Non-Voting; or Pro-Active Dissent

In 2008, I non-voted for President; that is, I went to the polls as someone who wanted to vote but could not pick a candidate, could not determine from the policy ping-pong played between the candidates which candidate I thought should be President. I pulled the lever in 08 to close the curtain of my voting booth; I was counted as someone who came to vote. I even cast several ballots for local candidates and propositions. I did not however flip any of the switches for President. I was unable in good conscience to do so. I suspect the responses from many of my readers; I understand the reaction you might have, as I have heard before something near to what I suspect you are saying now. I have heard all about the waste and the irresponsibility that my particular way of voting incurs. I do hope, though, that you have not deluded yourselves that there are ideological differences between Democrat and Republican parties. There are not. I know that the lack of ideological differences is not in itself the first or the last reason one should go to the polls to vote but not choose one of the Status Quo candidates.  I have asserted as much elsewhere in one or more essays that we the United States are a uni-ideological nation, a virtually Totalitarian Capitalist one; but this aside, there are other reasons for not supporting the Status Quo in politics, which means opposing how elections are conducted, how candidates get chosen and survive the weeding process of primary elections. I know the Republicans and Democrats are trying to salvage the view that they are distinct, and that no new party realignment is necessary. Furthermore, standing diametrically opposed to each other, even to the point of almost shutting down the government, which virtually backfired, helps perpetuate the illusion that the two major parties are mutually exclusive. Nothing is further from the truth.

Non-voting in the way I have asserted is something I take seriously because it is pro-active and not passive. Staying home is a choice, and no politician ever cares about those who have chosen to stay home; political parties deal in certainties, at least predictable certainties (whether they are ever going to be realizable or not is not the question, but whether they can be packaged as a certainty is); and the apathy of anyone who stays home on election day is a certainty they can do without. It is no kind of protest. The government goes about its business and the politicians go about theirs.  It doesn’t shake the status quo in confidence and self-assurance. People who stay home are free to stay home and they do not want to play in the game. Only people with interests or who are interested are negotiable; only they have something to bargain with, and in the case I herein present, it is a vote. To go to the polls as someone who wants to be counted is the player in a game who questions the game. The one who stays home is like the one who stands as a spectator to game he chooses not to play and does not question how the game is played. The players of the game respond differently.

To vote for one or the other candidate or any of the candidates, though, as you do when you pick a horse at the race track is a vote fore-mostly for the status quo.  A vote for any party is an acceptance of the Status Quo. Non-votes on the other hand are sure votes up for grabs.  They are tangible. They say, I don’t like how we have been playing the game. I think we need a revision of the rules, or a different attitude when playing, or different forms of how the game is played. Tens of millions of Americans, though, would have to non-vote in order to shake up the system, and for the time being it does not seem as if that is going to happen, but that’s because the media and the politicians are always against this and try to sell the idea that the only real exercise of one’s freedom as well as the only viable support for democracy is to pick a candidate. Non-voting will be played up as a wasted vote, throwing away one’s privilege–which is in itself heinous because voting is a right and not a privilege, and the right to vote is one that exists in face of obstacles or denial of those rights. My notions of voting rights is two-fold: first is the right which exists independent of lawful guarantees and protections, and the law that ensures the right is enacted and protected.


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