It is election time in the States and some of my political friends are posting on facebook text-in-box images that say that voting is legitimizing whatever government gets elected and that the better thing to do is not vote.
I grew up hearing that if you don’t vote you don’t have a right to complain about the winner. You could have done your part to change it, but you didn’t. But now the opposite argument is in play, at least within certain circles. Now I’m hearing people say that if you do vote then you don’t have a right, because you have agreed to “play the game” and thus are obliged to recognize whomever is the winner of the game. I want to look at that second argument. I think it is nuts.
Not voting does not delegitimize the winner of the election. Sure, the morning after Harper (the Canadian Prime Minister) got elected there were people throwing around numbers about what minuscule percentage of the population actually voted for him, and how he really doesn’t have the support of Canada, but guess what? That hasn’t mattered in the slightest. It hasn’t prevented him carrying out his agenda and nor will a low voter turnout impede the ability of the winner of the election from taking action. There is no mechanism by which they can say, hey, voter turnout was too low, the election doesn’t count. Maybe there should be one. But there isn’t.
Not voting doesn’t provide any sort of alternative option for who should control the government or how the country should be organized outside of the government. Not voting does nothing.
Some argue that voting for the lesser of two evils is still choosing to support an evil. I say get real. The lesser of two evils is still less evil. In the style of first year university philosophy classes everywhere I will ask: if there’s twenty people drowning and you have two options. One option will save five people and the other will save ten, would you really throw up your hands and say it doesn’t matter which choice because either way we won’t be able to save everyone? Of course not. Don’t throw away the extra you can get by voting for the lesser evil.
Go for the less evil choice right now and then get involved in politics and yank that choice further towards justice. Write regular letters to your politicians. Volunteer for them. There was an article a while back about homeschooler’s becoming Republican foot soldiers, and Republican nominees wooing the homeschool movement because they knew that if they could get the homeschoolers on board the families would go door to door for them, make phone calls and basically put their time, money and energy into supporting that candidate. So homeschoolers counted to the nominees. If we want to count to our candidates, we have to show them we have something to give! If we throw up our hands and say we won’t even bother voting for them, then wow… we completely cease to exist to them. They will go woo some other demographic.
Get involved in politics! According to a recent article on Daily Kos the Democrats have been chasing the Republican policies, copying them, in an effort to improve electability.
Year by year, as the Republican Party has occupied fewer and fewer moderate positions, compromise with the Republican Party has mean incorporating into the Democratic Party positions that are right of center. Sometimes far to the right. In a sort of Zeno’s Paradox of Politics, halfway to the Republicans is a point that’s constantly shifting away, and reaching it requires ever more compromise of the original Democratic position.
So the Democrats aren’t who they should be. They’ve moved right. They moved away from the ideals. But they can move back. They need to move back. Vote for them. Elect them. Then get involved at the local levels and make sure your local Democratic candidates know that you want them to be more courageous. Show them that electability comes by moving left, not further right.
The purity that people might think they have by keeping their hands clean of the issue and not voting is imaginary. There’s no brownie points for it. It doesn’t transform the system. It doesn’t improve anything.
There’s an article on the Daily Kos about why arguments against voting fail, and it ends with a list of why you should vote. So I’ll suggest you go there.