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I didn’t vote

January 20, 2009

(What better day to post this, a message of hope and inspiration, than today, a monumental day in history?)

In the last few days leading up to the voter registration deadline in October I was stuck with a dilemma.  On the one hand, I had kind of committed to not voting, even to the disgust of many of my acquaintances.  Of course I could have changed my mind and nobody would have complained.  On the other hand, I kind of wanted to vote.  So what was I to do?  Register and make some kind of decision in the last month? or sit home make it look like I was really just a bum?

After some deliberation (though, I won’t lie, only light deliberation—it’s not something I agonized over by any means) I figured I’d go ahead and register, use the last month to study up a bit, figure out which third-party/independent candidate I was going to vote for, figure out the local issues, and go do it on November 4.  I probably should have made my decision a few days earlier, though, because through some dumb luck it didn’t end up happening.  First I got sick; then, on the Friday before the deadline (which was on a Monday) I printed out a registration form pretty late; after that I realized there was no way I’d be able to get it in, so I turned it over and used it as scrap paper.

I figured I could mail it out the next day, Saturday, and that it would get where it needed to go by the sixth.  That would have required me getting to the post office bright and early the next day.  Then I found out I could go to the township clerk’s office, which was actually closer.  I wasn’t feeling well (as in one day I passed out on my way to the toilet to shit out pure water and woke up on my back in the tub), but figured maybe I’d feel good enough to ride my bike up there.  Again, a problem: the township clerk wasn’t in on weekends—or on Monday.  She’d be there on Tuesday, though, which would be a day late.

So I didn’t register and I didn’t vote.  This was best kept secret because of the overall snobbery over “Go register!”  People were nuts with it at the time, and me being found out as a slacker would have been a burden my mind didn’t need.

But here’s the big thing: I don’t care about anyone bitching at me for not registering (and not voting) because by most people’s standards my vote would have been “wasted” anyways.  I wasn’t going to vote for Barack Obama.  The only people who would bitch at me, a somewhat left-leaning person, for not voting would be people who voted for him—I can guarantee a far-right Christian warmonger wouldn’t come up to me and go “Why didn’t you vote?!” because he knows I would have been voting against him.  It’s for the same reason I don’t think people on the left should say anything to me about it, either: I wasn’t going to vote for your lying candidate.  (I would have voted yes on Prop 1 and left Prop 2 blank.)

Ran Prieur, one of the bloggers I follow, said something in October that I reluctantly agreed with.  I don’t remember the exact quote, but basically he said that he doesn’t think voting has to be an exact representation of our personal beliefs.  It’s not a purist action, and tactically, we can’t just yell “No!” because we don’t have a mirror-image running for office.  I can accept this as truth, and it makes a pretty convincing argument for the “lesser of two evils” method of voting.  Where I differ is in the reasoning for not voting for the two leading candidates: I didn’t vote for either of them because I feel they’re both out of touch with reality.

When people say the two parties are the same, they’re actually saying something pretty complex.  The opinions on “the issues” are obviously different, and their policies aren’t the same.  The way they look at things isn’t even necessarily all that similar; however, their worldviews, overwhelmingly, are.  Everyone (currently) in politics is pro-growth, pro-democratic, pro-liberal, pro-America as #1 nation-state forever, etc. whatever.  If there was a candidate for any office I could vote for that came along saying “Look, people, we don’t need to grow.  If we take a look at what we already have and scale it back to a reasonable level, and then focus on keeping it all stable, we could live in comfort without destroying everything around us,” well god-damn, I’d vote for him (or her) in an instant.  But I haven’t seen or heard anyone coming around saying that, and I doubt I will any time soon.

(This reminds me of how glad I am I didn’t vote for Ron Paul!  Like many people I was initially attracted to a lot of what he had to say because he isn’t in the pocket of the establishment.  He was one of the only even slightly mainstream candidates who was actually in favor of creating smaller, sane government, or so it seemed.  But the last few times I’ve seen him I’ve just been in awe at how much I disagree with a lot of what he has to say.  I saw a video the other day of him on Neil Cavuto’s show and in it he was talking about how investing in hybrids was stupid because there isn’t really any problem with oil availability, and it just seems like he thinks environmentalism as a whole is a joke.  He’s certainly on the side of The Economy in the battle of Economy versus Ecology, and that’s something I can’t support.)

One of the main things I can’t get over with politicians is how tricky they are, and, for me, trickiness and dishonesty are synonymous.  We could look at the term “lesser of two evils” and apply it to another situation altogether to illustrate what I mean.

Let’s say we could rank the “evils” we as a society have to deal with on a scale in terms of importance.  One of the things politicians will do is take lower-ranking evils—”lesser” evils—and distract their constituents with them.  President Obama might throw healthcare and tax breaks at you (or whatever else), but this will distract you from the fact that he’s going to keep tossing money into the war in Afghanistan and phone tapping, try to artificially boost The Economy, and invest money in dead-end alternative energies, worst of all being nuclear and “clean coal.”  The tragic beauty of it all is that we’ll still pay attention; what he’s bringing to the forefront is still “evil,” so we have no choice but to listen.  This is the kind of thing that’s been going on since antiquity.  Haven’t you ever heard the term “bread and circuses”?

Give the people what they want, or think they want.  They’ll think they’re happy, then we, the guys in charge, can go ahead and do what we really want to do anyways. It’s a diversion, a simple magician’s trick: look  over there while I do something over here.

Maybe I’ll remember to vote next year and actually start to follow local issues better.  I tried to do it in the spring and summer, but somewhere along I just stopped.  I can, and I need to, be better about it because I keep saying I care.  I think I can realistically say, and demonstrate, that I care about the real issues, though.  Hopefully I can keep myself from falling for stupid tricks.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. thequantumbuddha permalink
    January 23, 2009 9:23 pm

    About Ron Paul, as a libertarian, he is bound to the idea that the government should not interfere in the society or economy. The only use for government is to protect the people from foreign or domestic threats (defense and policing). Hopefully, the view will evolve to include threats to us that come from environmental destruction.

  2. January 23, 2009 9:57 pm

    As far as small government is concerned, I’m probably close to 100% with him. I too hope they (libertarians) can come to more of a consensus on environmental issues. The left-libertarian sect seems to be more with it, and there are a fair number of back-to-the-landers etc. within, but the right-libertarians—true conservatives or what have you (like Congressman Paul)—or at least many among them, are seemingly bedfellows of mainstream Republicans in denying there are any ecological problems at all. Everybody’s sharing the weed, but while the lefties are off at permaculture workshops, the righties are in the woods (too) being conspiracy-theorist survivalists.

    (OK, I probably couldn’t have painted them in a more stereotypical light.)

  3. January 27, 2009 5:51 pm

    So are you registered so that next time there’s an election you can decide who to vote for or not to vote at all–and actually have the choice?

    Love both of the posters, and agree that Ron Paul is scary. I voted for Obama, but there are some alternative third parties out there, some of them worth getting behind!

  4. January 27, 2009 6:04 pm

    I haven’t yet, mostly because I’m not entirely sure what my living situation is going to be when the next election comes around. I’m born-and-raised in Northern Michigan, but there is a possibility of moving out to Washington state with my brother or of just wandering around the country. Come to think of it, I should have just mailed in the form anyways so it would have been out of the way, but I think my frustration in the final days just kind of clouded my judgment as far as that’s concerned.

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