Expressing pride in being too jaded and lazy to utilize a right that has been won for you, through bloody wars and ugly civil rights confrontations, a right that men and women all over the world in other nations are killed (or worse) for trying to exercise, is just sad. People say, “Everything sucks, we need to make a change,” but then when November comes around it turns into “Well, the system’s rigged, it doesn’t matter, I don’t wanna bother trying.” It’s laziness, nothing else.
You have literally nothing to lose from voting. And a lot to lose by not voting. Unless, of course, you plan to vote Republican. In which case fuck it, man, stay home and read The Blaze.
I’m not attributing the quote above, because the author is a friend of a friend of a friend who may wish to remain anonymous.
The reason I bring it up is because those two paragraphs came very close to guilt-tripping me into voting. My reasons for abstention have nothing to do with laziness, and maybe a little bit with jadedness, but mostly to do with the harsh reality of the American electoral process. Increasingly, the idea of using voting power to “make a change” means nothing. We live in a country with a two-party system that, at the end of the day, only differs on social issues. Both want to expand the government. Both want to spend more money (one wants to do it by raising taxes on the wealthy; one wants to do it by deficit spending and auctioning T-bills to China). Both want to increase the size and power of the military and the size and power of the executive branch. Both want to spend your money (or your grandchildren’s money, or China’s money) to trample civil liberties in the name of “security.”
I come closer to agreeing with Democrats on social issues, because I don’t believe in limiting the rights of certain people based on outdated beliefs in a fantastical omnipotent being. In terms of our basic, inalienable rights, we are all equal. Race doesn’t matter. Gender doesn’t matter. Sexual preference doesn’t matter. We are all equal. The problem I have with Democrats is going overboard on notions of equality—the condescending idea that “certain people” “need” more help than others. I don’t believe in propping up a compulsory welfare state. In my ideal country, which does not exist, private charitable organizations seeking voluntary donations would fill this need. People who need help will have the opportunity to seek it out, and won’t be denied based on arcane policies or corrupt officials skimming from government coffers. In this model, it’s all a choice: you choose to donate, or you choose not to. You choose to seek help, or you choose to struggle. A charity chooses to provide help, or chooses to deny it.
But at least I can respect Democrats for what is, at least in rhetoric, a genuine desire to seek equality. They go overboard, and they’re way too hung up on the idea that everyone’s “entitled” to a “level playing field”—which is NOT the definition of equality. In a more perfect union, the one that does not exist, we would all have equal rights under the law—but equal rights do not translate to a “level playing field.” People will still be born with advantages or disadvantages, and neither should be punished for that. At one time, we lived in a country where the destitute son of a con man became the richest man in the history of the world. Such success stories still happen, although not to that extreme, and they’re becoming rarer and rarer. The system is rigged.
Which leads me to the Republicans, whose desire to strip away the “level playing field” is not borne of principle; the Republican establishment has become synonymous with cronyism and suppression of individual rights. Republicans don’t want a baseline equality; they want to remove individual rights they disagree with. They don’t want a free-market economy; they want one rigged to serve the needs of crony businessmen who lack the ability to succeed without rigging the system. They don’t want low taxes because they believe a successful government doesn’t need to go trillions into debt or shovel money into its failing economy; they want low taxes because they’re wealthy, their friends are wealthy, and everyone they’ve ever known will benefit from “trickle-down” economics—because they don’t know anybody who’s actually struggling to eke out a living. They don’t want to cut unnecessary programs to rein in spending; they want to pump that money into “defense,” because ALL of their cronies will benefit from an ever-expanding military-industrial complex. Both their social and economic policies have been so corroded since its days as “the party of Lincoln” that both Democrats and Republicans have become two halves of the same coin.
The agenda of both parties is statism. Democrats want it in order to enforce, by law, the level playing field. Republicans want it in order to enforce, by law, the status quo. Both parties are populated by wealthy people guided by money. Both have powerful cronies in business. Regardless of stated rhetoric, both have proven time and again that they will sacrifice the rights of their constituents to protect their own political or financial interests (or those of their pals).
This has led me to conclude that my vote means nothing. I’ve voted in every election since 2000, until yesterday. But it wasn’t laziness or jadedness that did me in. It’s the practical fact that there is no change to vote for that would represent my personal interests or help improve this country in any way. I went through every candidate in my voting area to see if there was even a hint of something worth voting for, even any third-party alternatives I could cling to. What I found were many Libertarian candidates who were pro-life or pro-“defense” or pro-cronyism. They provided elaborate, pretzel-shaped reconciliations of these beliefs with Libertarian ideology. I’m not really on board with Libertarians, but at least they aren’t a significant part of the problem (perhaps only because they don’t have enough influence yet).
So who is there to vote for if I want a change? Who represents my interests? And why should I vote for the least of a group of evils, instead of boycotting the process?
The main thing that got me in the quote above wasn’t the characterization of laziness and jadedness, but the legitimate reminder of how much blood was spilled by our ancestors in order to give us one of the few empowering rights we haven’t traded away in the name of “security.” What saddens me isn’t the “laziness” of a non-voter but the complacency of a voter who believes they can make a difference, that electing the right group of politicians will suddenly make this country great again.
All that said, it’s my view and mine alone, just as its my vote and mine alone. I have friends and family who truly believe voting for a straight Democratic ticket will save us all. I know at least a couple of people personally who believe very strongly that the Republicans will provide them much-needed protection from terrists, gays, and tax hikes. They vote as they see fit. Their beliefs don’t match mine. My views don’t match, or even really come close to, either of the two parties. How do I vote my conscience when I can’t support any of the candidates? I’ve reached a point where “close enough” isn’t good enough.