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.