“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”- David Foster Wallace
(When somebody starts a blogpost with a DFW quote, you know it’s on.)
Last week I watched the House of Representatives pass a piece of legislation that allows emergency rooms the right to refuse emergency abortion care to women if they feel it would morally compromise them- even if it would cost that woman her life. As the current host of a brand spankin’ new IUD, this legislation scares the shit out of me, and it should scare this shit out of anyone with a uterus. Apparently, according to lawmakers in the house, it’s my own damn problem if I have an ectopic pregnancy. It’s my own damn problem if my uterus ruptures. And if I end up at one of the multiple faith-based medical institutions in my hometown, and they think God wants them to save the baby inside of me even if it costs me my life, it’s their call. Not mine. If it’s an emergency and I can’t obtain other medical care, they can let me die.
They could let you die.
Think about that. Please. Think about it for a minute. It’s not hyperbaole. It’s in the text of the bill. It’s in the text of a bill that made it through multiple processes and was reviewed by multiple people until it made it to the House of Representatives of the United States of America. And they passed it. Is it going to become law? No, Obama has already promised a veto (bless him). But that doesn’t change the fact that a huge body of elected officials signed off on a piece of legislation that gives the thumbs up to killing women because of precious little babies and blah blah blah.
Ladies, we are all being used as political footballs right now. Every one of us. Why aren’t we angrier about this?!
Look, this is why I get angry when people tell me they aren’t going to vote. I try to be polite about it, but honestly? You need to vote. There is no excuse for you not to vote, and you don’t deserve to have your ”choice” to abstain from voting respected by anyone who takes that responsibility seriously. You have the responsibility as a citizen of this country to participate in the electoral process. Let me explain why:
1. Just Because You Decided Not To Vote It Doesn’t Mean That Everyone Else Magically Stopped Voting To Honor Your Decision
So you decided to sleep in on election morning. You’re busy. You hate the man. Voting is morally bankrupt Good for you. But guess what? Despite your self-absorbed worldview, the rest of us are still voting. We all vote on election day, those votes are tallied, and people are elected and laws are passed. Giving up your ability to be a part of that process doesn’t stop the process, and it doesn’t stop the candidates you dislike from winning. Voting is not morally bankrupt. Excusing yourself from the democratic process when you are educated enough to understand them problems with it is. Nothing gets better unless people try to make it better, and that includes voting. Acting like a child and taking your ball home when people don’t play like you want them to is cowardly. It’s the civic engagement version of a tantrum. Stop being a baby and work to change the game.
2. If There Was Really No Value To Your Vote, People Would Not Work As Hard As They Do To Prevent You From Voting
Seriously, think about this one for a second. A lot of people who don’t vote have this sort of resigned attitude about it. They’ll throw a lot of statistics at you about how much an individual vote actually counts for, and how them actually going and voting doesn’t matter, and how corporations rule everything anyway, and all that lame copout nonsense. You know what? Political groups and other interested parties put an incredible amount of effort into disenfranchising you and convincing you not to vote. Again, this is not hyperbaole. This is a fact. Think back to the voting irregularities in 2000 and 2004- the long lines, the robo calls reporting that the voting dates had changed, the phone jamming issues. Look up “caging lists” sometime. Think about gerrymandering and inequalities of voting resources in low-income communities. Stopping people from voting is immoral (if not illegal) and requires a massive commitment of time and resources. PACs do it anyway, because it helps their cause. If there was really no value in your vote, why would they care? Why would these things exist? Really, I’m asking you, Mr. My-Vote-Doesn’t-Mean-Anything. If it doesn’t mean anything, maybe you could call up some conservative PACs and tell them you’re sitting this election out. Save them some time and money. Whatever, man.
3. Your Individual Contribution May Be Small, But You Are Meaningful As A Member Of A Group
People say they don’t write letters to their congressperson because congresspeople don’t read letters. To be honest? That’s true. Their aides read them. But then, their aides tally up all of the letters they got for and against a certain issue, and advise their congressperson on how to respond. This is why lobbying groups try to get you to sign form letters. The content of the letter doesn’t matter, but your signature does. Voting and civic engagement can work the same way. If you’re the only democrat in a red district, shouldn’t you be out there canvassing and talking to people and working twice as hard as us schlubs in Columbus? Your vote may not make the difference this year, but by becoming a part of the process, you are ensuring that your voice is counted. If you join a big chorus, that voice can become deafening. Never forget the effect that independent voters had on the 2000 election.
4. We Just Shouldn’t Let The Bastards Win, OK?
So, this is more me being angry then a fact, but I stand by this statement. You should never cede your power to someone who wants to take it away from you! People count on non-voters when they plan election strategies. They say ‘Well, the kids don’t bother to vote, so we can probably get this old mummy that hates poor people on the city council this year.” By not voting, you are giving this strategy a thumbs up. You are handing your political power to a bunch of conniving pitbulls on a platter. Make no mistake, your absence will be counted as much as your vote would be- but it won’t be used to improve things. It will be used by people who make a living out of disenfranchising you, misinforming you, and sneaking horrible people and agendas into your government. If you want to help those people in their mission, you go right ahead. But don’t get mad at me for calling you out on it.
In conclusion: You, yes, YOU have to vote this year. And in every election after this. There is nothing respectable, honorable, or even acceptable about choosing not to vote. You don’t have to canvass. You don’t have to fundraise. All you have to do is take 30 seconds to sign up for an absentee ballot and fill it out when the time comes. And if you don’t, I don’t even want to hear about it. Not this year.
I wonder if I’ll have any friends left after November.