"If you don't vote, you can't complain"About 7:15 last night, attempting to take a nap, that was blaring out of some soundtruck, telling people there was still time to vote, but "If you don't vote, you can't complain." Having voted several hours earlier, I opened the window and told them to SHUT THE FUCK UP. One of the many things I hate about election time is stupidity like that - insulting the intelligence of the very people you are hoping to convince to support you. And every election year, people come up with the ridiculous idea that your freedom of speech is somehow linked to your exercising your right to vote. Perhaps they mean something more like: "if you don't participate in the electoral process, (which will never get you what you want anyway), I am not interested in hearing your opinions." Fine. (But i must add - the fact that you did vote won't make me any more interested in your opinions.) But what I've said for many years, and I believe is fairly rational, is that voting does not make a difference; or rather, my single vote does not make a difference. The notion that my vote counts is just plain wrong; in the sense that whether I vote, or which way I vote will affect the outcome, there is not a single election that I have voted in, or was eligible to vote in, where that one single vote would have changed the outcome. And I think we all know that. ("oh, but if everyone thought that, where would we be?" - um, we would have thousands of empty political offices, and then maybe someone would take notice). I think that those folks who don't consciously grasp that will always be disappointed, and will employ soundtrucks to lambast their neighbors with silly notions of "you don't get to complain."
But even though I think voting is irrational, it is still something I usually do. But I think what matters is what happens before we vote; some kind of connection to our community that despite the "fact" that it doesn't matter, we still want to speak up, wait in line with our neighbors, get disgusted over the choices, and pull a few levers. For me, and I would argue for most people, it is an emotional response - which I don't think is a bad thing, actually. Most elections, my choice was dictated by fear and or anger. (1980, perhaps disgust, but I am not sure that's technically an emotion - Barry Commoner; 1984, fear led me to pull the lever for Mondale, crying in the voting booth; 1988 it was anger, and a write-in for myself; 1992, a vote I still regret, but consciously made at the time as a "I don't want to be the a-hole who keeps saying I DIDN'T VOTE FOR HIM, DON'T BLAME ME" - Clinton; 1996, I honestly can't remember, it certainly wasn't Clinton; 2000, Nader.) Recently I read some outrageous argument that younger voters are smarter than older voters, simply because they vote in lower percentages. The reasoning being that they have somehow "rightfully" concluded that the process doesn't yield what it often promises, and that it is a waste of time. I don't recall that same article mentioning that Blacks, the poor, immigrants, people who speak English as a second language, etc - that any of these folks are smarter than the rest of us. I ASS-ume that the writer of the article was one of these wise young persons. I think it would be more accurate to surmise that people who feel less connected to their communities, to the rest of their city, state, nation, don't vote. I think several people have advocated the mandatory "none of the above" punch in every election. I whole-heartedly agree with the idea, as I think there are plenty of us dissatisified with the choices we are given, and the whole "lesser of two evils" dilemna is just too distatsteful. (Funny, in American Government class in high school, I don't remember the chapter on how to choose the evil the best represents me.) A tallying of all of us who find the choices given to us by the two major parties to be unacceptable might just yield some useful information, and put to rest the notion that non-voters are apathetic (look it up - apathy is not caring, and believe me, the times I didn't vote I was very far away from not caring).
Here in NYC, I went to vote knowing full well there was nothing in my district or state that was of much interest (polls having told us who would win for governor, attorney general, etc) but it was fairly amusing to see that my Congressperson was running unapposed by the Republican party (well, not really amusing, just another example of how money matters more that principle, as they don't want to spend money on a sure-losing battle), and that each and every State judicial postion, the candidates listed in the Republican column were identical to the candidates listed in the Democratic column. (Um, which lever do I pull? If I pull Joe Schmoe's name under "democrat" will he go easier on the criminals, and if I pick Joe Schmoe's name under Republican, will he lock them up forever?) I left many spots empty, but certainly would've prefered a non-of-the-above choice when Republican Schmoe was running against Democrat Schmoe; but I picked 2 or 3 Greens, 1 or 2 Liberterians, and a handful of Workers Family Party candidates. Guess what? Not a single one of my choices was victorious - but at least I am entitled to complain now.