Politics for Anti-Politicians

You’ve heard it all before, I’m sure:

“If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.”

“Not voting is a vote for the winner and whatever his policies may be. If you don’t like him and them, you should have voted for the other guy.”

These little pieces of the conventional wisdom are based on the claim — sometimes explicitly made, sometimes just implied — that not voting constitutes consent to the choices made by those who do vote. That same conventional wisdom generally attributes the decision not to vote to “apathy.”

I’m not going to try to tell you whether or not you should vote. There’s plenty of reasonable disagreement within the movement for a stateless society on the subject. If you’re interested in the arguments, I suggest that you read Carl Watner’s “A Short Introduction to Non-Voting” on the one hand and Murray N. Rothbard’s “The Problem of the Libertarian Party,” which constitutes chapter four of his essay “Konkin on Libertarian Strategy.”

Whether or not you vote is a personal decision. If you decide not to vote, however, I’d like to suggest that you make that decision more meaningful by turning it into an anti-political turd in the political punchbowl. Or, to make myself more plain, you should make every effort to get your non-vote interpreted as you intend it to be interpreted rather than simply allowing the conventional wisdom claim of “tacit consent” to go uncontested.

The conventional wisdom says that not voting for anybody is “voting for the winner.”

The conventional wisdom says that if you don’t vote, it’s probably because you don’t care.

Stand up for yourself!

Declare clearly and publicly that your decision not to vote, if it’s to be considered a vote at all, should be considered a vote for NOBODY. And, further, insist that that vote for NOBODY should be … counted!

You’re not apathetic. You just don’t like any of the candidates. You don’t believe that any of them can represent you, or should be held out as doing so. You do not consent to be ruled or represented, at least not by any of the people applying for the job of ruling or representing you.

In any given election, those votes for NOBODY — votes not cast by registered voters, votes not cast by those eligible to vote who choose not to register, and votes not cast by those barred by the election laws from voting — would, if counted, generally constitute at least a plurality and usually a majority of all votes.

Your alleged representatives will, of course, studiously ignore you, and go about their business of pretending that they represent you, if they can get away with doing so.

If you don’t let them get away with it – if you and other non-voters make some real noise to the effect that these guys aren’t “your representatives” by any reasonable definition – it should get fun. Ever heard an egg-stealing dog yelp when the farmer catches it near the chicken coop and unloads shotgun shell full of rock salt at its ass? It’s very much like the sound a politician makes when forced to contend with the claim that his “services” are neither needed nor wanted. Personally, I find that sound curiously musical.

If you’re not going to vote, publicly declare before each major election that you’re not going to vote. Write a letter to the editor. Call a local talk radio show. Comment on your local newspaper’s web site beneath an article on the forthcoming election.

After the election, follow up in the same way:

“Of the 400,000 people living in this district, more than 300,000 did not vote for candidate X. More than 200,000 voted for NOBODY. The ‘winning’ candidate received the support of less than 25% of his alleged constituents. If this is really a democracy, shouldn’t that seat remain vacant for the term? That’s the unambiguously expressed will of the majority, after all.”

No, you’re not going to “win” an election in this way – the system is set up to prevent that from happening at all costs – but that’s beside the point. If you’re going to refrain from voting as an expression of your rejection of that system, the next step is to use that expression as an outreach tool. Raise your voice so that others like you can hear it and join in!

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory