I’ve been interested in politics for most of my life. I was probably more genuinely interested in the Clinton scandal than any adolescent had any business being. This may surprise some readers—I don’t go into politics on this blog much. Even now, I would still rather be talking about how much I love England, The Avengers, Fredric March, and gin.
About a year ago, already sick of election coverage and discussions, I gave up and began to give in to apathy. However, in recent weeks, my conscience has been pricked here and there. Today, I felt an all-out stab. I thought I’d hit the road back toward what used to be one of my strongest passions, starting with a general post about where I stand on voting.
I still don’t care much about the US presidential election, for several reasons. First of all, I am neither Republican nor Democrat, and do not like either Obama or Romney. Secondly, I am 99.9% certain that Obama will be re-elected. Big whoop. Thirdly, I do not think the differences between Democrats and Republicans are strong enough that the outcome of the presidential election will make a massive difference. Fourthly, I do not vote.
Of all the reasons why I haven’t been following the election, this fourth thing gets the strongest reactions from people. That’s why I hate saying that I don’t vote, even if it’s true. I voted Libertarian in the 2004 election (the first presidential election in which I was old enough to vote). Then I voted to nominate Ron Paul for the 2008 Republican candidate for president, the last time I participated in any US election. I would still describe myself as a libertarian Ron Paul supporter.
You can find plenty of blogs and articles telling you why you shouldn’t vote. I’m not going to do that. This is my blog, so I’m only going to tell you why I do not vote. I came to the decision after years of reading a variety of articles, of thinking through facts and opinions, and having my own experiences. Often I can pinpoint a specific article or person that had the most effect on my views—I will try to link to that whenever possible. Other times, my opinions spring from a hodgepodge of things.
Now, I’ve had people gasp in shock and say “But it’s your civic duty!” The thing is, it’s not. It is my right as an American to participate in American elections. It is not a duty. It is not an obligation. It is a choice. And if I decide that it is not a right I find worthwhile to exercise, that is my choice. I don’t have an obligation to go to church—God does not take attendance. I have a right to go, and I choose to go every most Sundays because I believe it is worthwhile.
I also do not believe that refusing to vote means that you give up the right to complain about the outcome. I cannot respond to that argument any better than the late, great comedian and prophet George Carlin did (Oh, and it’s George Carlin, so, you know…language warning and all that):
. . .
When I say that I do not vote, usually people assume that I do not care about the outcome. That may be true in some cases—especially in local elections, when I never know how long I’ll be living in a certain area. However, not voting does not always mean I am not interested in the outcome. It may only mean that I did not find it worth my time to participate. In the same way, not voting does not mean that I do not have an opinion or an interest, or am uninformed—all incorrect assumptions people tend to make when they hear that I do not vote. I have very strong principles regarding many political topics. Not all of them come up in elections, and even then, I’m not sure I would vote.
So why don’t I think voting is worthwhile?
In general, I do not believe that 51% should be able to dictate how 49% live their lives. Especially in a nation as large and varied as the United States. I do not believe that Person A should be able to decide, by their vote, whether or not Person B has to pay more in taxes, or who Person B can marry, or what kind of commerce they can engage in. I touched on this a little bit in my post back in May about same-sex marriage.
I also believe that, by voting, I would be implicitly saying that I support the current system of government. But I don’t. It’s so difficult for me to be succinct because my beliefs and opinions are so interconnected across a wide range of topics, but I will try. I believe in minimal government—dare I say, no government. I believe that the current system is broken, and it cannot be fixed by continued participation in it. By writing polite letters to a congressman I did not choose and by “getting out the vote,” I am implying that I believe that the current system can bring about the change I want to see. But I do not and cannot believe that.
Many of the issues that I have strong opinions about—war, drug legalization, healthcare, and free markets, for example—will not be on the ballot in November. The act of voting lends an undeserved air of legitimacy to officials, who—in the longtime tradition of those who hold any political power—win elections only to then go about the business of doing whatever the hell they wanted to do anyway.
Remember the first bailouts in 2008, under then-President George W. Bush? Public opinion was—and continues to be—strongly against this move. People called their elected representatives, spoke out, and staged protests—and they allowed it anyway. This was, in fact, the issue that pushed me away from being a small-government libertarian (a “minarchist,” if you will) and planted my feet firmly in the camp of anarcho-capitalism (or “voluntaryism,” as it is also known).
So on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, I will not be in line to make a checkmark for the lesser of two evils (and when it comes to the two major candidates, I don’t believe one is any better than the other). I will be at home, probably watching The Avengers and drinking gin. If you believe you must exercise this right, go ahead. But I will not—and I have my reasons.
(Now that I have broached this subject on my blog, maybe this will inspire me to do other posts about specific issues that I believe in. Not to worry, my friends and readers—this is not about to become a politics-only blog. I will still be primarily sharing spiritual insights, fangirling, and pictures of my travels, but I’m going to try to shake it up a little more now and again.)