by William Skink
While I still greatly appreciate the independent blogging of James Conner at Flathead Memo, his condemnation of my choice not to vote gives me another opportunity to defend my decision.
The problem starts with how my choice is framed in the title of the post: Burning your ballot to keep your hands clean is a bad choice.
No American who pays taxes has clean hands, myself included. Half of every tax dollar is directed to the American killing machine deployed across the globe, protecting corporate investments and making the world less safe for those without private jets and islands getaways.
After the opening paragraphs, where Conner writes approvingly of Australia’s mandatory voting policy, he begins to make his case on why I am wrong in choosing not to vote:
Those who are eligible to vote, but choose not to cast ballots, may think they are keeping their hands clean by not using their vote to bless an unworthy candidate. Or they may think they are denying scoundrels political legitimacy. But by not voting, by refusing to make a choice, they are saying that all of the choices are acceptable, and that no one choice is less acceptable than any other choice. Which is nonsense.
I don’t think I’m keeping my hands clean, and I don’t presume to deny individual scoundrels political legitimacy. BUT the political SYSTEM–comprised of corrupt primaries, problematic technology (voting machines), skewed polling, biased media, and unlimited cash-speak–has created this crisis of legitimacy, and my choice not to vote is simply how I have decided to respond to this crisis.
Here is Conner continuing his lecture:
There is no legal penalty for opting out — but there is a moral penalty. Because not voting is a backhanded blessing of the election, those who chose not to vote lose the moral right to complain about the outcome of the election. That won’t stop them from complaining, or from asserting that not voting makes them more moral than those who stoop to voting. But it will, and should, stop others from listening to them or taking them seriously.
Because of my moral transgression, I should no longer have the right to complain, in addition to not being listened to and/or taken seriously. Got it. But instead of just getting all butt-hurt, I’d like to take a quick look at the notion of compulsory voting:
Supporters of compulsory voting generally look upon voter participation as a civic duty, similar to taxation, jury duty, compulsory education or military service; one of the ‘duties to community’ mentioned in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They believe that by introducing an obligation to vote, it helps to overcome the occasional inconvenience that voting imposes on an individual in order to produce governments with more stability, legitimacy and a genuine mandate to govern, which in turn benefits that individual even if their preferred candidate or party isn’t elected to power.
Another argument for compulsory voting systems is that it confers a high degree of political legitimacy because they result in high voter turnout. The victorious candidate represents a majority of the population, not just the politically motivated individuals who would vote without compulsion.
Legitimacy of the rulers to govern the ruled is the big orange-faced elephant in the room, and to mix metaphors, Trump is the raging bull in the China shop of American electoral legitimacy. He has claimed the process is rigged, and he’s right. Voting machines, and the billionaires who control them, can’t be trusted. And the over-sampled polls can’t be trusted. And the media whores can’t be trusted. And the candidates?
Down-ticket, state and local candidates, along with voter initiatives, have been the main reason I have continued voting after The Great Scam of 2008. But this cycle, I just can’t do it. The entire political system, imho, has lost legitimacy by being unresponsive to the concerns of 99% of the people who want the partisan divisiveness to end and legitimate efforts to rebuild this country to begin.
James Conner ends his post with this:
Elections seldom offer easy choices. All candidates have flaws. All ballot issues have drawbacks. But George Wallace’s assertion that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the major parties” was not true in 1968, and is not true now. There are differences, significant differences. Electing Donald Trump or Greg Gianforte results in one kind of nation or state. Electing Hillary Clinton or Steve Bullock results in another, very different, kind of nation or state. Denying that denies reality. Refusing to vote is a selfish, misguided, abdication of one’s civic obligation to chose how and by whom we are led.
If you’ve burned your ballot, hike on down to the elections office and get another ballot. There’s still time to do the right thing.
I’m thankful that I’m not obligated to vote for a political system that no longer responds to the majority of its constituents. If I was obliged, I would take the penalty for refusing to participate.
So burn your ballot, because any electoral impact you think you have went up in smoke years ago.