Before I go into depth explaining why I didn’t vote this year, I think it would be helpful to explain why I did vote in the previous elections. I am 35 years old and I have voted in every single election since I was 18 years old, and even participated in Kid Vote when I was 15 and 17 years old. As a teenager I participated in the symbolic gesture of Kid Vote, because I held faith and hope in the political process— and I held that faith until now.
Historically, inclusive of my Kid Vote, I have voted for the winning candidate/proposition about 80% of the time— so, my resistance to participating is not because I am sore loser or because I think that my vote doesn’t count or is not heard. It may sound like I am being pessimistic, but that is the furthest from the truth— my position is actually quite optimistic, of which I will explain.
The idea of voting or rather the idea of the democratic process is one of the greatest human inventions. The notion that we can gather together as a group and dynamically decide how we self-govern ourselves through a process of perpetual forward progression has, in my mind, the semblance of utopia. It is a system fundamentally based on the principle that nothing is perfect and we know that, so we can change it as we go — by voting. The principle that each of us can retain our right of body, mind and culture — freely and without persecution. The duality of championing both the individual and the collective in a simultaneous act. On paper— we live in a beautiful society.
However, my point of departure lies in the discrepancy between the idea of America, democracy and voting, and the reality of things. What is the value of my vote if the winning candidate will always be the candidate with the most campaign funding? What is the value of my vote if the proposition with the most corporate sponsorship is the one that passes? If we are going to champion the idea of democracy by taking part in this democratic gesture of voting, then why don’t we champion the ideas on the ballots? The best candidate should be the one with the best ideas to promote the greater good, not the one’s who can pocket their values on a whim to say Yes Sir, May I have Another to any willing and well-funded lobbyist.
Blindly hoping that a congressional seat here and a senate seat there and maybe, just maybe, gaining majority leadership will grossly change the tidal forces of Washington is just naive. Obama campaigned on the heel of the 2008 financial meltdown and preached Change, and what has Changed? The people who gambled with the bank accounts of working-class Americans and caused our recession profited off our downfall and, get this, they are all still in charge— NOTHING HAS CHANGED! Think real hard to how much money you were making back in 2011, after the recession broke. How does that figure compare to your income today? Any better? Maybe the next time you sit in traffic on your way to work you can ponder what you’d do with an extra 25% of income— as the Job Creators who destroyed our economy have increased their wealth by 26% from 2011-2014. Has your salary gone up 25% in 3 years? Do you feel the trickle down? Is there less disparity? How about the inflated costs of healthcare and education— is that resolved?
You may read this and think I am a jaded and have lost hope, but the reality is I have not. For example, I would never give somebody an empty, unsigned birthday card that I selected without any thought or sincerity. I would not do this, because the idea of getting her a present is completely useless if the contents of the idea do not contain any value. I, as a patriot and an American, pridefully back the ideas and principles that our country was founded upon, but if the contents of this idea begin to grow corrupt, superficial and automatic — then, what is the point?
I am optimistic that one day enough of us will stop and realize that the system is unjust, unequal and unfair and we will become awakened to the fact that we live in a fucking Plutocracy. And after this realization, I hope the empty and shallow gesture of voting will be seen for what it really is— an illusion.
And what happens when the tool we use for promoting change in our society becomes the thing we need to change? If my hammer grows weary and disfigured from misuse, it would be irrational to keep pounding in hopes that it may one day magically fix itself. In the case of a hammer— I will replace it with a better model. In the case of our disfigured and misused democracy— a new model of democracy will never appear on the ballot.
We are only free insofar that we effectively strive to free ourselves.