The Misguided Case Against Voting

A lengthy article by Stan at Feral Scholar makes the case against voting and calls for a boycott of future elections.  Excerpt:
I want to convince as many people as possible to quit voting altogether.  I for one am registered to vote now in the State of Michigan; and I intend to go to every major election to stand outside the polls with a sign that says, “I am not voting because the choices are intolerable.” I hope a million others will join me in 2012 to do the same thing; but I doubt they will. Those who care enough to think about voting at all are already in the minority; and of those the majority remain convinced that elections might fundamentally change society.

This is wrong for all the right reasons. People who are unhappy with the status quo and who want to change it for unselfish reasons – and there are many of these people from across the political spectrum – are genuinely motivated by their good will. They simply don’t understand yet that the most important choices are made by flows of cash before a single voter has a say in these so-called elections. They don’t understand that the most important topics related to changing our society are excluded by both parties, censored by ruling class media, and that these excluded topics mask the substantial agreements between the putative opponents. They don’t understand that elected officials have very little power once in office, or that the system is now designed to prevent anyone in office from having power in any critical realm sufficient to make changes in the relative power of the rich and the rest.

The only exception to that, in my opinion, is the ability of the President of the United States to stop wars and end the forward-deployed US military presence overseas. No candidate who advocates this with any seriousness will get past the first gate. If she does, I’ll break my promise and vote twice for her.  The reason it won’t happen is that any candidate that doesn’t give behind-the-scenes reassurances will face a tidal wave of money.
The piece goes on to argue against against lesser-evilism, and against the idea that voting within the context of the reigning two-party state is capable of delivering necessary reforms due to concentration of money and power within the machinery of the ruling parties.  The article considers the idea of supporting third party and independent alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans only to dismiss it out of hand:
What if you run a candidate from a different party? Most, but not all, political junkies know that the US has very strong laws that prevent ballot access by third parties. Each state has its own separate laws, but all of them make it very difficult to get on the ballot as a third party; and the history of third party runs is so embarrassingly difficult, that most voters who agree with the positions of the third party candidate will fall back on the fear-based utilitarian practice of choosing the lesser-evil who is “electable.”

Democrats vote against expanded ballot access as ruthlessly as Republicans do. Everyone who is in office got there with support from the party’s bureaucratic apparatus, which each one knows how to navigate, and they are not going to enable future challenges from the outside. Both parties would have plenty to fear from expanded ballot access. Because expanding access nationwide would entail 50 separate statewide campaigns, each challenging a system of long standing party-interest group codependency and patronage, this becomes an uphill struggle. In states where Greens and Libertarians have gained access, the states have made them re-petition every four years, starting from scratch, to get back on the ballot.
The flaw in this argument is immediately apparent.  In the guise of fomenting opposition to existing power structures, it dismisses avenues by which those power structures can be opposed on the basis of talking points favored by those who benefit most from the existing system.  It is indeed difficult for third party and independent candidates to gain ballot access across the country, but they do it all the time!  Last year, there were hundreds – if not well over a thousand – ballot qualified third party and independent candidates just for the offices of governor, US House and Senate.  If even a fraction of the non-voting majority were to head to their polling stations on election day and cast their ballots for a third party or independent alternative to the stooges of the Republican and Democratic parties' corporate puppet masters, those candidates would win in a landslide.  If you cannot support the Democratic or Republican parties, Democrats and Republicans do not want you to vote.


TiradeFaction said...

This is the unfortunate reaction most Americans have when it comes to political realities of shit in the US. Instead of like the Spanish, who have gone out on an all out assault against their political establishment, we simply drop out of the system as is. I'm sympathetic to them, and even somewhat agree when George Carlin went on his rant against voting, but really, say 53% of people happened to vote for a third party for a particular gubernatorial position, or any post whatsoever, they'd win.

But again, maybe we're going about it the wrong way. Maybe we're fighting a futile fight trying to change the Chess rules, rather than the Chess board itself. I'm currently reading a book titled "Programed or be Programmed" by Douglas Rushkoff, and while not about electoral systems or political establishments per se, has been giving me a lot to think about how activists and the general public should approach civil society.

d.eris said...

I was actually thinking about the Carlin routine on voting as I was typing up the post. For some reason I've been on a stand-up comedy kick for the last few weeks, blowing through Pryor, Carlin, Bill Hicks and now Mitch Hedberg.

The Rushkoff book sounds very interesting. Maybe we should start playing by Go rules instead of chess? ;-)

durruti said...

Even if a third party candidate won a major election, so what? It doesn't necessarily alter the iniquities of the class system. At worst, it legitimizes it. I question whether a third party could ever stand, for long, against the pressure to conform with the repubs or dems on any or all issue's.

Rather than legitimizing iniquity by voting for a sham system, lets build,"voter abstention campaigns." The movements would express, in an organized fashion, dissatisfaction with so-called 'politics" and the desire for participatory democracy.

The oxymoron that is "representative democracy," is slowly but surely coming to an end.