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Someone The Square Community Won’t Give a Shit About

October 31, 2008

I Refused to Vote
Image courtesy Guys From Area 51.

I’M NOT VOTING. WATCH ME. I’ve put off writing this post for a while now, though I have hinted at the conclusion I’ve come to several times previously. The thing is, coming out and saying “I’m not voting,” doesn’t play well. Even friends and family don’t seem to know how to process such a radical idea. It’s similar to coming out as an atheist to a casual acquaintance. When the discussion doesn’t go well, it really doesn’t go well. To the religious: like the proverbial fart in church. But how radical an idea is it really, when a full third of the population regularly engages in the practice? (Or more correctly, doesn’t.) Yet when you read the first sentence of this post, you thought, hey, here’s “a deadbeat, a loser, someone the square community won’t give a shit about.” (My Captain, forgive me for borrowing your shtick.) Which is why I wouldn’t ordinarily make the admission unsolicited. Very few of my acquaintances ever come out and inquire about my religious affiliation. Of course, with the election coming up, many have been asking about my political affiliation.

But it seems silly to even bring it up! Why not post instead that I don’t believe in fairies, or Santa Claus, or in honor of Halloween, ghosts? Because when someone asks, “hey, Montag, you believe in ghosts?” I can answer with a simple “pssshaw!” But when someone is asking for your take on very personal, deeply held beliefs and articles of faith, as in: ‘this is democracy and my vote really matters!’, it would be impolite to answer so dismissively. I’m not a monster, after all. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” sounds great, but then again, so does ‘if you catch a leprechaun he’ll take you to his pot of gold.’ The veracity of one of these things, I am absurdly compelled to hold an opinion on. So he goes.

YOU: Hey, Montag, who you going to vote for?
ME: I’m not voting.
YOU: Wait, what?
ME: I’m not voting. Watch me.

There are nine presidential candidates. Seven of the nine are not on the ballot in all fifty states. (It is incredibly difficult and costs a fortune to get on all fifty ballots.) Only four are on the ballot here in Maine. Two of them have been marginalized by the candidates with major political party backing and hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. And only two candidates appeared in the televised debates, the rest having been locked out by the major parties. [ballot access -- monies -- debate commission.]

Not only do the two major parties, in collusion with the television media, have a lock on the debates, they also hold hegemony over government, and the authority to make and revise, and stack in their favor, laws governing ballot access and campaign finance. They work together in lockstep to preserve this hegemony from “third parties” rising to power.

Unless I vote for Obama, my vote doesn’t count. Because of the electoral college, the only votes that I ostensibly have any say in determining are three out of Maine’s four delegates to the electoral college. These three, most likely all four, will go to Obama. So, casting a vote for any candidate I could bring myself to support, would be like casting a vote into a black hole.

Even so, even votes for the major candidates aren’t counted finely enough for even a 2% share of the votes cast (let alone a single vote!) to change the outcome. We have seen what happens in a statistical dead heat. It isn’t pretty, but it goes something like this: “Fuck it. Stop counting.”

So throwing a ballot into the clusterfuck we call an electoral system, only increases the number of people our rulers can claim participated in the process, thereby handing them their “mandate.” It legitimizes the clusterfuck. I would rather achieve the opposite. Which is the better tactic to de-legitimize the clusterfuck? Not voting at all? Or marking the presidential section of my ballot in such a way as it cannot be counted properly, thereby increasing the number of so-called “undervotes”? And do I really want to take that second option in my community where the voting apparatus seems pretty reliable, or is at least verifiable, unlike other voting systems?

Oh, yeah! Also, the system can be gamed! While the Democrats seem content to keep the competition off the ballot (this example in a Senate race,) else be forced to later blame third party candidates for their failures, the Republicans seem to prefer to head failure off at the pass by keeping the competition’s likely supporters out of the voting booth.

