Look at who we cast our votes for at the polls. Look again at who we get as choices in our elections. Look at our governor here in New York, or in any State where you live; look our present and past mayors in New York City. Look our current President, or any President prior to the man who was going to bring change. Change in politics is like chicken on a take-out Chinese menu. There are many, many non-choices, or variations so slight that they are virtually the same dish in micro-variegation. Why are we, though, surprised by the politicians we get, we elect . . . continually surprised as we are by business as usual in the business of politics–why? There is no simple answer? There is no one answer? There are too many valid responses? Questions always beget more questions. Are there really accidents in how our elections unfold, culminate? We act as if voting the way we customarily do in America were the only solution for the problems in our political process. Our political process is problematic enough, especially if we expect the process to function democratically in ways other than the demos, that is, the people, coming out in droves to cast ballots. If we expect the people to be the guardians of their liberty, the defenders of freedom and the maintainers of our democracy, then there is something seriously amiss in our political processes. If democracy has come to mean the people coming out en masse to cast ballots, then voting in totalitarian societies has also been democratic. We act as if choosing a candidate while casting a vote were the only way to vote; as if it were the only way to be counted; as if it were an obligation to pick one of the candidates, choosing as one does at the Kentucky Derby. Let’s pick the winner.
You are not obliged to choose one or the other candidate in the process of casting a vote. Primarily and ultimately a vote in favor of one or another candidate is a vote in favor of the Status Quo; things as they are are good enough is what casting a vote in the conventional way says. The Status Quo is represented by any candidate on the ballot; no candidate in the system of voting we have now can oppose the Status Quo. Before choosing a candidate becomes an act of serving democracy, it is a voice in assent for the state of democracy at present; how it is the way it should be in the minds of those who vote. I guess democracy in America has come to where the people are free to go to hell in a hand cart.
We continue to vote as we do, going to the polls and casting a ballot for the lesser of two evils, time and time again, as if going to the polls to be counted but picking neither candidate were not an option. But it is an option, this going to the polls and not choosing a candidate while simultaneously being counted as someone who wanted to choose. Not-choosing a candidate at the polls is an option, and it is a viable one, if what is intended by voting is actual political change–and that is not change as presented in Obama’s first campaign, a packaging of change that came in the product of him being the first African-American man (albeit, half African-American man) to become President. What anyone owed him after that was exactly zero, at least in the dynamics of power politics. The act represented by the word ‘change’ became subjected to the energy of the word contained in the slogan.
If millions of registered non-votes were to be counted, this would, not could, shake up the party system, a system that functions not on possible voters, but probable voters, voters who are up for grabs, and no one who has chosen to stay home is a voter up for grabs–they are potential voters, but not undecided voters, not once they stay home. The only truly undecided voter–the only actual voter who scares politicians into having to change to garner that vote is the voter who goes to the pols but does not pick a candidate; that is, in so much as the number of them becomes significant. The higher the number of these, the lesser the mandate of any candidate.
Votes counted but not designated for any political party are the only votes up for grabs. Politicians only care about votes that are up for grabs. Democrats don’t care about dyed in the wool Republicans and vice-versa. Neither cares about the guy or gal who stays home, the dyed in the wool non-participant. Staying home is a choice and one of apathy. The apathetic are a step removed from the circle that encloses voters socially. Someone who stays home is not someone who wants to vote; not even Obama increased the voters who came to the polls significantly. The one who stays home is not someone who wants to vote; the one who non-votes is. He can be counted on more reliably than the guy who stays home. The one who does come to the polls supports the status quo; the one who votes for one or another candidate endorses the Status Quo.
Now go to the polls and non-vote, this says things are not as they should be, the candidates are unacceptable; party politics as it gets played in America is unacceptable. Let tens of millions of Americans do the same and watch the Democrats and Republicans squirm for these votes. There will always be a percentage of the vote either major party candidate cannot claim. The percentage of the vote when tallied among the candidates will be significantly less than 100 percent. We know that less than fifty per cent of those who could vote, do vote, but that’s just the point. There is still a 100 per cent of the forty-eight per cent who came to the polls. Now lets increase the number of people who come to the polls and decrease each party’s allotment of those increased votes and we will shake up the parties as they are now aligned. Neither one could think of claiming a mandate. We would see some changes as both parties scrambled for the attention of the votes up for grabs.
Again, a vote for any candidate, even alternative ones, is a vote for the status quo. The way politics are managed is okay. Staying home only says: you go one and continue to do things the way you do but I will not participate because I do not like it and would prefer to stay home and do nothing; you can go on as you have; I will not bother you with my votes any longer. Non votes are scary votes because they can be anyone’s votes because they say I want to participate but only the right candidate will get them. Democrats and Republicans faced with millions of non-votes would have to change. When the non-voters become a party of voters and not politicians, the politicians will need to ask what they have to do to get the votes up for grabs.