It’s An Election Year. If You Don’t Vote, Don’t Complain

What always manages to astonish me about various “politically aware” people is their failure to recognize that there’s an election every year in many parts of this country.  They seem to believe that only the presidential election years matter, or if they’re stretching a bit, the even year House races.  Yet it’s the “off year” elections that have more impact on people’s daily lives which are ignored.  This year, many states are having their local elections.  We’re going to be selecting mayors, and town and county officials, along with (in some states) judges.  Various propositions will be on ballots, which will  impact your local and state taxes as well as its direction.  All the things which you tend to take for granted:  Street lights on; road plowed; water and sewer systems work; police and fire departments are there; and what the schools are like will all be determined by who gets elected.

Early  last year, I posted a rather blunt point:  If you don’t vote, you don’t matter.  The core point?

Parties care about what their voters think.  If you’re not one of those voters, then politicians don’t care what you think.   Which is something that a number of people who claim to be “on the Left” or “speaking for The Left” keep ignoring by saying that people should “send a message” by not voting.    It doesn’t matter why you’re not voting, it just means you removed yourself from any say in what the politicians who were elected into office are going to do.

At the time, we were heading into a presidential election year, and I was not in the mood to hear the same crap I’d heard from various Left “pundits” and “activists” about “sending a message” by not voting.   That was the drumbeat from them in 2010, which ended up giving us Republican control of the House.  Which has had consequences we’re still experiencing, and it wasn’t the “purification of the Democratic Party” and mass shift to the Left that those idiots expected.

What prompted me to repeat that point – again – has been that rather than learning that lesson, there’s still a bunch of idiots out there.  Case in point, Russell Brand wrote a column where he talked about politics.  He doesn’t vote, but he has opinions, mostly a mish-mash of generalized concepts.  Well, he’s a comedian, so who cares?  Apparently, a lot of nitwits latched on to it, and are taking it as a great manifesto!   There’s also this from Natasha Lennard at Slate, where she supposedly attacks Brand, but ends up being just like him:

Like Brand, I don’t vote (I’m British, but even if I were American, I wouldn’t). Like Brand, I will not give my mandate to this festering quagmire of a corporate political system (any more than living in it already demands, that is). A thorough anti-voting argument is beyond the remit of these paragraphs; suffice to say there are other ways and hows to enact politics. And, like Brand, I refuse to say what I propose instead when badgered by staunch defenders of capitalism.

Right.  Her “principled stand” is to refuse to participate.  Which means that in real politics, her opinion amounts to a fart in the wind.  Chez Pazienza over at the Daily Banter ruthlessly (recommend reading, BTW) dissects that argument:

Would you like to know why Occupy was a failure as a movement? Read that again. Over and over if necessary.

See, here’s the thing: The reason intelligent people tend to ask the question of those who want to just tear down our admittedly screwed-up political paradigm, “Well, once that’s done, what do you want to work for to put in its place,” is that a political system in and of itself isn’t a blood-sucking monster. You can live without a blood-sucking monster on your face — society can’t exist without some form of representative government.

Here’s the other thing:  The way you change the system, absent revolutions (which are inherently messy), is to vote.  Principled stand “not to participate?”  It’s crap.  What it really amounts to is an excuse, a way of saying you don’t have any interest in changing things, and you really don’t care about any consequences.  If you’re complaining about the “festering quagmire of a corporate political system” and you’re not voting, then what you just told me is that you really don’t give a damn about that, as long as you think it won’t affect your comfortable little lifestyle.

You also don’t get to call yourself “a base of the party.”  Really, you don’t.  A base is group of reliable voters.  They’re the ones who are guaranteed to be in the voting booth on election day.  Every election day.  They’re the ones that politicians at all levels pay attention to, because they matter.  If you’re not one of them, you can be ignored, and your screaming about principles and ideals will amount to “all sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Tomorrow is Election Day.  The results of this election will affect you directly in your daily lives.  If you can’t bring yourself to vote, then when something in your town or city isn’t done or turns out not to be acceptable to you, you can’t complain.  After all,  you believed there weren’t consequences, so when there are, remember… you asked for it.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “It’s An Election Year. If You Don’t Vote, Don’t Complain

  1. I agree with you that local and even state elections are more important than national ones because they impact us more directly. But though Brand has never been a favorite of mine (in fact I have never liked him at all as a performer) and is now trying to be serious politically, I think he makes a cogent point about how our votes seem wasted in national elections, especially here in the states, where it concerns the two major Parties.

