Civilly Defying the Vote
- by karlsie
- Posted on 12 November, 2010
By Karla Fetrow
An average thirty to forty percent of registered voters do not turn out on election day. The percentage jumps a little higher when you count in the number of people who are eligible to vote but don’t even register. The disparity is blamed on apathy, on an ill informed public, on an inability to travel freely from one destination point to another. Each election year, part of the general campaign is to “get people out there to vote”, and the disappointment is great when the same dismal statistics apply election after election, with the losing party convinced if only that forty percent had turned out, they would have turned the scales and made a difference. The non-voter, for all practical purposes, has become part of the problem.
The fallacy of this type of reasoning becomes immediately apparent. While some people might not be able to make it to the polls because of transportation problems, most people have something they can rely on; if not their own vehicle, than a bus or a ride with their neighbors. Plenty of people are ill-informed, but that doesn’t stop them from punching their opinions into the little electronic voting cards. There is no indication that should the absent voters arrive in a solid mass to register their preference, that the percentage would change favorably for any particular candidate.
Apathy is directed related to depression. It is not part of the problem but the by product of an already existing one. Apathy is the resignation of all hope, the admission of defeat, the pulling away from social discourse and active participation in the community. Those who accuse the non-voting bloc of apathy are making a very serious statement. They are asserting that forty percent of the population is too caught up in personal despair to put out the effort to vote. While there are no statistics proving depression hinders the motivations for non-voting, the reasons non voters give for demonstrating their objections to the mechanisms of the vote are well vocalized.
According to Carl Watner, of Strike the Root, the democratic government makes two principal demands of its citizens; paying taxes and voting. While taxation carries criminal sanctions, failure to vote in government elections carry no penalties. In order for the government to work, however, as the representative force of its constituents, it’s necessary for it to acquire the appearance that it speaks for the majority of the people. It shapes us from childhood to believe that voting is a patriotic duty. We feel obliged to vote. After all, there are people who fought and died to defend the vote, some of them our ancestors. We are made to feel the vote is the first line of defense for our basic freedoms.
The message of the non-voter is not one of apathy, but one of refusal to enable the elite and special interest segments of society.
There are a number of reasons why voting is ineffective in our modern society. Zoning blocs are carefully divided to favor certain candidates over others. Beginning on the assembly level, if a candidate is popular with one demographic area but not another, the area will be divided to either weaken or strengthen the vote of the candidate, depending on the special interests of those who have invested in that area.
Campaigns are based on the amount of money donated for publicity and press coverage. The more the candidate can afford to pay for advertising and media coverage, the more recognizable the name will be, and the greater the assumption that this is a popular, well known candidate. Popular voting is no different than going to a sporting event with the intent of picking a winner. The intent isn’t to pick the person who best represents public interest, but to pick the one who was definitely designed to be a shining star.
The dissolution of differences between the Democratic and Republican party; that is a single interest policy for capital gain; has defeated the purpose of the two-party system. A democracy implies that there are two opposing points of view, and that by equally representing them, the answers to dilemmas will be found somewhere in the middle. The coercive influence of the vote has propelled middle ground America into a single direction; one that has surrendered its wealth, incriminated its masses and waged acts of aggression against foreign countries.
Voting is an enabling process. It gives tacit agreement to be governed according to the mandates of the elective cabinet. Theodore Lowi, states in his book, Incomplete Conquest: Governing America, “Participation is an instrument of [government] conquest because it encourages people to give their consent to being governed . . . . Deeply embedded in people’s sense of fair play is the principle that those who play the game must accept the outcome. Those who participate in politics are similarly committed, even if they are consistently on the losing side. Why do politicians plead with everyone to get out and vote? Because voting is the simplest and easiest form of participation [of supporting the state] by masses of people. Even though it is minimal participation, it is sufficient to commit all voters to being governed, regardless of who wins.”
Truth is not dependent on majority rule. The wrong doing of a large, collective group against a smaller, weaker one is still a wrong doing. In a democratic society, majority rule should never usurp the rights of an individual or group of individuals and yet we see the consequences of majority favoritism in the persecution of ethnic/religious divisions, same sex gender preferences and rural issues.
The League of Non-Voters does not encourage apathy. A very large number of their organization are activists, engaged in community projects, charities, environmental issues, humanitarian efforts. In an essay called “Don’t Just Not-Vote, Get Active”, the author states, “ The idea is to dream up and practice the many ways we can take power out of the hands of the elite, be they elected or unelected, and redistribute it to everyone through a network of free communities and neighborhoods. We do not do this to gain control over others, but to attain control together—over how we provide each other with shelter, education, art, and information, over how we resolve conflicts, over how we share resources and ideas, over how we determine our own lives.”
There are two classifications of the conscientious non-voter; the strategic non-voter and the ethical non-voter. The strategic non-voter typically hopes to see large segments of the population uniting in a refusal to vote on the grounds that a mass movement would show clear discontent with the established order. Strategic voters also view voting and participation in political life in general as a diversion from other, more fruitful efforts. The time, money and energy spent supporting a candidate could be far more effectively used to support a community service project or in expressing discontent with the policies and process of the administrating body.
