Sunday, December 5, 2010

Blah blah blah voting

So, there's no election I know of coming up or anything (though I'm sure there's one somewhere), but my slow-processing brain has been filtering through some discussion that happened in the build up to the recent one in the U.S., both in the blogonoosphere and in real life.

Fans of voting talk about non-voters as if they are by definition unengaged. They're usually pretty disparaging about it in one way or another; they'll talk about how so many people "don't even bother to vote," or they'll say that if you don't even vote, then you have no right to "complain" about the way things are. There's always that "even" (or something equivalent) there, implying that voting is somehow a minimum threshold for involvement, that if you don't even vote, then surely you can't be doing anything else.

Which is of course nonsense. It is, shockingly, very easy to not vote while simultaneously working towards meaningful change. On the other hand, in my experience many people find it even easier to just vote and think that that takes care of their responsibility to "get involved." The reality is that voting is like going to church in a lot of ways, and one of those ways is this: you can do it or not do it, according to what makes you feel best, but either way it doesn't make much difference here in the physical world. It's everything else you do in your life that matters.

So, I've been thinking about this stuff, and in the midst of my thinking came a bunch of posts about Ralph Nader. And I have no particular fondness or, uh, disfondness for the man, but it occurred to me that most of the people who get all het up about voting are staunch Nader-hating Thanks Ralphers, and that a lot of these same people have a fetish for grudgingly allowing that they would have a lot more respect for the guy if he would do anything in between elections, that just running for office every four years and not doing a single other thing just makes him seem hungry for attention*. Which is a lot like that whole thing about "Well, you don't hear any Muslims denouncing 9/11 now do you?" in that what you know is limited by what the media is willing to tell you and by what you're willing to seek out beyond that, and also in that it's an observation really only very tangentially related to anything important. But aside from that it's just awfully goofy coming from this crowd of voting-is-a-holy-obligation sanctimony machines.

So, I have to vote, or else it means that I just can't be bothered to care or to get involved. But if anyone worth voting for** comes along, they need to stop presenting themselves to be voted for and do other things that really matter.

Moral of the story: shut up and endorse existing power.

*Unlike, for example, Obama.
**You know, in a hypothetical world where this is a possibility


augustus818 said...

I just had this exact same argument with my girlfriend's mother not too long ago. Well it really wasn't much of an argument. It was more of her saying the exact same thing, "If you don't vote you have no right to complain. All non-voters are APATHETIC." to which I merely responded with, "There are many reasons why people don't vote. Most do not out of anger or disillusionment with the system among a myriad of other not so distinct reasons. Quite the opposite of apathy though." Which predictably, went right through one ear and out the other, to which she responded with, "Either way you have no right to complain if you did not vote." Thus proving the moral you have eloquently laid out.

Peter Ward said...

I'm with George Carlin, if you vote you have no right to complain .

Anyway--it's probably not worth mentioning--what a sham voting is. In midterms the incumbent reelection rate is 80%, if not higher and turn out is low compared to countries where people really have something worth voting for...say, Venezuela. Admonishing people to vote (for an approved Democrat or Republican) in this country is merely another tool to keep the public depoliticized.

By the way, "the Candidate", which astutely illustrates how the election process works--how it's really a marketing campaign--is currently on netflix

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AlanSmithee said...

That "Nader does nothing between elections" is a pathetic ancient canard left over from butthurt Koswhack whining about the 2000 election. No one, repeat NO ONE did more to build the Green Party from '96 - '00 than Ralph Nader. That fact that the DNC had to fund shills like Benjamin & Cobb to hijack the '04 convention shows how worried they really were about Nader.

Ethan said...

augustus818: Hah, sounds familiar. What's amazing is when you can point out concrete things that people do aside from voting that make a difference, and people still stick with the "if you're not voting, you're not doing anything" line.

Peter is exactly right when he says Admonishing people to vote (for an approved Democrat or Republican) in this country is merely another tool to keep the public depoliticized. And that's exactly what we're seeing in conversations like the ones augustus and I have had.

Thanks also, Peter, for the Carlin link. He's not always my favorite (I have some quibbles even with the opening of his bit here), but he's often spot-on, and it's always nice to see people who didn't compromise their message as they became older and more established.

coach outlet, why do you presume to speak for Lauren? If she was really excited about the blog, she can tell me herself. I'm inclined to believe your competitor here.

AlanSmithee, exactly (although I don't honestly know much about the specifics of the history; like I said, I don't have a dog in the race and frankly don't much care for the race at all). I just love the whole indignantly sputtering pose of "Well, I've passively received information about all of Obama's activities for the past four years. Certainly can't say that about Nader! What an attention hog."

Al Schumann said...

Nader pushes all the right liberal buttons, including and especially the merit button.

I think that one is the button that triggers the recourse to limping post hoc denunciations. In notional liberal terms, he's made all the right moves and been doing all the right things for decades. If they really believed in reformism as a political principle, and were willing to give him the support they'll give any hack Democrat, he could do quite a bit.

No wonder they hate him so. There's nothing worse than someone whose existence indicts an entire tribe.

Digressing, Lauren tells me she's given COO the heave-ho and is now dating TOTCO. A wise decision, by my way of thinking. The presumptuousness and fatuity, not to mention the shitty luggage, spell disaster for stable relationships.

Jack Crow said...

The problem with Nader is the problem with voting. Nader might push the buttons and piss off the legacy gliberals, but he has put thirty years of energy into getting people to vote.

Ethan said...

Lauren's smarter than we give her credit for.

Interesting points about why Nader is so detested, Al, though I do tend to agree with Jack about his overall significance. Still, I am a fan of anyone who singlehandedly proves the bulk of liberals to be massive hypocrites, so good for him!

Al Schumann said...

I can't tempt anyone into a vote for Good King Nader? He would indeed be a good king, for as long as he lasted.

But I do understand what you're getting at. The first problem is kings at all. The second is the farce of participating in what amounts to self-inflicted harm. The third is making a moral imperative of the first and second.

Jack Crow said...


I'm a football fan, so I'm used to giving my energy and time into enterprises which never give back, but from which I age and get unmanageable heartburn.

I'm not trying to take away another one of your spoonfuls, but I think cheering a sports team is far more productive than voting or campaigning.

And I was a campaign mercenary for longer than I care to admit. I am somewhat responsible for one of the zealot assclowns NH just inflicted on the nation, going a long number of years back, because I got a hold of information which would have tanked his marriage and his career and I squashed it as a favor to the boyfriend of one of my employees (who was a CoS for another critter).

Al Schumann said...

Jack, that's a good analogy and humorously expressed. I like it. And by all means warn me about the spoon if you think what I'm headed for amounts to a hot shot. It's the last thing I need, on top of heartburn, and I do appreciate the concern.

Serendipitous CAPTCHA "heatinas".

Ethan said...

Those captchas are appropriate far too often for my liking.