The great, always insightful Peter Sunderman makes an argument for principled non-voting over at Culture 11 today, which not only references the one political book I would force every partisan to read if I were (ironically enough!) emperor, The Cult of the Presidency–my chat with author Gene Healy lives here–but also ends with a sane and thus almost entirely overlooked truth:
So vote, or don’t, but either way, don’t agonize over it, don’t raise an eyebrow at your friends and neighbors if they stay home, and don’t worry if the other side wins. Democracy will march on, endlessly entertaining, endlessly frustrating, endlessly compromised, and endlessly mediocre. American greatness has persisted not in spite, but because of this: It is not that our politics make us great; it is that they allow us to do so on our own.
I could quibble a bit and say that more than a few elections have resulted in restrictions on the personal and economic freedoms that allow us the leeway to live lives that, if perhaps not great, are at least more fully our own, which is why I’ll be voting in an election I think will not bode well for individual liberty whoever wins. I’ll admit, however, that the why make myself complicit/encourage the bastards theory of non-voting is singing sweetly as a siren to me this Monday morning. And on this Suderman is exactly right: The fetishization of voting as the supreme civic act is an extraordinarily unfortunate fact of modern political life. Like the welfare state, it absolves people of the need to take any of the real, complex responsibility for what happens to their communities, to their neighbors and loved ones, and, frequently and most sadly, themselves.
Pass the buck and walk around feeling morally superior for spending thirty second in a voting booth? Yes! We! Can!