The Shotgun Blog
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Don't Ask Questions Lackey, Just Vote!
Sometimes I feel like a dog who's handed a piece of fake bacon for rolling over. Or maybe one of those porpoises who gets some frozen fish chunks for splashing tourists at Sea World. Election time will do that.
These days, the pressure to "Vote or Die" is worse than the pressure to play Pogs was in junior high. A recent TV commercial that interrupts my Family Guy episodes shows a wheelchair bound woman going out in the rain, getting on a bus, doing the limbo under a gate and entering a gymnasium with great difficulty; the music builds, she looks determined, and at the climax she casts a ballot. The ad ends with some statement like, "be a hero today". We have no idea what she voted for. For all we know, she could've voted to forever outlaw the playing of Pogs, or the feeding of Porpoises. No matter. She voted, and that makes her a hero.
It's always struck me as odd to glorify the mere act of voting. There is nothing objectively good about the act of casting a ballot in a popularity contest among politicians, or cramming your opinion on an issue into a little circle with a No. 2 pencil. Life is good. Liberty is good. Lots of other things are good, objectively. But voting can be good or bad, depending upon whether or not it is for or against good or bad things. There is nothing inherently bad about not voting.
Yesterday was primary election day in Michigan, where I live. Despite the fact that the majority of races were uncontested, and just a middle step before the general election which actually decides who wins each office, voters were "supposed" to vote. News coverage, as always, focused heavily on the fact that only 19% of registered voters showed up - a fact that is supposed to make us feel guilty if we didn't, and angry at our neighbors if we did. But what pushed me over the edge and made me wish I hadn't voted was this patronizing sentence from Mlive.com, a conglomerate news source for the state:
"Well done, voters! Regardless of the outcomes, you did your jobs and went to the polls."
Did my job? Job implies obligation. Job implies that not doing it would be a dereliction of duty. If I have any "duty" by my fellow citizens it is to keep from violating their freedoms, and to work to protect them. Voting, in many instances, is merely a way for me to choose the candidate that will violate someone else's freedom for my benefit. That's what nearly all politicians promise, after all. In cases such as this, voting for one of them is NOT my duty.
The other reason I hate hearing phrases like, "Rock the Vote", is that voting for a candidate or issue that you know nothing about is analogous to a game of Russian Roulette. Sure, you might get a good outcome; then again, you might not. What's the value in voting when you have no clue what you're voting for or against?
That's why I prefer the slogan, "If you don't know, don't vote". Or, as Bureaucrash more succinctly puts it, "Mock The Vote".
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Good post, Isaac.
I always say: "Don't vote - you'll only encourage the politicians!"
Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-08-07 8:15:41 AM
Isaac, another excellent post! In Canada I hear politicians and the media say to "make sure you get out and vote" with no emphasis at all on understanding the issues and the polititians.
Another comment we hear up here is "if you don't vote, don't bitch." I fundamentally disagree with this. If we are free to vote, we are free to not vote.
Voting does not always send the right message anyway. If I vote for candidate A, but only because he is the better of two bad choices, then the intensity of my support is not measured. On the other hand, if I don't vote, and voter turn out is low, politicians might interpret that correctly as muted support at best.
Posted by: TM | 2008-08-07 9:01:44 AM
I agree. What a goofy idea that in voting we're actually participating in freedom. There's still no real choice involved.
Posted by: Heather | 2008-08-07 9:04:57 AM
Canadians: You can substitute the word Liberal in place of the word Democrat eh?
WHY I AM VOTING DEMOCRAT
I'm voting Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.
I'm voting Democrat because freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.
I'm voting Democrat because when we pull out of Iraq I trust that the bad guys will stop what they're doing because they now think we're good people.
I'm voting Democrat because I believe that people who can't tell us if it will rain on Friday CAN tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don't start driving a Prius.
I'm voting Democrat because I'm not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.
I'm voting Democrat because I believe that business should not be llowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as THEY see fit.
I'm voting Democrat because I believe three or four pointy-headed elitist liberals need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would NEVER get their agendas past the voters.
I'm voting Democrat because I believe that when the terrorists don't have to hide from us over there, and when they come over here I don't want to have any guns in the house to fight them off with.
i'm voting Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I've decided to marry my horse.
i'm voting Democrat because I believe oil companies' profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't.
Makes ya wonder why anyone would EVER vote Republican, now doesn't it?
Posted by: John V | 2008-08-07 9:06:23 AM
I just vote for whomever can "lie" the best.
