So here we go again. Another biennial US election season draws to a close and here come the solemn multi-partisan invocations of civic duty: Exercise that franchise. Pull that lever, push that button, mark that box. The future of western civilization depends on you. And if you don’t vote, don’t complain.
Question: If I don’t drive around my neighborhood at 3am blasting Metallica out my car window at 140 decibels, am I boorish or hypocritical to complain about those who do?
If anything, those who DO vote are the ones giving up their rightful prerogative of complaint. They agreed to the process, filled out the paperwork, cast their ballots. They own the outcomes. Non-voters didn’t ask for the process, didn’t participate in the process, and probably either actively dislike — or at most don’t care much about — the outcomes.
I’m personally on and off about voting. After 20 years of religiously schlepping down to the polling place every other November (and at odd times in between) I stopped for four years. I fell off the wagon this year (to vote the Libertarian slate and support medical marijuana in Florida), but looking back I see that had I voted in 2010 or 2012, my vote wouldn’t have shifted the result in so much as a single race. Nor, if it had, would the different follow-on outcomes have likely been substantially different.
Unlike some anarchists and voluntaryists, I don’t morally condemn voting. I’m with Murray Rothbard on “defensive voting.” The system exists, its overseers are elected, and there’s nothing wrong with the individual slaves choosing, since they’re allowed to, masters less enamored of the whip.
On the other hand, the average elected official receives the active consent of fewer than one in four of the constituents he or she purports to “represent.” There’s something to be said for the possibility of organizing non-voters against the whole charade of “consent.”
So I’m still on the fence. One reason I’m comfortable with voting this year is that it’s likely the least consequential election since the turn of the century and probably for some time before. I know the pundits keep telling you otherwise, but think about it:
The big question this year is whether or not the Republican Party will get to 51 seats in the US Senate.
The Republicans have controlled the US House of Representatives since January of 2011. Since then, not a single bill has become law, nor has a single dime been spent by the US government, without Republican approval.
Politically, the last four years were a cooperative Republican/Democrat enterprise. And unless the Republicans win their way to 67 seats in the US Senate and 291 in the US House — neither of which will happen — so that they can override presidential vetoes, that’s the next two years as well.
So go vote. Or stay home and watch reruns of “How I Met Your Mother.” Either way, feel free to complain all you like. I know I will.
Citations to this article:
- Thomas L. Knapp, If You Vote — or Don’t Vote — Complain, Jacksonville, Florida Free Press, 10/31/14