I’m seriously debating writing a letter to the editor of my local paper.
Yesterday, I read a letter to the editor from a person who said “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice, and in my opinion, you don’t deserve one.” She goes on to say that “local candidates are typically very good about making themselves available to public meetings. The newspaper prints a voter’s guide several days before the election…” etc. etc. She goes on to say that voting is a privilege and a duty.
This “no vote no voice” thing happens to be near and dear to my heart (as I have mentioned before on AF). If I write a letter, it will say something to the effect of:
I have two children in diapers. My wife works full-time, and I work more than full-time. The very little free time that I have is precious to me, and I have zero desire to spend it in town hall meetings or culling the newspaper for information about local candidates, who are largely indistinguishable except by their last names.
You, Mrs. Doe, say that I should then have no voice. Well, Mrs. Doe, I do have a voice. And I should have a voice. I have a voice for at least three reasons.
I finance the government at all levels, including the federal government, the state government, the county and city governments, and the local school board. If you take my money, I have a voice.
I am subject to the government at all levels, including the federal government, the state government, the county and city governments, and the local school board. If I am governed by you, then I have a voice.
I spent five years in the US Marine Corps, in the defense of the nation. If that doesn’t give me a voice, then neither does standing in a non-existent line to cast a secret ballot.
Not in a situation where all anyone in power cares about is getting re-elected. If I’m an elected official, I’d love it everyone who doesn’t like me chose to not speak instead of speaking against me where speaking equals voting.
^Not necessarily disagreeing with you Higgs, but sometimes speaking up can be your doom.
Where I live, Republicans rule the roost. If I were to speak up and proclaim that I’m pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-progressive taxation, and anti-oil and gas subsidies, I might not live to see tomorrow. Or I might get to work just in time to be told “We’ve decided to go in another direction. Thank your for your service, but you’re not needed anymore.”
In this context though, speaking is a euphemism for voting. If you were pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-progressive taxation, and anti-oil and gas subsidies, you could vote for the pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-progressive taxation, and anti-oil and gas subsidies candidate and no one would know it was you unless you told them. If I’m the guy running against the pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-progressive taxation, and anti-oil and gas subsidies candidate, I’d prefer that you remain silent by not voting so I win.
Your abstinence to vote is in effect still a vote; in fact it doubles the value of the vote of some other diehard voter.
You have an immense privileges living in a democratic country and being apathetic is an insult to the many men, women and children that have died across the world to promote democracy, the right to choice and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
General apathy could be a sign that nothing is egregiously wrong with the way things are run, which is why I don’t think voting should be obligatory (as it is in some countries), but also why I think those who are able to vote and choose not to don’t vote don’t have as much right to complain about what elected officials do. To me, it’s about how seriously you take someone’s complaining. If they vote, I’ll take it more seriously, other things equal.
On the other hand, apathy can also reflect a sense that the vote is not a useful form of communication. There are of course other ways of influencing policy, such as crafting and publicizing arguments for policy debate, participating in protests, buying off politicians with money or contributions, organizing campaigns for politicians and/or social movements. One can argue that the vote is actually a relatively uninfluential method of participation in politics and policy, although in my mind it is a bit like the “ante up” in poker - it’s the minimum one ought to be doing if one can.
I’ve often joked that contemporary democracy is about ensuring that every citizen has an equal voice in deciding who it is that our plutocrats are going to bribe.
This is particularly nonsensical in US where there are great differences in the center right and center left main stream politics. Voting who stays in power; be it republicans or democrats is often the difference between life and death for some people. Take ObamaCare as a relevant and recent example.
It’s doesn’t matter how much the kicking and screaming you get from the tea party or more tame republicans, there is still going to be healthcare for all…
We’ve had two of these exact same threads over the last year, but without BS around I think Greenie will have to be the lone voice (or lack there of) of radical reason.
Not voting is the lamest thing you can possibly due. It’s childish and petchulant. If there were only two candidates to choose from then maybe, maybe I’d see your point. Nowadays, however, there are almost always a libertarian or other third party candidate on the ballot. Start voting for one of those guys.
Sure, most libertarian candidates are complete nutjobs, but you have to vote for them to get the attention of the two serious contenders. That’s the only way to tell them there are people out here that want to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal (of communist if you choose to vote that way).
By simply not voting, you’re not making a statement. You’re doing absolutely nothing. You’re throwing in the towel and crying about a system that doesn’t work for you while doing nothing to change it. I have zero pity for non-voters and cringe when they whine about the system.
There are exactly zero politicians in office that think, “wow, voter turnout is low. Maybe we should change our views to encourage them to get off their lazy asses? Now, how do I do that without jepordizing my base that’s elected me to four terms?” Yeah, I’m sure they’ll get right on that.
Let me add there’s some serious amount of hubris along with your childishness if you think any politician cares you don’t vote.
^One of the very few, well thought-out posts that actually makes me think about voting.
Nonetheless, I’m still wondering if anybody thinks I should write the letter. (The intention wasn’t to start a discussion about voting vs. nonvoting, but really about the letter.)
I’m kinda leaning against writing the letter. Midland is a small community, and it will get back to you. And a lot of the right-wing bigots around here love to hate people who don’t think the same way they do.