Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't Vote!

I've had it with the election, in the same way that everyone else has had it with the election. Except there's one difference. I'm not going to turn around and legitimize the election by following the tired adage that "you've GOTTA vote!"

If ever there was a time when Emma Goldman's assertion that "if voting could change anything it would be illegal" was true, it is now. Recent election cycles have become a make-up slathered sham designed by tacit agreement for the mutual benefit of the parties, the media, and the campaign contributors and against the american people. This election epitomises the trend. The manufactured drama, personality based, and down-to-the-wire nature of all electioneering since media houses and parties struck it rich on the 2000 election has disenfranchised the whole American populace. It has to stop and the best way to stop it is a boycott.

The automatic responses to vote boycotting: ie "if you don't vote then you have no right to complain" or "this is america, we're a democracy, vote damn it!" are stupid populist dogmas with no content that create a closed loop of system-legitimizing circular logic. The strongest indicator that our democracy is broken is low voter turn out. If you doubt this, simply think back to all the election reform discussion that used to happen in the 90's when turn out was less than 50%. So, the result that best represents the issue positions of disatisfied citizens who want our democratic process back more than anything else is a "no" vote. Any other vote legitimizes the process. Voters validate McCain's policies by pretending that Obama represents a real response to them (or vice versa, to keep a thin semblance of non-partisanship).

Speaking of thin semblances of non-partisanship, there's a local project that needs to be addressed here. My Vote Performs is In:Site's newest project of performance art encouraging voting at all of Milwuakee's polling places. I think this is a wonderful project, anything that will get local artists to work together for a political cause on a highly visible city-wide basis makes me very happy. I love In:Site, and Peggi Taylor is awesome. But there are a few things about My Vote Performs that, well-intentioned as it is, i've got a bone to pick with.

First, "non-partisan political art" is an oxymoron. The raison d'etre of political art is to express a political stance, if you take issues, ideologies, values and everything partisan out of politics, how can you not end up expressing only empty platitudes and trite aphorisms? I'm really very curious to see what the various groups Peggi has recruited present. My Vote Performs could have escaped this problem by recruiting a wide variety of different groups and encouraging them to express whatever they'd like, presenting Milwaukeeans with a plurality of distinct and impassioned views. This might get messy, but at least it'd contain truth and genuine feeling. Of course, doing such a thing in close proximity to polling places is illegal, and it would also likely result in nearly unified pro-Obama performances. He's obviously the favorite of most artists. McCain is anti-culture and pro-censorship, so this should be no surprise.

Second, raising the voter turn out by luring people to the polls, rather than by fixing our electoral system enables politicians and officials to skirt real reform. My Vote Performs is the local grass roots equivalent of MTV's Rock the Vote. These vote promotion campaigns support the unquestioned conclusion that low voter turn out results from apathy, not disgust. Thanks to such efforts we've reached a political climate where almost EVERYONE is disillusioned with politics, but we all feel compelled to participate.


Rex Winsome said...

This is a response to Don Hall's mention of me on his blog.


It is inaccurate to say that my position is "just sit back and let the system implode upon itself" I mix non-voting with active advocacy of election reform.

Your claim that "Well over half the country doesn't participate" is simply innaccurate:

That graph demonstrates that in the last few presidential elections voter turn out has gone up significantly. Now, if you think back to before 2000 (and i'm sure if anyone cared, this could be verified) back when turn out was down around 50% you'll remember that back then, election reform was talked about extensively. Surveys were done and published in the mainstream media about why the turn out was so low, and what america had to do to rejuvinate it's democracy.The non-voters who opt out due to frustration and disillusionment vs apathy were counted, and the media reported on it.

Then 2000 happened. The mess that went down that year had two lessons: first, it bolstered the election reform argument. Scrapping the electoral college was on the table, comparisons to parlaimentary systems were being made and "proportional representation" as well as "instant run-off voting" were considered.

Unfortunately, the second effect of the 2000 election proved stronger: the media realized just how much money they could make by having close exciting elections.

By 2004, all talks of reform were silenced and the media had manufactured the mimic of an involved polity ("proven" by the bump in turn-out) by sensationalizing the race, and manipulating the coverage to keep the candidates as close as possible.

2008: the race is ever more sensationalized, even the primary was ridiculously close and constantly exciting, and at the same time, it's ever less about issues and policy.

On real issue positions (the economy, the war) the candidates are not all that different. On moral and social issues, the differences are absurd, but exciting. McCain pretends to embrace foolish policies to attract religious concervatives and Obama takes weak compromised positions to avoid alienating them.

What's more policy dosen't really matter because the media has forced the race to be neck-and-neck down to the wire, the difference will be within a margin of error and the result will be no more legitimate or meaningful than a coin flip. And the republicans will fix the flip with various dirty tricks and come out on top again.

Given this situation, the issue that most concerns me, and should most concern you is election reform. The voting position that will most likely garner a response on that issue is to leave the ballot blank.

Rex Winsome said...

More information on Project Non-Violence: