The Library Basement
Reading under ground

The Banality of Voting

Two years ago I questioned [the conventional wisdom that voting constitutes one's political voice][]. I have to say that while my not voting for President in 2008 was fueled by the exploration of new political ideas, this year I am encumbered more by apathy and cynicism.

In spite of the media's attempt to whip me into a frenzy, I see no greater meaning behind the "narrative" of the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives (though I think having a divided legislature is probably for the best). Despite being told that the choice is "stark," I really don't feel like there is much substantive difference between boxes A and B on the ballot. It just feels like the tide going in and out: the sand will shift a bit, but it's going to be the same beach.

Even for the local races and issues I cannot get excited. The voter's pamphlet just does not give enough information to make a good-faith vote for the candidates (and I can't trust the parties to nominate satisfactory candidates). The ballot measures leave me wondering, "isn't this why we have a legislature?" There is just nothing on my ballot which captures my interest.

That's not to say that voting is always banal. I think there have been times where electoral movements have resulted in real positive social change in this country. This just doesn't feel like one of those cycles to me. No offense to the tea party movement, but I don't see their handful of victories amounting to a substantive shift in spending and taxation at the federal level.

Now, here are some hypothetical federal ballot initiatives which I'd like to see:

  • Should the US withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • Should the US continue selling arms internationally?
  • Should the federal congress have term limits?
  • Should proposed laws be placed under version control (so that we can track who wrote each part of a bill)?
  • Should Social Security's impending deficit be remedied by increased taxation or reducing benefits?

Alas, there was nothing like any of those on the ballot.

In the mean time, if you have a political idea you'd like to share, please don't (only) vote. Embody that political idea, and share it creatively and compellingly with your neighbors.

[the conventional wisdom that voting constitutes one's political voice]:

Category: politics Tags: voting