Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting Is Bullshit

A few weeks ago I got into a heated argument with a couple of friends after I told them I wasn't going to vote. I heard all the usual sanctimonious crap: "Don't you care about this country?" "Don't you want to change things?" "How can you just give up?" "It's because of people like you that Bush is president." And so on.


I tried to make my nonvoting position clear to them, to explain the philosophy behind it, but to no avail. "Statish thinking"* was too ingrained in them, as it is in most people these days. I know; I used to be one of them.

So why do I refuse to vote now? Boiled down to its simplest, bumper-sticker essence, the argument can be summed up with these assorted witticisms:

  • If voting could change anything, it would be illegal.

  • Don't vote; it only encourages them.

  • You can't fight City Hall, but you can pee on the steps and run.

  • I have better things to do, like shave my back hair.**
Maybe a little flip, yes, but I think there are some important truths in these sayings that too many people want to overlook. One at a time:

If voting could change anything... There are any number of ways in which the voting game is rigged toward a particular outcome, not the least of which is essentially forcing most folks to vote for a Republican asshole or a Democrat asshole. I used to say I supported a two-party system; we just needed to find a second party. I don't know that that even matters anymore. You're always voting for government.

Don't vote... Seriously, there is much wisdom in this, and it's probably key to why I decided to stop engaging in the voting ritual altogether. The corollary to it is that answer to the "Don't blame me, I voted for [losing candidate]" mentality: "Don't blame me, I didn't vote."

You can't fight... This one's pretty self-explanatory, I think, especially to anyone who's had to deal with any government agency, from the IRS to the DMV to the local planning commission. You can bitch and moan, but in the end they generally win. Even if you "win," it's somewhat Pyrrhic because in a perfect world you would never have to waste your time and money dealing with the sorts of petty ass clowns who mostly make up government bureaucracies.

I have better things... I wrote a column some years ago about this, so I won't re-hash it here.

OK, there may be times when voting for or against some particular government thing or other is worthwhile -- like maybe at the local level, and especially if it's to say no to some lousy tax hike. But pretty much it is a worse than useless exercise, if you ask me.

My friends criticized me for making a "statement" that no one would heed because, well, someone would be elected with or without my participation. But I'm not necessarily trying to make any statement, at least not directly. I'm just trying to keep my self-respect.

See, the key to the whole thing is the matter of whether or not one accepts the legitimacy of what our politicians are doing. By voting, you are in essence conferring on them a legitimacy they simply have not earned and do not deserve. By not voting, you're saying, "I don't give a crap what you say, you don't speak for me anyway." You refuse to accept the losing premise. (Remember the movie WarGames? It seems the only way to win is not to play.)

And the nonvoting "statement" doesn't go unnoticed, either. How many handwringing stories about apathy and low voter turnout do we see every single election cycle? Exactly. To quote John Cleese, "a lot."

This is where I would add another little saying I came up with all by my own bad self: "If enough of us ignore them, maybe they will go away." You see my point.

But what about democracy, civic duty, and blah, blah, blah? Rubbish, I say. What about my duty to the people and things that really matter in my life? My friends, family, cats, numerous girlfriends? They're more deserving of my time and attention than Jennifer Granholm or Dick DeVos, and they always will be.

Am I some pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic anarchist? Maybe. But I would argue I'm more realistic than the people who keep voting for dipshit politicians and then acting surprised or disappointed when the result is dipshits taking over more and more of the decisions in life that really ought to remain personal and voluntary.

So, yeah, when my friends turn to me and roll their eyes whenever yet another stupid commercial for some stupid politician comes on, I just smirk and say, "And you want me to encourage these jerks?"

Thank heaven all this stupid crap will be over after today. At least, until next year.

Vote tonight? Screw that. I'm going bowling.

* Credit for this term goes to Nicholas Strakon of The Last Ditch, a provocative if not prolific web 'zine.

** For illustrative purposes only: I don't have back hair. You can relax, ladies.