In addition to strategic non-voters, there are also ethical non-voters, those who reject voting outright, not merely as an ineffective tactic for change, but moreover because they view the act as either (A) a grant of consent by the voter to be governed by the state, (B) a means of imposing illegitimate control and rulership over one’s countrymen, or (C) both A and B. Thus, this view holds that through voting, one necessarily finds one’s self violating the non-aggression axiom. (Alexander S. Peak; “What is Non-Voting?”)
We are a Nation in discontent, at arms against each other over the legitimacy of our elective body. Regardless of who we vote for, what position we take, we feel we are not adequately being represented. Within the focus of granting the state more power to control our economic stability, enforce criminal law and maintain an active militia, we give away more of our individual rights to self-determination.
The ineffectiveness of electronic voting was dramatically demonstrated in the last Alaskan general election for the Senate. Ousted from her position as the Republican incumbent by Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller, Liza Murkowski took her campaign to a write-in vote, forcing a hand count of the ballots. The results were startling. The election process, which was usually finished within hours after the booths are closed, is still counting the votes, putting up the tallies on a daily process. The break down created a personal touch, left a conscious realization of the legislated preferences of individual communities. Even more revealing were the results of the rural vote. Long considered a weak and fractured division of the majority centered around the Municipality of Anchorage and the Matanuska/Susitna Borough, the election now hinges on the results of the rural votes. The solid bloc strength of the rural numbers leaves one to wonder how accurate the electronic voting machines have been in counting the preferences of the rural populace.
We are a Nation in discontent because the good of the whole has been sacrificed for a popularity contest of numbers. The concentration is no longer on, “what can I do to help create a healthier society”, but “how can I insure that my party wins”. When it becomes a winner-loser contest, we all lose. We all become caught up in the web of candidates for profit. We all become embattled with family, friends and neighbors we once respected but now do not because of their choices in political candidates. We lose the strength of unity. Whether a strategic non-voter, an ethical non-voter, or simply someone agrees change is needed, perhaps the best statement that could be made in the next election, is to go down to the voting booths, write in your candidate of choice, or better yet, simply inscribe, “none of the above”.
Karla Fetrow: It’s the non-vote that makes the strongest statement. It’s not one of apathy but one of refusal to enable the elite and special interest segments of society.
WOW!!! Well argued – I read the whole thing; which says a lot for politics is not my cup of tea. In a past election I did not vote simply because I did not support either person running for office – there needed to be a “none of the above” check box. Most of the time I vote just to cancel out some other bastards vote! Thanks you’ve given me food for thought – keep the stuff coming!
“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” — Right wing activist and Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich.
An EXCELLENT article.
I feel similarly, though it takes a political mind like yours to be able to explain the viewpoint with honesty and integrity. I’ve never voted before, because to date, there has never been any politician I’ve trusted. Ever. I believe that there is something inherently arrogant and suspicious about any human being telling me that he is “qualified” to lead the country.
The only way I would ever vote for someone is if I believed in him/her. And I would want to know that this person has suffered, has been screwed over by his country…has personally felt the effects of starvation, poverty, injustice and violence all in the name of patriotism. Frankly, I don’t think any politician can truthfully say this.
And if a politician can CLAIM to have experienced all of this, and to still “believe in America” (or whatever country) then I think it just shows his/her weakness, not any particular strength of character.
So the message is that I should be voting so that the lesser of two evils can triumph over the most evil? Voting in the lesser evil…how patriotic! I’m not voting for any evil, period. I’m not going to take responsibility for the actions of a nation that I have no control over. If you vote, then you assume responsibility for what these people do.
So when you vote for your diplomat who carries on his shoulder a siamese cat, and then discover that he’s been abusing the poor and screwing people over just like all the others, are you really going to sit there with your mouth wide open and that dumb look on your face saying, “WHAAAA? I can’t believe I trusted him!”
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the ONLY thing that brings about change is a revolution. It’s not voting, it’s not any other myth (as we just saw over the last week…Republican ninnies won, duh!) it’s violence. A violent administration is overcome by violence. Or as in Rome’s case, the corrupt institution slowly dies over time because of a lot of stupid mistakes.
In the end, you can believe that (A) you are powerless to change your country’s corruption, or (B) that there are more crazy-ass right wingers in the population than there are sensible lefties.
You’re screwed either way.
Kenn, thank you so much for stopping by. I was a little surprised you read this article because i know your interests lean far more toward literature than they do to politics. When questioning most non-voters, their first answer is usually, “because politics are boring”, but more often or not, they followed up by stating pretty much what you did; that usually their feelings were, “none of the above” because none of the candidates were agreeable.
