I mean it. Just don't vote.
I don't mean "do not vote for Obama" or "do not vote for McCain." I do not mean "vote for a third party candidate" or "vote in only local elections." I do not mean it ironically. I am not saying it to sound hip, contrarian or iconoclastic. I do not know how to be any clearer: Do not vote. At all. For anyone.
A lot of you probably still think I do not mean this. I must be trying reverse psychology, like those celebrities in that YouTube video who facetiously urge you to neglect your civic duty. I'm probably trying to guilt-trip you into voting. That is not what I am doing.
You are probably skeptical because you've been raised to think that you have to vote -- that voting is the only way to make your voice heard on important issues like taxes, the war in Iraq, healthcare, education, etc. This is not the case. Casting a vote says nothing about these issues. All it signifies is that you prefer one candidate to the others.
Democracy is not about the substance of governance; it is about the cult of personality. Votes are not cast for policies, but for people. This is not to say that policy positions aren't important, but no election can determine which position a majority of voters actually support. If, for example, Sen. Barack Obama gets elected, does his health care plan get elected? What about his tax policy? Or his stance on abortion?
Voting assumes that opinions about a variety of complicated and nuanced issues can be successfully translated into a checkmark on a ballot. But the only "issue" really decided by an election is who gets more votes (and, actually, not even that). Democracy really is a popularity contest. Voting doesn't "make your voice heard" unless all you want to say is, "I like this guy more than that guy."
"Sure there are limitations to elections," you are probably thinking, "but it is still the best process on Earth." But voting reduces every substantive issue down to a false binary of caricatures. Even without the "liberal media," "interest groups," "lobbyists" and all those other evil entities, democracy is a fundamentally flawed system.
We are raised to think that voting and democracy are the tools of freedom -- that you cannot have liberty without fair elections. This is nothing but propaganda. Hitler was elected. And who knows how long slavery would have lasted if it was left to an election? There is no real correlation between democracy and freedom.
Instead, voting empowers people to do terrible things in the name of "the people's will." Does the fact that President George W. Bush was legitimately elected (and he was legitimately elected) excuse any of the incompetence that has defined his presidency? And yet casting a vote -- no matter who it's for -- buys into the very system that got him elected. Democracy means that we all have to endure the catastrophic consequences of Bush's presidency because on two separate days in the span of eight years, some people liked him more than another guy.
The greatest merit of American democracy, we are told, is that it gives an equal voice to everyone. Every citizen can cast a vote and affect the outcome. But why on earth is that a good thing? There are people who think that Obama is the antichrist. There are people who think the U.S. government invented AIDS. There are people who think Dane Cook is funny. Why should these people have the ability to select the most powerful man in the world?
That sounds elitist, but there is no other way to say it. I do not mean that most people are stupid, or that only smart people should be allowed to vote; as I said, nobody should vote. But the presidency is an important position, and the deciding factor for many voters this yer is a candidate's race. Why is this a system worth supporting?
It's not. And yet by casting a vote you acknowledge the legitimacy of a president elected by a process so corrupt and pathetic that the outcome this year may hinge on how many people think someone is a Muslim.
And if that doesn't convince you, remember this: For every vote cast, God kills a kitten.