Over on Salon, there’s an opinion column by a self-described “leftist feminist” who spends a lot of words justifying her “principled stand” for not voting. Seriously? It’s all the same garbage I’ve ever heard from every so-called leftist who thinks that not voting sends a message, and that will lead to changes and conversations. Why is it garbage? As I’ve said often here, if you don’t vote, you don’t matter. No politician or political party will care about your principles, no one will be “starting a conversation” with you. You have removed yourself from any conversations. It’s only by voting that you get to do all that. But in reading through numerous screeds over the past few years touting making a “principled stand” by not voting, I notice that they’re taking certain things for granted. They shouldn’t.
For example, I noticed that the author of that article lives in Chicago. She’s got access to good healthcare, doesn’t worry about whether an abortion clinic is available, if she needs birth control there are plenty of options, that there are laws and ordinances protecting her from sexual harassment, she gets equal pay for equal work, and she has any number of choices. She takes it for granted that those are “the way things are,” and that what she should be focusing on is anything she thinks still needs to be done, or some social agenda. After all, sitting out an election isn’t going to impact any of those things, right?
Unfortunately for her, all of those “nice things” about her life she takes for granted are under assault. All I have to do is turn on the news to see it, and read any political blog. Every Republican-held state has been busily passing laws to remove funding from Planned Parenthood clinics, and close abortion clinics. Every one of them has been passing laws that do their level best to remove or drastically reduce things like “equal pay,” maternity leave, and a host of other protections that women enjoy. The same thing holds true of LGBT rights. Feel like showing me an opinion poll saying all those things are popular? Doesn’t matter. You see, politicians pay attention to voters, and it turns out the people who did show up at the polls voted in politicians who were very clear on their stances.
You see, what gives you those benefits, those “rights” you’re taking for granted are laws and some court decisions. In case you haven’t figured it out, laws can be changed. Think the courts will protect you? Consider this: Right now there’s a big battle in Washington over whether or not there will be a new Supreme Court justice appointed. Justice Scalia was a conservative, and was in the majority of a lot of decisions which many of the Left like to scream about. The next President will likely appoint at least one more, and more likely two Supreme Court justices. There is a big difference between a 5-4 or 6-3 liberal court and a 5-4 or 6-3 conservative court. The Supreme Court can – and has in the past – overturned prior Court’s decisions. In fact, more than a few of the landmark decisions we tout today are because of that. So don’t think Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges are “forever.”
One of the unfortunate advantages of age (I’m going to be 60 this year) is that you get a lot of experience in having things you took for granted disappear on you. I’ve had two careers go up in smoke because of changes that “weren’t supposed to happen.” Ones that were supposed to be stable, with great benefits that you could retire from comfortably. I’ve lived through a lot of societal changes, things that were taken for granted until they changed. Some for the better, some for the worst. If you’d asked me in 1990 if gays would be allowed to serve openly in the military, my answer would have been “Not a chance in hell.” 20 years later, they were. I used to take for granted that unions would always be around, and if I were employed by a government, there would be unions to negotiate for me, and insure I had workplace protections. Ask anyone in Wisconsin how that turned out.
Those who advocate not voting as a “principled stand” and think that it will bring about change are only fooling themselves, and anyone who listens to them. It’s dangerous, because they’re assuming that things they take for granted will continue as they always have. They don’t know, or remember, that it took a lot of long, hard work to get those things into place, and that was done by people who voted, and made sure that they were implemented. There is nothing for granted about it. There’s a lot at stake in this year’s election, and if you don’t think you can lose what you’re taking for granted, you will. No, sitting out an election won’t start any conversations either. You see, you didn’t vote, so no one is interested in talking to you about it. But like the song “Big Yellow Taxi” said, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got til it’s gone.” Hopefully enough people vote so that you don’t have to find that out.