Eddie, most people are concerned about how they are governed, but if they don’t feel empowered by the governance, they see the entire voting process as nothing more than a token gesture. When my children became of age to vote, they were extremely enthusiastic. They gathered all their friends to vote on issues that included the development of their own community as well as the support of a candidate they dearly believed in. Out of seven different bills, and five different gubernatorial spots, not one of the bills or candidates were voted in. They were crushed. Even the laws of chance should have given them some leeway. None of them have taken interest in the voting mechanisms of politics since then.
If you feel people should vote, then encourage them to write in, not punch a card. This will force the electorate to hand count the votes instead of electronically sorting them.
Mitch, i find it strange to be called a political writer. Political science has always been nothing more than a side interest bouncing off a far greater interest in history. Of course, it’s the dynamics of politics that influence the events of history, which is what led me to the conclusion a long time ago that it isn’t the type of government that makes a country great, it’s in the people who are leading it. For this reason, i don’t affiliate myself with any party or political platform. I would rather see people doing the things that add to true greatness instead of wasting all their time, money and energy supporting legislation that will only get shot down in the next election. We’re grinding our wheels instead of moving forward as a progressive nation. If we want change, it must come from within ourselves. It must reflect in our daily actions. We must refuse to take part in popularity contests that only divert our sense of unity with each other.
[Quote=The Late Mitchell Warren]If history has taught us anything, it’s that the ONLY thing that brings about change is a revolution. It’s not voting, it’s not any other myth (as we just saw over the last week…Republican ninnies won, duh!) it’s violence. A violent administration is overcome by violence. Or as in Rome’s case, the corrupt institution slowly dies over time because of a lot of stupid mistakes.[/quote]
I echo those sentiments – the only thing power understands is power. To that end, I build my own power block outside the state and fight back against the corrupted entity that this nation has become.
Karlsie: While I appreciate the nunances you articulate here, I’ respondinfg an engaged sscholar-activist. Most poeple are apathetic. Period. And the the way it’s set up, it’s so that people DISengage. Voting is never enough, but having a society worth fighting for means being ENGAGED.
Don’t like the news? MAKE some of your own. don’t the bills being offered? PUSH for the ones you want seen. I’m sorry, I’m a fighter. I say that those who opt out, or don’t do anything, have no voice.
I am about worn out by a populace that’s more interested in watching dancing with the stars, or pontificating than actually doing something about it. If you’re not busy living, to paraphrase Dylan, you’re busy dying.
Eddie, absolutely i advocate for activism as well. What we have here, however, is a society so conflicted, that everything that is done in one direction, is negated by the opposition of the other direction. The apathy you speak of generally is caused either by being at the effect of negation for so long, the person becomes discouraged, or that person has not yet been effected. Activism takes many forms and can be expressed in anything from clothing, bumper stickers, letter writing, community involvement, to protests and demonstrations. The discouraged will often take on a form of this type of activism. They might not vote, but they will put up signs of their rebellion.
Then there are those who have not yet felt the swing of effect. Because they have been comfortable, they have not been involved. When effect hits them, they look for the most remedial solution, not the source of their problems. The remedial solution they see as securing the best advantage for themselves, even if it means putting others at the effect. This particular little dance of non-involvement is not scheduled to last much longer. The means for escapism is becoming less affordable. Those who escaped through long vacations, must now rely on stay at home recreation. The movie watchers, the game players, the television nazi’s? They are discovering they have to dwindle their Internet usage, cut their cable television, settle for DVD rentals. The same wage that brought them a comfortable life four years ago is barely enough to cover their utilities now. Those stars are going to look like bitter fruits when they get tired of their empty pockets. It may not propel them to vote, but any time you take something away from someone; especially something that person finds pleasurable; you’re going to see some action.
I sometimes despair that people will ever fully feel the effect of the swing. It is entirely too easy to keep people placated, it’s cost effective and develops on-going consumerism habits. How much easier is it to reduce the cost of sattelite television, internet and gaming in order to sell a lifestyle to a people that ensures they will buy and even makes it easy to do do from the same television they are watching, when they see the item they want. Tell me you have seen the new interactive t.v.’s…no people are not going to wander out into the daylight demanding to know what’s up until someone forcefully cuts their cables.
It is for this reason that someo of us have to stay awake and aware and active in what is going on.
Grainne, as long as a person has cable T.V., it’s safe to assume that person also has shelter and food, which means not yet at the full effect of the swing. When the choice comes down to food on the table or cable television, that T.V. isn’t going to look as appealing. Maybe they’ll cop to local channels or DVD’s, but sooner or later they’ll realize the very foundation to their house is crumbling. Nothing makes a person more active than being at the effect.
BTW was gladdened to hear this morning that it looks good for Murkowski even with all the hand counting not yet complete. I think this shows an arguement for voting, instead of abstaining . Congrats to Alaskans for doing what they felt was the right thing. Although no doubt Miller will hold it up with all kinds of dumb legal shite and recounts. What can be taken away from this is voting when it is done right can work.