Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What's wrong with sitting home on election day?

Ever since I was earning my bachelor's in political science, I've heard that we -- as Americans -- have an almost sacred duty to vote.

It has been suggested, time and time again, that those who don't vote ought not complain. All of the hubbub over voting is simply obnoxious and designed to shame people into going out and taking part in the democratic process whether they like the candidates involved or not.

Lately, however, I've been wondering -- if someone hates both of the major party choices for president or whatever else, what's wrong with saying "the hell with it" and sitting home on election day? All we've managed to do with all this "it's your patriotic duty to vote" nonsense is potentially extend the longevity of the Democrats and Republicans.

How? A component to this "sacred duty to vote stuff" is the suggestion that voting for a third-party is, in effect, worthless. Casting a vote for the Libertarians, the Green Party or anything else is discouraged -- candidates from those parties won't win a thing, so why bother?

The message the average citizen is beaten over the head with, then, is that everyone should go out and vote (even if you have to hold your nose while doing it because you hate both major party candidates involved) and that only a fool would waste a vote on a third party. These two messages, taken together, appear to undermine Thomas Jefferson's ideal of our American democracy -- that institutionalized revolutions are essential to the health of the Republic.

Jefferson, see, was adamantly opposed to the status quo. However, suggestions that we've all got to run out and vote and that supporting anyone but major party candidates is worthless does nothing but preserve the status quo.

Now, I'm a firm believer in exercising the right to vote and have always had an interest in Politics. I saw Ronald Reagan speak in St. Louis in 1980 and Little Rock in 1984. I saw Mike Dukakis speak in Little Rock in 1988 and have attended speeches for everyone ranging from Bill Clinton to Mike Huckabee. In college I got deputized and registered other candidates to vote and I've worked in campaigns for Bob Dole and both Democrats and Republicans running for governor in Arkansas (I never worked in Bill Clinton's campaign -- he's a bastard).

What's my point, then? I'm merely suggesting that supporting Democrats and Republicans if you hate what both parties are up to is a terrible idea. Want some real change? Ignore the process entirely (that does send a message) or find a third-party candidate that you do like and work hard in that person's campaign.

Political parties don't last forever, after all -- look at what happened to the Federalists and the Whigs. Yes, the Federalists and the Whigs were essentially replaced by alternative parties that people believed reflected the interests of Americans more effectively. One can't help but think the Democrats and Republicans will go the way of the Federalists and the Whigs one day, but that natural evolution of the establishment of new major parties can't happen if people subscribe to the notion that voting is a duty and supporting third parties is a waste of time.

The first presidential election I voted in was the Bush-Dukakis race in 1988. I wasn't thrilled with Bush, but hated Dukakis so I held my nose and voted Republican. I did the same thing in the Bush-Clinton race in 1992, the Clinton-Dole race in 1996, the Bush-Gore election in 2000 and the Bush-Kerry race in 2004. That Bush-Kerry one was such a miserable thing that I was on the phone with my brother on election day and said, "Well, I guess I'd better go and crap out a vote for Bush."

In other words, I'm like a lot of Americans in that I haven't voted for a candidate in years (on a national level, at least), but I've voted against a heck of a lot of them. It occurs to me that some change may be in order, but how are we going to get to that point if society emphasizes both voting and supporting the major parties?

Well, it's just a thought. And an odd one to have at this point, too, as I haven't been this interested in a presidential election for years. I'm firmly back in the Republican camp (thanks to that snarky Sarah Palin), but I can't help but wonder about the individuals who look at the choices from both parties and wonder, "What the hell?"

Don't like who's running? Don't bother voting or support a third party you do like. And don't feel a bit bad about it, either.


Rebecca said...

I agree with you completely! Why ih why does it seem we are forced to choose between satan and the devil when it comes to elections?! Here in New York, it's even worse.

Don't forget the possibility of writing in a candidate for office. I'm doing that for Ron Paul this year.

Lucky Girl said...

Like Rebecca said--that's why we have the option of writing in a name on the ballot. Not that our write-in candidate has any chance of winning, but you do have the power to express your opinion. We could live in one of those countries where voting is mandatory, and there's only one candidate to vote for. :(

Send me your peanut butter story! Yippee! luckygirltrading at yahoo dot com

ImitationAngel said...

I'm all for a write in vote. Voting our right but that doesn't mean we have to vote for either of the popular candidates. Of course I would had being forced to vote for one person.

