I am surrounded by two primary views on whether or not to vote. (More accurately, I am surrounded by one primary view, one opposing view, and then a lot of people who don’t feel as strongly. I simplify, to not get too convoluted and tomey.)
1.) Vote. You must vote. Voting makes a difference. Voting is your duty as a citizen. Voting is the best way to participate in our political system. It is the only way to participate in our political system. It doesn’t matter what else you do. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.
2.) Don’t vote. To vote is to demonstrate your compliance with the corrupt political system. Voting is a ruse to make people think they are participating, so they don’t complain when the outcome works against them (which it invariably will, because the powerful always works against the masses). The system of voting is itself corrupted, maintaining the power structure. Don’t choose between the lesser of two evils. There are other, better ways to affect change.
I agree more with the ideas of the latter, but I take issue with both, when preached dogmatically (which they generally are).
1.) What about working for your beliefs in other ways? Person A: goes to the polls every couple of years and checks off boxes after making uninformed choices before going back to being a drudge and sitting in front of the TV. Person B: works persistently for positive change and the common good, in ways they feel called to do. Is Person A participating more, in better ways, than Person B?
What about voting rallies, working on campaigns, working toward more equal turnout in the polls? If you’re into voting, you can agree that those are important and participatory, though they are not the actual act of voting.
Also, our first-amendment rights are not contingent on our voting practices.
2.) Our participation in the system is compulsory; we cannot opt out. You probably participate in other parts of the system that you don’t agree with: wage labor, paying taxes, buying food, paying rent, driving a car. Why not this one? Even when a core issue you may feel strongly about (e.g. reproductive rights) is on the table? Why can’t you vote and participate in other ways?
What I’ve been saying for years is, “I vote, and I vote begrudgingly.” That about sums me up.
So how should you vote, if you choose to vote? That I will not preach. I’ll leave that to the politicians and the party stalwarts. I can’t even say something pithy and complaisant like “Vote your conscience,” because that assumes your conscience has a simpler, better answer than your intellect.
(I’ve written on voting/elections before: “The only thing about the election I am ever likely to say” [11/10] and “Thoughts On The Election” [11/04, when I voted absentee from Scotland].)
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