Maybe I voted today, and maybe I did not. This post is not about what I did or did not do today, it as about exercising the right to choose, one way or another, as an American citizen.
If one does not support the direction that their favorite team appears to be heading, one would likely avoid attending that team’s games. By buying a ticket, commuting to the venue, and attending an event, you have supported that team, and whatever it is they are currently attempting to achieve. No one generally has a problem with this, because its only sports, but the same idea is being applied when someone chooses not to vote.
Why should someone feel compelled to vote if they do not, of their own volition, feel they should? People seem to quickly become irate when someone makes it apparent that they did not vote. Arguments for why everyone should vote normally include “it is a right, not a privilege,” “if you do not vote, you have no right to complain about the government,” or “people died so that you would have the right to vote.” These are feeble arguments.
I say, if you do not feel drawn to a candidate, if you do not feel compelled to give someone your vote, if you do not know you are giving your vote to the person who deserves it, then you simply should not vote.
Voting is popular. In this “MTV generation,” voting is cool, and you’re not cool if you don’t vote. But that is not what voting is about. You should feel a personal drive to go out and vote. If you do not, and you vote anyways, that is worse than not voting at all. At that point, you have simply gone through the motions because everyone else has, and there is nothing respectable about that.
Some will say that if you are an undecided voter, you should simply vote for a third party candidate. That sounds nice, until you think about it. By blindly voting for a third party candidate, simply to be able to say you voted without giving your vote to one of the two candidates that will end up winning, you have now supported a system that does not work for you. You had no vested interest in electing either of the “real” candidates, and by voting for a third party candidate, you have simply given strength to the current two-party system which fell short of supplying you with someone you actually wanted in office in the first place.
The great George Carlin put it something like this: those who do not vote are the only ones who have a legitimate reason to complain about the government. They didn’t elect the people in office who are screwing everything up, and they certainly did not support the system which put those people into office. Think about it: if no one voted, wouldn’t the government have to come up with a new way to elect officials? As long as you are voting, one way or another, you are supporting the system. If you believe that we need more legitimate candidates in our elections, voting for a third party candidate that has no true shot of winning in the current system is not the way for you to go.
Whittling all of this down, not voting is the only way to truly protest the American election system. If someone desires a new form of electing our officials- one where more than two parties actually stand a chance at reaching office, one that is not corrupted by money and commercials, one where everyone’s vote literally matters because there is no electoral college- then anything other than not voting would be a violation of that person’s beliefs.
If I said that I was not going to another Cubs game until I knew the team had its minor league development system in place and thriving, no one would care. You might encourage me to attend Wrigley for the fun of it all, or to watch a few current players develop, but you would have no legitimate moral dispute with my decision: it would be my decision to make, and not attending would be the only way for me support my own beliefs.
Voting is the same issue. I am not pretending that attending or not attending a sporting event is as important as voting or not voting. However, the point remains: if I do not support the current system, then a complete lack of participation on my part is the only way I can stay true to myself. People become up-in-arms when others say they have not voted. People have died- and killed- earning the right for current generations to vote, and I understand this. However, they did not die- or kill- so that everyone would be forced to vote, only to provide everyone with the right to decide for themselves.
No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, you have issues with the government. I have never heard, in any conversation about politics, anyone say, “Everything is perfect right now, I would not change a thing.” While you may not have any major issues with the system, how the government is ran, or how we elect our officials, everyone can admit there are things we can improve on. For those American citizens who do believe that the system is broken, failing and corrupt, there is no rational reason to support said system by casting a vote.
Choosing “the lesser of two evils,” or just voting to go through the motions, are not respectable alternatives when, at heart, you have no commitment to who you are voting for. Doing so is even worse if you desire overall change in the political system. I believe that anyone who feels they should vote, should be proud to do so. I also believe that anyone struggling to find value in voting should feel proud not to vote.
I guess, in the end, I am simply always surprised by the hostility that non-voters receive from voters of all kinds. Why? People not voting hurts your candidate less than people voting against your candidate. Furthermore, not-voting is not having a lack of an opinion either; it’s simply having a different opinion, one that is not trimmed-down to choice A, B, or the irrelevant C. For people to respect everyone who votes, simply for voting, is silly. Those who harp on non-voters are simply misguided: non-voters have made just as conscious a decision, and sometimes more-so, as those who decided to vote.