Theresa said...

Hawg, this is something to start now and run with hard during at least the next 4 years. I'd rather not waste my vote any longer by voting against. I have to do that in this election, and I'm not pleased about it at all. I'd love to see ethics return to politics before I die, and diminishing the power of the two party system might do just that.

AmericanAngle said...

The beauty of being an American is having Free choice.

The men & women in uniform that sacrificed so much to give us the Freedom to vote...also gave us the Freedom to squander that right.

I agree with sending a message to the major Parties...

I also agree with tempering my tantrum until after the election...what was I doing before the election? Now I want to protest the political climate?

I guess it all depends on perspective.

Barack Obama has surrounded himself with anti-Americans, racists, Communists, domestic terrorists, and via these nefarious associations he enjoyed the favor of foreign terrorists.

I believe it is my Patriotic duty to not only spread the truth about this subversive candidate but to vote AGAINST him. A realistic vote against him is cast for a viable candidate.

I'll save my tantrums for the forums. I'll save the gamble for the casinos.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Rebecca -- You go ahead and write in Ron Paul and to hell with anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. Change occurs when enough people get fed up and try something different.

Oddly, I'm looking forward to this election and have been since Sarah Palin was announced. Every one I've voted in until now has been a let down. Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr. are all rascals. They stunk and so did they opponents. Phooey.

Lucky Girl -- And expressing an opinion is power in and of itself, yeah?

I'll send that story your way soon...

imitationangel -- Heh. You would have hated Arkansas back in the Faubus years, then. Machine politics isn't pretty...

Theresa -- Actually, I'm rather pleased with this election, as you know. But that's highly unusual. The last 20 years of presidential politics has been miserable and just look at how much Congress is loved these days.

The time for a change is coming...

AmericanAngle -- I disagree that refusing to vote for either major party because you realize neither one gives a damn about you or your family is throwing a tantrum. Hey, I'm voting for McCain and there's no doubt about that.

What about the folks who don't believe their interests are represented by either Republicans or Democrats? Why in God's name do we keep telling them it's their patriotic duty to get out and vote for one of the major parties even if they hate the choices?

By the way, I can't stand Obama, either. He's a true-believer socialist who's cute n' cuddly demeanor belies his real intentions. Don't like him at all.

RogerDJ said...

I agree in part.But I do think that people who are able to legally vote should vote. And if a 3rd party candidate is your choice then so be it. Citizens who do absolutely nothing may be "sending a message" but in my opinion nobody is listening except all the others who aren't doing anything.

PaulsHealthBlog.com said...


When it comes to politics, for the most part, my thoughts are your thoughts.

I was seriously considering voting for a third party candidate this election, until I read Thomas Sowell's column titled, "Obama and McCain."

He essentially says that in the age of terrorism, we cannot take a chance on voting for someone other than McCain. He goes on to say if a country like Iran or the terrorists get a nuclear bomb - they'll make 9/11 look like child's play.

Right then and there, I decided I had to vote to protect our country, even if I was not overly excited about the candidates.

Then McCain picked Palin.

At the end of his column, Sowell says, "The choice between him and Barack Obama should be a no-brainer."

In the War on Terror, I have to agree.

GumbyTheCat said...

Your words describe my voting dilemma perfectly. That's all I can really say.

Maybe I'll just write in a vote for you.

The Natural State Hawg said...

rogerdj -- Good point, but I still maintain that anyone who hates the candidates involved should feel no pressure to rush out and vote. Simple as that.

And I haven't missed a presidential election -- hell, almost any election -- since I turned 18-years-old way on back in 1987.

Paul -- As you know, I'm with you on the Palin thing -- this is the first election in which I've really liked anyone involved.

All we need to know about Obama is the nuts he surrounds himself with. He may come across as a cuddly-wuddly little socialist, but I suspect he's a hell of a lot more sinister than he lets on.

Gumby -- Heh. Now there would be a wasted vote ;)

Da Frog said...

Hawg I understand exactly what you are saying. To many of us there really is little choice or difference between the candidates.
I've been a libertarian for years, but Bob Barr is just a disenfranchised Republican and not a true libertarian. I don't like any of the candidates and will probably write in Ron Paul. Paul is the only candidate who made sense to me. But then you got to realize so did Ross Periot and I voted for him too.