Previous: Civic Duty Dept.


The Empty Ballot Box Blues Dept.


I normally don't post about politics (so skip this if you want), but the election brought back to mind something I really can't keep my mouth shut about: the amazing arguments people use not to vote.

(Note: this is not a completist list — this is just a rundown of some of the arguments that baffle or irk me more than most.)

One of the surveys recently conducted showed that many of the people who don't vote often have legitimate complaints: their polling place is too far away (a big complaint in rural areas), or they find themselves having to jump through idiotic hoops to get on the roll. But all that stuff bulks way tiny compared to the people who fall into one of two camps: the DDWers and the ICCers.

The DDWers are the Democracy Doesn't Work people. You know these folks: the ones who say everything from "you can't empower a population of idiots to take command of their destiny" to "we should never have given the vote to women" to "monarchy is better than this". The second argument is beneath contempt, but I hear the first one and, incredibly, the third one a lot more than seems sane.

The first one is not that hard to demolish; it's elitism by any other name. And like all such mendacity, it's based on a kernel of truth: the broad mass of people are not geniuses, and they can be expected to do foolish things. But it's twice as foolish to think you alone know what will work best for all of them, especially if that consists mostly of either forcing them to seek power through progressively less legitimate channels (read: revolt) or by simply disenfranchising them entirely and telling them what to do. The fact that you want to seek your own destiny so feverishly should be proof enough that they, too, want the same thing, albeit in their own way, and the more you try to pretend you are not like them the harder it is to maintain the delusion over time. (And finally, we're moving into an age where it is easier than ever for people to correct their delusions, should they choose to do so. If you can't let other people make their own mistakes, why should we return the favor?)

Part of this argument is the notion that the right to vote should be earned, and not simply given, and that some form of civil service should be tied to it (the "Heinlein argument"). I'm not against this in principle, but I'd be very curious to see how it plays out in the real, messy, corruptible world. (It's funny how people always assume there will be corruption and decadence in everything but the world they imagine in their heads.)

And as for the monarchy argument — I'm tempted to say "yecch" and leave it at that, but I'm trying to be completist here. I have a label of sorts for the kinds of people who champion something that boneheaded: VSAs, or Very Serious Autodidacts. These are the people who have, so they say, pulled their brains up by their own bootstraps (pardon the horrid mixed metaphor, but in this case it deserves to be that ugly), who believe they know things better than those eggheads who get paid to teach it, and who will never, ever shut up about any of it. They educate themselves mainly to confirm the prejudices they have long held, and if that means pledging allegiance to worthless sources or theories that haven't been taken seriously for decades, so be it. The German word Rechtarberei comes to mind: the attitude of "disputatious knowing-it-all", in thrall to a view of the world that picks and chooses its facts and lets the rest go hang.

Another subgroup that comes along around this time is the VII people: Voting Is Inefficient. If you want real social change, you have to get out into the street. It's impossible for me to disagree completely with that view, given that bus rides and lunch counter sit-ins and standing in front of tanks can accompish what decades of patience did not. The fallacy is in assuming that direct action is the only venue that matters. If you're willing to use the soap box and the ammo box, you should also be willing to use the ballot box somewhere between the two, and not automatically think of it as a measly compromise.

Finally, the ICCers — the people who say "I can't choose". With many of them, it comes down to a single deal-breaker of an issue — even if that issue is almost entirely out of the practical province of the candidate in question. So they choose by not choosing at all. When a few people I know mentioned something like this, my response was: Pick your battles a little more wisely next time. You're never going to get the candidate you want, and you need to deal with that right out of the gate. You pick a candidate not because you are selecting an embodiment of your ideals, but because you are trying to tack that much closer to the shore you want to be on. And if you choose to not be a part of the process at all, then you're only depriving yourself of that many more future opportunities to participate by artificially narrowing the playing field.

It's amazing what lengths some people will go to to deprive themselves of a legitimate avenue for social change.


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Previous: Civic Duty Dept.


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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2012/11/09 10:52.

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