve never heard of Tommy Douglas, he was this guy that was the Premier of Saskatchewan, and he’s pretty much responsible for creating Canada’s universal health care system. He was probably one of the best orators of the later half of the 20th century, and his iconic “Mouseland” speech remains one of the most amazing, awe-inspiring things I’ve ever heard spill forth from a politician’s mouth.

As Douglas so brilliantly put it, as voters, we’re generally nothing more than a bunch of mice “given” the choice of voting between two cats to slaughter us. Call me crazy, but I think it’s just a little suspect that in a nation where almost half of the population lives on less than $50,000 annually, the two guys running for president this year are dudes that made, respectively, $11 million and $200 million-plus last FY. I’m not sure what the official stats are - and if anybody can give me evidence to the contrary, feel free to notify me here - but I can’t think of a SINGLE member of the U.S. political system - presidents, cabinet members, representatives, senators, state reps, federal judges, etc. - that make LESS than that $50,000 threshold. Now, am I being cynical when I say that I doubt all of these “elected” figures have the best interests of half the U.S. population at heart, or am I just being too damn truthful about the nature of class-stratification in the “political” process?

If you’re part of that “lower” dyad of the U.S. population (which I certainly am,) then why should I believe that all of these dudes with suspiciously speckless suits and well-manicured nails gives one iota of a damn about my concerns and worries as a citizen? Is it ignorant of me to assume that these political people will pay more heed and attention to the multi-million dollar conglomerates and special interests groups and bankers and committees that bankrolled their campaigns than half-starved, multicultural trash such as I?

If this was a TRUE representative democracy, at least one of the guys up there would be someone representing people from my socioeconomic bracket, not some Ivy-leaguer that comes from Old World money and hobnobs with celebrities and sells $300 a plate dinners at banquets that cost $12,000 to attend. If we’re not “given” the choice of voting for a “man of the people,” than we should we waste our time voting for two shades of people that don’t give a shit about us?

All in all, your life remains pretty much the same no matter which party is in office

Every four years, you are bound to run into someone that’s going to bark into your ear that this year’s election - way more than any election in history - is going to forever alter the way we live our lives. And it’s true. Here’s a look at every single Presidential election outcome in my lifetime, and how the end results have completely changed my day-to-day life:


In 24 years, six presidential races and, ultimately, four different American presidents - 12 years under Republicans and 12 years under Democrats - my day-to-day life, as in my individual patterns as a human being - haven’t really changed all that significantly from 1988 until 2008. In fact, a strong argument can be made here that the outcome of the federal elections have had virtually ZERO bearings on my life altogether.

But what about POLICY, some of you are madly screaming at the top of your lungs? While it is true that certain federal policies have altered the world in which I commingle - NAFTA, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the PATRIOT Act, etc. - none of these have impacted my habitual life directly. Yeah, NAFTA may have paved the way for U.S. companies to ship jobs overseas and Gramm-Leach-Bliley may have given bankers the ability to leap over federal oversight and the PATRIOT Act may have theoretically clamped down on some of our civil liberties, but as far as any of those PERSONALLY influencing, altering or changing the way I carry on, day-to-day? I’m pretty much doing the same things now that I was doing four, eight and 12 years ago. Oh, and before I forget - all three of the afore-mentioned policies were multi-branch arrangements, and not EXCLUSIVE executive actions, too.

If you really want to get into the thick of things, I could make the argument that it’s really the head of the Federal Reserve (if anybody, I would say that Alan Greenspan is probably the only lone human being - and I use that term very loosely - in the U.S. that deserves individual credit for getting the culture-destroying “Great Recession” in high gear) and the Supreme Court judges that have had the greatest impact on my daily doings, and what do you know, we’re not allowed to vote for any of those positions, either.

And while one can certainly argue that the socioeconomic repercussions of federal legislation from twenty years ago can still be felt today (and it can), how has it changed our daily life as peoples? We still wake up, drink coffee, watch shitty TV shows, yell at newspapers for perceived biases, shop at grocery stores, rent shitty movies based on shitty box art, eat out at overpriced ethnic-themed restaurants, drive around aimlessly on the weekends and go to bed every Sunday night, kinda’ wishing that the apocalypse would begin before your alarm clock goes off. Prey tell, what civil liberties have we DIRECTLY LOST as peoples, across the board, over the last two decades? If being felt up at the airport is the worst we’ve got, than goddamn, we really do live in the greatest country on earth, huh?

