Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To Vote, Or Not To Vote? – The “Wasted Vote” in U.S. elections

Every other year the American politician with much consternation and soul-searching awakens the slumbering beast of the American Public – only more so with every fourth year. The politician does so with the clear image of opening Pandora’s Box in their mind. It is for these all-too-brief moments that the entire electorate is addressed, at first in a sober slothful way – but as the weeks roll into months there is a palpable change. What began in a low tide of monotonous tones undergoes rising tensions as doomsday draws near to leave the would-be Machiavellians in an almost maniacal fevered pitch, a final magnificent crescendo.

It is within this orgasmic theater house we are called on to choose a political representative, an ambassador of our demands on the state. What is it we are expected to accomplish? Where is the threshold of our success? And how may one actually take such an action on election day that could be termed a “Wasted Vote”?

The idea of a “Wasted Vote” is best crystallized in the “Get Out The Vote” slogan: “If you don’t vote… you don’t count!” Behind this claim to every individual’s unique contribution to society lurks the inevitable falling shadow of party politics – in as much as every such group is already located within the preexisting political order. As such the “Vote” to be mobilized strictly constitutes endorsement of one face of the American Janus or the other. To the degree that any third party option is marginalized to the zero point in these “grassroots” movements, this exclusion proves inherent in the form of the message: anything else revives the specter of the “Wasted Vote,” (voting for a third party is somehow not genuine, rather it means throwing the election into the favor of the opposition for nothing more than a splinter party without a base).

We have all been subjected to the immense force which goes into saddling the possibilities of the election with prejudicial commands of the media, the corporations and above all the party such that it seems decided well in advance. Given these overt distortions one may sincerely ask: Is it truly a wasted vote to withhold one’s ballot? Or is it a wasted vote to cast one’s ballot?

Apropos this question: What are we acquiescing to when we vote? The only unequivocal result is to legitimize the status quo. However important it may be to the voter to participate in the handful of “campaign issues” permissible in the discourse (incidentally as far removed from the real concerns of the government as possible) they perpetuate the violence of the system by lending their authority to everything that will persist as much as what’s yet to be done – all in their name. The case of the “Get Out The Vote” campaign in its marginal status may thus be seen as a rejuvenation of the system with young blood. Bombs will continue to fall in Afghanistan, as surely as the bailouts will continue for corporate (trans)America.

Whatever our individual politics may be we are all told that if we do not vote for one of the two parties then we are not really politically participating. In no previous democracy has there ever been so strongly insinuated a default position whereby the purportedly affirmative resolution to cast one’s ballot results in a truly negative outcome: as soon as you or I may cast their ballot they find their voice completely silenced. If one’s positive actions in our political system prove to be so utterly ineffective at offering change the only logical choice which remains is to abstain from voting.

So we return to the question: what is the true “Wasted Vote” of our times?

1 comment:

  1. Your post is very nearly right on the mark, from my, point of view. Many states at one time had (none of the above) on the ballot. I would like to see it brought back. That way we could still participate by voicing our displeasure. I for one will not vote next election in protest. I support BOYCOTTING THE VOTE. Our system is run by rich people for rich people and needs a severe overhaul. Voting unfortunately only gives the politicians a false sense of egotistical worthiness and legitimacy. I am truly sorry for the country, that you have not received more comments.