    Both Parties have sold their soul to some degree to corporate special interest. Obviously the GOP has thrown more into this than the Democrats but upon close inspection, both parties dress up there legislation to appeal to voters and then for the most part do what ever the monied interests are backing. Brand was not suggesting that there are not national options outside of the GOP and Democratic Parties and it is there where people frustrated with politics should redirect themselves.

    National elections too get bogged down with the fortunes that are spent on campaigns attacking others on the wedge issues and disguise their self-serving interests with the flag and the cross. Mainstream media has abdicated their position as objective observer mainly because the wealthy interests have bought them out.

    Yes, we should still vote in national elections because “society can’t exist without some form of representative government”. For the time being too there does seem to be a “lesser of the two evils” choices. But the real effectiveness comes at the grass roots level that we are beginning to see more and more of and are catching the eye and ear of the politician at every level. It all starts at the local level. The right wing has picked up on this and had some of there greatest success within state legislatures. The left has has had some of there greatest success at the local levels, even in very Red states.

    It is these efforts that to need our greatest focus and energy. In due course they will impact the D.C. Beltway that moves like a slug anyway. Voting however still relies on people being informed. So simply voting for the lesser of two evils and then not pushing for the changes that were hoped for in electing the candidate of our choice is really meaningless.

    • One of the things that has seriously annoyed me with various of the Left is that they expect things to change “now.” Consider that it took almost 15 years for the Republican conservatives to gain a serious foothold within the Party, and at least 15 after that to gain a majority in Congress.

      They did it by starting at the local level, reliably turning out to vote, and being active in the local parties. That made them “a base.” Too many on the left think they’re “sending a message” by not voting. They are, they’re saying they’re not serious about their agenda.

      • “Too many on the left think they’re “sending a message” by not voting. They are, they’re saying they’re not serious about their agenda.”

        I’m not sure that’s true Norbrook. No more so anyway than extremist on the right are not voting for their moderate candidates. As I mentioned, I think the left has taken a clue from the right on scoring points locally. Take for example the win on marijuana use in Colorado and plenty of clean energy legislation in local communities. Here in Denton, Texas, just 35 miles north of Dallas, we have the distinction <“of being the city with the most wind power per capita in the country”

        • The difference is, that the right are actually running extremely conservative candidates in competition to the moderates, and voting for them. Your examples are more the power of voting and getting local and state officials elected to do that than “not voting.”

          • Let me put it this way then. If democracy is about achieving the greatest good for the greatest number of people, which it should be, then why vote for people who primarily respond only to handful of wealthy individuals. Democracy is more than just electing people to office and expecting them to achieve things for the most part that you would like to see them achieve. Sometimes you just need to align yourself with energetic grass root types and get propositions on the ballot and referendums presented for legislatures to act on. I may not have voted for a certain individual but I can sure get involved in the process that gets him or her to act on things that concern me.

  2. Democracy is more than just electing people to office and expecting them to achieve things for the most part that you would like to see them achieve. Sometimes you just need to align yourself with energetic grass root types and get propositions on the ballot and referendums presented for legislatures to act on. I may not have voted for a certain individual but I can sure get involved in the process that gets him or her to act on things that concern me.

    Which is what I just said. But the key point is that you can be energetic as all get out and get propositions and referendums on the ballot, but you still have to show up at the voting booth to get them passed. Otherwise, you’ve just wasted a lot of time and energy for no purpose.

    I also have, in the past, pointed out that politicians for the most part react to what their voters think. In other words, if you’re not voting at all, then they really don’t care. In fact, the Republicans have made it very clear – particularly in your state – that they’d much rather most people didn’t show up.

  3. More than ever, I think Republicans count on the disgust and withdrawal of left leaning voters so that they can make inroads. I’m going to look past my disgust today and vote. I won’t give up that privilege no matter how rotten politics looks. I imagine it looked pretty awful during LBJs and Nixon’s years, too. And even though I live in a very red state, I’m still not going to be cowed into staying home and taking it up the shorts.

    • In Virginia, the GOP is praying that turnout is <32%, because much more, it means the Democrats win. In this state, it's also the local elections, and while every position is running unopposed (both parties, btw), there are a number of very important constitutional amendments on the ballot. One of them is particularly important here, since it’ll finally put to rest a land dispute that’s been running for over 125 years now.