There are far, far better ways to elicit social change other than the political process

I’m going to list a couple of names, and I want you to tell me what they all have in common: Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Samuel Gompers, Malcolm X and Rachel Carson. If you said they’re all pretty important people - all of whom instigated mass social movements - you’d be right. And if you also said, “hey, none of those people ever held office,” you, good sir, would be double-right.

One of the amazingly negative things I’ve observed about the political process is that it’s goaded people into believing that the ONLY way to bring about positive social and civic change is through voting. Take a good, long gander at both the “Tea Party Movement” and the “Occupy-Whatever” crowd, and you’ll see flip sides of the same ideological problem.

You know, there are ways to approach - and perhaps, even remedy - politicized issues WITHOUT solving them via political involvement. I’d say that MLK has probably had a greater, more far-reaching influence on American society than ANY president of the last 60 years, and a lot of the institutionalized - sometimes, even federalized - practices we have today stem not from some Washington fatcat, but this one dude from Atlanta that really liked to march around a lot. As far as workers rights go, there isn’t ANY president that’s done as much for the nation’s blue collar laborers than Gompers or Chavez, and neither of them were voted into existence, either. Pretty much our entire national templates for looking at urbanism and ethnic marginalization stem from what Malcolm X preached, while the entire environmental movement in the U.S. can be traced back to Mrs. Carson’s “Silent Spring” - a simple, ink-on-paper book, not some far-reaching governmental policy program.

Not only is it apparent that positive social changes can be instigated WITHOUT getting into standard politics, but for the most part, NON-POLITICAL remedies seem to be the most effective AND far-reaching means of achieving said social change. With that in mind, why would ANY of us want to waste our time on something that’s been proven time and time again to be something less than a “best practice?”

It ultimately de-powers us as individuals

My last reason for not voting is the most abstract, but philosophically, the most important. If I honestly, truly believe that longstanding social ills can be resolved by placing my faith in some Mandaen figure, then what does that say about my personal belief as an individual?

For so long, we’ve had it hammered into our skulls that the ONLY way to achieve social progress or civic improvement is through the process of voting - that is, picking sides based on some loose, arbitrary “convictions” regarding staggeringly complex social issues - that, at the end of the day, the unintended(?) side-effect is that we feel completely and utterly powerless as individuals. Before long, it becomes our universal excuse. “Well, if OUR SIDE was in power, then everything would be all right.” Well, I’ve seen what it’s like when BOTH sides are in power for virtually identical periods of time, and let me tell you folks - they don’t change nothing for nobody.

I would be an utter moron if I said federal politics didn’t have a certain impact on us as peoples, but all things taken into consideration, I think the overall influence of said politics on our daily lives - and most certainly, what we’re capable of achieving as individual people - is grossly overrated. If all you’ve got is “eff the government for making me pay a fifth of my income to them,” then you ought to be jumping for joy that the federales have so LITTLE personal involvement in your day-to-day life.

If Obama gets re-elected, your day-to-day life isn’t going to change, and if Romney gets elected, nothing about your daily activities will be altered. Yeah, they may make a few promises about economics and healthcare, but those are ultimately apolitical elements that are beholden to mathematical powers far too abstract and uncontrollable for any politician to straighten out. No man in the Oval Office can control how the Stock Market plays out, the same way you or I can’t dictate what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow. Yeah, the elected officials may make a few pushes for health care overhaul - but when it’s all said and done, it’s still going to be you - and you, alone - that determines where you end up when you’re past 65. The government isn’t going to ask you to save your money, or take care of your body, or plan and invest wisely - it’s a personal decision that has INFINITELY more impact on your day-in, day-out existence than any federal mandate or policy revision in history. But yeah, when was the last time you saw the words “PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY” plastered in size 64-font on the front page of the New York Times?

At the end of the day, it’s the personal choices we make on a daily basis - do we take out that loan, do we use our credit card for this, do we spend that disposable income or save it - that have the REAL long-term impact on who we are and where we’re heading.

You can vote people to lead the country, but you’ll never be able to “vote” someone in to lead your own life. And if you honestly think pushing a “check here” button on a flat screen every four years is your “greatest responsibility” as an individual, I really think it’s time for you to reassess what the term means, amigo.

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