Posted by: glen | 2008-08-07 9:25:17 AM
I do vote most of the time - usually for personal entertainment, or if there is (rarely) a candidate I like. I often write someone in just for fun if there are no good choices. Around here, we frequently have millage (property tax hike) requests on the ballot, so I always go vote just to vote against those if they're there. That's one thing that I feel fine telling people to vote against, even if they don't know what it's for. 'Cause if they don't even know where the extra money taken from them is going to go, what reason do they have in voting to take it away from themselves and their neighbors?
Posted by: IMM | 2008-08-07 9:48:51 AM
Politics is a Game Show, and the people are the audience who get punished for voting.
The Political School Opening
By Stephen J. Gray
I must say I am encouraged to see that we have a full class for the opening of the political school. For some time I have felt there was a need for this type of school. After all, we have schools for other occupations, such as plumbing, journalism, law, cooking, etc., so why not a political school? Looking at all you students eagerly awaiting training in this political school tells me just how much you all want to be involved in the political management of the country. It is good to see such interest.
I see from your resumes that you all come from various political backgrounds. Some want to be Socialist politicians, others Liberal and still others Conservative, with a small sprinkling of Communists, Greens and others. This is good, for we are a non-partisan school and with the blurring of political ideology, floor crossing, and double-crossing these days, political labels mean nothing. The job is the thing, and of course the remuneration that comes with it. With a starting salary of nearly $150,000 dollars a year plus expenses, pensions, and perks, this is a dream job (but a nightmare for the people who elected you). That is, of course, provided any of you reach the pinnacle of your political aspirations, which I am sure you will.
Where else can you get a starting salary of nearly $150,000 a year with no experience needed, no training, and no knowledge of how the political system works? Of course this is where the political school comes in: we will give you the tools to make a success of your political career should you manage to persuade the people to elect you in the party of your choice.
Now let us get down to the first lesson. When running for political office the first thing you must do is make nice sounding promises. Tell the people that you have a vision for the country, that you have a plan. What will your vision and plan be? This is entirely up to you. Visions and plans come in all shapes and sizes. Remember that old saying: “Throw the dogs a bone.” Well this saying holds true for people. Mind you, I am not saying people are dogs (much laughter from the class) but people do like to be fed things especially monetary promises from the taxes they have already paid. So promising them a financial inducement is always good bait in an election. Should you succeed and get into office and be government you can always renege on your promise. This is how politics works. First you ask for a cross next to your name at the ballot box then you doublecross the stiffs, oops I mean people, once you are elected.
(More laughter ensues and the trainee politicians bang their desks just like the elected politicians do in parliament.) The teacher continues: Wow, I see most of you have learned the desk-banging trick; well done. Now as I was saying before the interruption by your quickly-learned “parliamentary procedure,” a good example of this reneging on a promise is the hated Gobbling Suckers Tax (GST). Now it is accepted and brings in billions of dollars to government coffers. But I digress.
Another important lesson you will learn at our school is Political speak or Polispeak as I like to call it. I will give you an example, seeing it is your first day, but we will go into Polispeak at length in your next lesson. Here is an example of words you will have to learn in a crisis situation: “We must move forward in this complex situation, with a measured response, but it is a challenge and challenges are good. We can become better persons because of them and fulfill our hopes and dreams in the process.” So what does that all mean? It means nothing, nothing at all. They are just words to use or should I say political B.S. in a crisis situation and something for the media to report and for the masses to read in the newspapers. But the words sound good and that is what I call Polispeak.
Notice all the words I’ve used are positive, and this is the way you will learn to speak even when, as politicians, you are, as the old saying goes, “caught with your pants down” and in poop up to your eyeballs. But if you know the right words, all can be made clean. (More laughter ensues, and all the class seem to be enjoying the course.) And so ended the first day of the political school.
Stephen J. Gray
August 22, 2006.
Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2008-08-07 10:08:27 AM
Of course they want you to vote. They need your "willing and patriotic" endorsement to do what they are doing. I stopped voting not out of general apathy but because my conscience won't let me participate in a criminal enterprise. And as far as I'm concerned, that's what fascism is, a criminal enterprise.
And if that doesn't work, knowing that no matter who I vote for, the system keeps chugging along screwing me, does work. Voting won't change that.
Posted by: JC | 2008-08-07 10:28:31 PM
Well, the federal election laws give the parties money on the basis of how many votes they attract. So, if you have any reason to support any party, then it makes sense to vote for that party whenever you can, whatever the circumstances.
But with that exception, I agree with this post. Voting for the hell of it is a fool's game.
Posted by: ebt | 2008-08-08 2:27:33 PM
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