By Tim Baumann, Opinions Editor
Ten days have passed since Election Day 2011: 353 more will do so until we reach Election Day 2012. It may feel like a long time now, but trust me. When the races heat up, it’ll be absolutely interminable.
You’ll forgive me if I don’t vote on that day.
Between now and then, you will be absolutely bombarded with messages about the worthiness of the candidates on the municipal, state, and national levels.
Bribes will be taken, mud will be slung, and amid the apocalyptic discourse where the nation’s people will be either forgotten or ignored, a party will win. My guess: it will be either the most or second-most unreservedly capitalist party in the history of the world.
The confetti will fall from the ceiling, and the candidate will tell me all about the mandate that he feels he’s been given (even though the low percentage of people who voted for him hardly makes a mandate), and how he will bring back prosperity and pride to America.
Yet if he does as much as most American statesmen have, the sands of history are already swirling around his feet, ready to bury him.
It’s not because I know my vote is statistically worthless. Incidentally, it is statistically worthless, but that’s not the reason I forbear from voting in state and national elections. If we assume that half of the people who are eligible to vote do so in a national election, then that means I’m one of over 100 million voters.
We can think of it a different way. 100 million people scream. I scream, too. Do you hear me?
It’s not because I’m apathetic about American history, the American present, or the American future. As part of all three of those, it’s certainly in my interests to be invested in this nation. After all, I live here and pay taxes.
Most of all, it’s not because I’m unpatriotic. To borrow and slightly alter a phrase from Emma Goldman, as great a patriot as there has been in American history: I love America. I love her beauty, I love her riches, I love her mountains and her forests.
No, it’s because if I vote, that’s an implicit way of saying that I approve of the American political system as it stands today.
In our two-party system, if I feel that neither party is doing a good job of running the country, how can I air my grievances? Who will I petition? Where can I turn? And the short answer is: politically, I can neither air my grievances nor petition anyone nor turn anywhere.
And even if I were to help vote someone out of office who shouldn’t be there, the parties have a parade of identical paper dolls ready to take his place.
So will I vote for the parties that define themselves by what they are not, rather than what they are? I know that a Democrat is a not-Republican and vice versa. After that, your guess is as good as mine. And the analysts are telling us that the next presidential election might be as negative as any in history. No, thank you.
Will I vote for the parties which can agree on perhaps only one thing: military expenditures are a necessity, and expending more is better? Forget infrastructural repairs or public works programs or grants to public universities. Better to have a stealth bomber than a road. It’s better to make sure that we can kill people than it is to try to keep them alive. No, thank you.
Will I vote for the parties which have for decades been apeing King Louis XV of France? The deluge is coming any day now in respect to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; can they even be sure it will come after them? No, thank you.
Will I vote for the parties which are systematically destroying the American public school system in favor of a privatized model? Who can blame them? Corporations and businesses, after all, have been doing a stellar job with the American economy in the recent past. And doesn’t it make sense to entrust the education of our children to the lifelong businessmen rather than the lifelong professionals in the field? No, thank you.
Will I vote for the parties that always seem to claim that “the children are our future,” yet cannot ensure that some children will have one? 20% of American children now live below the federal poverty line. No, thank you.
Will I vote for the parties that profess a deep devotion to the God of Abraham, yet cannot seem to even remember the simplest teachings of Jesus? If the last will be first—if the best of us is the one who has mercy—if loving our neighbor is an actual imperative—if you cannot serve both God and Mammon—then there’s a real disconnect. Trust God with your eternal soul, but not the way you spend taxpayer dollars. No, thank you.
Will I vote for the parties that have decided that American interests must be represented in the domestic affairs of our neighbors? The recent American past was full of military interventions in Central America and the Caribbean, actively aiding dictators in the name of democracy and the free market. If we don’t remember, then that’s fine; there are wars in the Middle East to attract us now. No, thank you.
Will I vote for the parties that have overseen an incredible economic gap between richest and poorest in this nation? According to the New York Times, income inequality in this nation has not been so pronounced since the 1920s, with little reason to think it’ll change in the near future. No, thank you. No, I thank you! And again, I thank you!
Simply by being an American and living this lifestyle of bourgeois undergraduate student, I am guilty of many crimes. Still, I’d like to loosen my noose of privilege, and I know one way to do so:
I will not actively put my democratic trust in the hands of those who do not deserve it.