I heard it on the radio just today as I was going to work. A couple of jocks were venturing into the realm of politics on their radio talk show, and they started addressing the field of candidates currently in the United States’ presidential race for 2016. They were talking about the decline of religion’s influence over politics, and one quoted a statistic that some 30 million evangelical Americans didn’t take part in the 2012 election. Then, one of the hosts made a comment that I have heard hundreds of times, especially in election years. He said that anyone that doesn’t get out and vote has absolutely no right to complain about anything.
It’s a statement that people make without even really thinking about it. With all the “Rock the Vote” campaigns where uber-popular and cool celebrities try to encourage people to do their “civic duty” and vote, we have created a culture where to conscientiously object to the process is considered to be almost a crime. They try to paint the picture that if you don’t vote in an election when you are eligible to do so, it means that all of those valiant soldiers that died for your freedom are being dissed by you and your laziness. It means that you either don’t care and your just the kind of person that likes to complain without wanting to do your part. They brainwash people into thinking that way, and it works. The truth is that people that don’t vote, if they do it for the right reasons, have every right to complain.
Yes, some people just don’t care. And if you just are apolitical and could not care less about any of it and you don’t vote, perhaps you can make the argument that you don’t really have a right to complain about the government. However, if you really are one of those people that simply isn’t interested, chances are you weren’t doing a whole lot of complaining anyway. It’s the other group, those that would love to vote if they were given a system and a candidate that they could attach their “civic duty” to and come away feeling good about it. American politics has become so watered down by corruption and the ever-warring but ever-colluding two-party political system that every election now consists of nothing but people going to the polls to cast their vote for the lesser of two evils. If there is an independent candidate, they can vote for them, but everyone knows that is like not voting at all because our system is wired so that there is no chance for them to win. You don’t vote for the candidate you believe in. You vote for the candidate that you think is likely to do the least amount of damage to the country in the next four years.
As we gear up for 2016, there is absolutely nothing looking different. Hillary Clinton is plagued in scandal, and almost no one in America on either side of the political aisle can really say they trust her as far as they can throw her. If Vice President Joe Biden gets in the race, everyone regards that as just Obama Part III. The guy behind Hillary, Bernie Sanders, is making a big splash, but he’s just employing a tried-and-true political tactic that seems new because the last couple of elections have all been about wars and “hope and change.” Bernie is kicking it old school by simply making a bunch of absurd promises that he cannot keep and in fact has no intention of attempting to keep. Bernie Sanders knows that the minimum wage is never going to be increased to $15 per hour, especially with a Republican-controlled Congress. Free public college sounds great, but it’ll never pass, and there’s not money to pay for it. Even if there is, it’s a real bum deal for millions of Americans swimming in student loan debt that did have to pay for their college education (or are still paying, as it were). The reality is that Bernie Sanders is saying a lot of pretty things to get a lot of naive people to jump on his bandwagon. It works, and it is working for him.
That was a quick look at the Democratic side. The Republican side is even more troubling, regardless of how you feel about the general politics of it. Donald Trump has somehow risen to the top of one of the biggest fields of candidates ever, a sure sign that America is just so tired of career politicians that almost anyone that is not seems like a viable option. After Trump, you have Jeb Bush, a guy whose name alone is enough to make people shudder. After that, you have a strange crew of candidates that aren’t particularly good speakers, don’t really have any direction to their ideas, and mostly just try to appeal to Bible thumpers by trying to convince everyone that they are being persecuted and discriminated against. That’s an interesting strategy for Republicans to take with their base, as they borrowed it directly from the Democrats who have made their living in politics convincing people they were being done wrong for generations. These are our options. Why would anyone want to vote?
Yes, voting is a sacred part of America’s supposed tradition of freedom and democracy. But what does it mean when the system is just setting you up for more disappointment. Just look at President Barack Obama. He is a great example. He was a breath of fresh air when he came on the national scene, and even diehard Republicans couldn’t help but be a little inspired by him. Then, he won the election, and as soon as he was inaugurated, it was clear that he was just more of the same, albeit with a little darker skin tone. People that voted for Obama still don’t seem to grasp that for his first four years, he mostly continued the policies of George W. Bush, just putting it different in speeches and having the sympathy of the American people for having inherited such a mess, so much in fact that the American people gave him a half-a-decade pass for doing almost nothing about it.
So, that old phrase that if you don’t vote, shut your mouth needs to be permanently retired. It’s absurd. Maybe if more people didn’t vote, we might put the system in a position where it had to change because it became so apparent that it no longer represented anything even resembling the will of the people. What if no one voted at all? Would they assume the responsibility of selecting the President themselves? And why on Earth do we need an electoral college system in an era where the Internet makes it possible for each and every person’s voice and vote to be heard? Yet we rely on an archaic system that was designed to make sure that if Americans ever picked someone a little too far out of the normal political spectrum to get behind, Congress can still use the electoral college to veto it and stop the system from getting away from them.
I have a right not to vote. It’s not because I’m lazy, uninformed, or don’t care. It’s because I do care. Just like when you sign your name to something, or put your good name down on a credit application, I believe that when you cast that vote, you take some responsibility for that person and what they do going forward. People that voted for George W. Bush, especially the second time, deserve a little blame for how that went down. People that voted for President Obama deserve the blame or credit as it were. In so many states, the two-party system has it so perfectly divided that if you aren’t voting for the winning side, your vote really doesn’t count. People aren’t stupid; they know this.
Not voting is voting, in a manner of speaking. It’s voting against a corrupt system that doesn’t serve the people any longer, if it ever did to begin with, and it needs to be changed so that it does. Until then, people that don’t vote because they don’t see someone to vote for and someone to attach their name to have every right to complain about whatever they like, because it’s the other guys casting their votes that are keeping that system intact and making people believe that it still works despite a preponderance of evidence telling us otherwise.