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One Reason to Vote

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”

This is from David Foster Wallace in Up, Simba! 

You can count me among the generally “bored and disgusted” by politics.  But I think this quote is right.  I’m ready for the circus to be over for a while.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kris Wragg November 6, 2012, 9:30 am

    Not voting is fine, as long as you do not complain about anything, ever, for the next four years.

    I don’t understand people who don’t vote but also love to complain that X really sucks and they wish that something was done about it.

  • Heather November 6, 2012, 11:27 am

    Will go do m’civic/feminist duty as soon as the plumber is done with my new water heater. It’s replacing the one that leaked all over my floor on Saturday.

    Up plumbers! Down with crap water heaters!

  • Sharyn November 7, 2012, 6:58 am

    In Australia we have to vote, or we get fined. It’s probably the reason that I find it strange that a significant number of people might choose not to exercise their democratic rights.

    I also can’t help wondering if maybe it’s why election campaigns are such a circus – because the candidates not only have to convince people to support them, but they have to convince people to actually get out there and vote.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 7, 2012, 8:58 am

      I like the idea of a fine. I also think you should have to prove you have a super-rudimentary grasp of the issues before checking the boxes.

      • Spencer November 9, 2012, 10:08 am

        But then no one would be allowed to vote, and where would that leave us?

        • Ara Bedrossian November 9, 2012, 10:17 am

          Spencer, if we think our neighbors are ignorant, stupid, or lazy, all is truly lost.

          • Spencer November 9, 2012, 2:35 pm

            Ara, my comment to Josh above is the only even semi-political comment I have made on the internet. Anywhere. Ever. You can check. And if you knew me better, you would know that I am (mostly) joking. But I would counter that NOT believing that AT LEAST SOME of your neighbors are ignorant, stupid, or lazy, is probably naive, and possibly even delusional.

            And I’m not even just talking about neighbors. I myself sometimes fall below the “super-rudimentary grasp” threshold in some areas. I think we all do, if we’re honest. The “whys” may be varied, and are probably too vast to fully flesh out here (if they can be fully fleshed out at all), but would probably include laziness, apathy, pessimism, and ennui. I think a lot of people are capable of knowing more, but don’t, either because they (1) don’t care, or (2) don’t think it would make any difference anyway.

            Going back to Josh’s original comment, think about its opposite. What kind of maxim would “I DON’T THINK you should have have EVEN a super-rudimentary grasp of the issues before checking the boxes” be? Does anyone believe that? Yes, I believe in democracy. Yes, I believe every vote should count the same. Yes, I believe in the freedom of choice. But I guess I just don’t understand a philosophy that would champion the uninformed decision. In fact, I find it a little bit scary.

            If our choices are not based on our understanding of issues, what are they based on? Mood? Whimsy? Hormones? Rhetoric? What we had for breakfast? Does knowing why you voted how you voted just make the experience “more meaningful,” or does NOT KNOWING why you voted how you voted make the choice practically meaningless? If all that matters is that a choice is made, regardless of what that choice is or why, one could argue that you might as well just choose to flip a coin, and let the chips fall where they may. It would save a lot of time and heartache.

            I’m not arguing any particular issue either way here. I’m simply saying, as a general matter, I am not shocked by the fact that some people experience frustration in a system where an uninformed decision counts just as much as an informed one.

  • Ara Bedrossian November 7, 2012, 7:03 am

    What a great quote!
    Voting is good. Knowing why you voted who you voted for is more meaningful.
    Political power or people power? The nation has spoken. Until next time…

  • Ara Bedrossian November 9, 2012, 2:55 pm

    Spencer, I agree, that some vote without knowledge, and that to me is pretty meaningless.
    I spend time conversing with people on the issues and consider that more valuable than my vote. Because people do want to know what is happening, they just feel helpless…Apathy is one thing, but encouraging helplessness is dangerous. We create the environment we end up in. Anyway, I understand what you’re saying. Have a good weekend.

    • Spencer November 9, 2012, 3:12 pm

      And I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I just enjoy knowledge. I enjoy learning. I can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to be informed, or would make such important choices without even attempting to know why. In a perfect system, they would all be informed decisions. At least I think so.

      We do create our own environment, and I admit that I am more negative and cynical than I should be. I’m working on it.

      You too; have a great weekend!