But let’s say for a moment that all of the above issues were solved: We have reasonable standardized ballot access regulations that allow candidates with legitimate democratic support onto the ballot nationwide; we eliminate the conflict of interest for media outlets jockeying for political advertising dollars, so all candidates receive legitimate media coverage; we afford all the candidates on the ballot a slot in the televised debates; we eliminate the electoral college and adopt one-person-one-vote elections in some form with a reliable means of counting every single vote if it should become necessary; we use an instant-runoff system that would allow third, or outsider, parties to compete on a level playing field; and everyone eligible to vote is allowed to vote without getting hassled. Let’s say we do all of that. Is democracy really how we want to select our rulers? There’s a bunch of fucking yahoos out there. Tyranny of the majority and all that.

Well?

Though I seriously doubt that it could possibly work on a scale as large as the US eligible voting population, barring some kind of universal enlightenment, in my estimation, democracy is still probably the best we could hope for. But what we have now isn’t remotely like democracy.

HAVING SAID ALL OF THAT, my devout friends will still come back to ‘voting in one’s best interest,’ ‘the lesser of two evils,’ etc. They might go on to add something about marginal differences, incremental changes, having patience in allowing the system to work.

Even someone whose opinion I admire might come out and say something like:

“To say it doesn’t make any difference who wins, is simply to express your contempt for the general population, because it does make a difference. A lot of what they say is correct. The two parties are effectively factions of one party, the business party, but the factions are somewhat different. As I mentioned, over time, the differences show up in benefits, working conditions, wages, things that really matter to people.” [See video below for the quote in context.]

But then I think, as a member of the working class whose interests might be better served in some slight way, under one ruler or another: Is it even right to ask for a bigger slice of the pie, when the pie is imperial plunder, taken through violence and exploitation?

[Via: LENIN'S TOMB.]

10 Comments
  1. October 31, 2008 8:34 PM

    The only reason I’m voting is to give another dollar to some third party…may just close my eyes and pick at random from between the Working Families Party, the Socialist Party, Greens, and Libertarians.

  2. October 31, 2008 10:09 PM

    Well, the top of the ballot may not matter so much…. but we’ve got bond proposals and city council elections and a mayoral election and so forth here… and I think all of that stuff does matter. That’s why I voted. Well, that, and because I secretly think Obama might wind up being a really good President. That’s probably naive of me, I know. Can’t help it… I think I read too much Molly Ivins when I was younger.

  3. October 31, 2008 10:32 PM

    Frederick, what about the birthday party? mine’s coming up in a couple of weeks.

    yeah, thepuppethead, we have a casino proposal (which i have mixed feelings about,) and a citizen’s repeal of the soft drink tax (which i don’t have especially strong feelings about either way,) and i don’t think the fellow i would support for the state legislature has much of a shot… so still, i don’t know if it’s even worth putting in an appearance.

  4. MR Bill permalink
    November 1, 2008 8:27 AM

    Not voting for principled reasons is a honorable choice.

    But I incline to the Australian system. There, voting is compulsory (but you don’t have to mark the ballot). Maybe it could be combined with Oregon’s mail in system: every citizen gets a paper ballot, and will get a small fine if it’s not turned in.
    Or not get a small tax cut. Something like that.

    And even without a national election (and a chance to vote the Odious Saxby Chambliss out of the senate) there is a school board election and a state bond referrendum to look at for me.

  5. November 3, 2008 3:12 PM

    i’m too punk rock for compulsory voting. in that case i’d foul the ballot to contribute to the undervote.

    or write-in a zombie candidate… =P

  6. November 8, 2008 3:06 AM

    sorry i haven’t been by in a while….good for you for claiming your turf…i caved in and voted…got scared that prop.8 would pass, so i voted no on it, wrote in Dead Gus Hall for Prez and my big gray cat for city council…

    so much for voting…

  7. November 11, 2008 10:31 AM

    great to see you round here again, CG. sorry it takes me three fucking days to reply to your comment. that prop 8 and the other anti-gay marriage votes around the country are damn sad. “They” sure like to carve the population up and pit them against each other, don’t They?

  8. December 2, 2008 10:15 PM

    In South Park it’s framed as a choice between Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich for school mascot.

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