Let me start by saying that I think voting in a democracy is important. I never realized its importance when I was younger but as I’ve grown to learn and care more about the importance of governance (notice I didn’t say politics) the more driven I am to vote. I am finally eligible for citizenship in the U.S. and will become a citizen before the next Presidential election.
Part of learning more about politics and governance has also left me pretty dissatisfied with the choices I have in our political system. At the national and for most major positions at the state level you have two
parties to choose from. As if two philosophies had a chance of representing over 300 million people. Washington right now is broken as there is no working together to pass laws that will help people. A frightening statistic I just recently read said that public opinion has no correlation to the passing of laws right now in this country. This would seem to be an odd thing to find in a democracy where our vote is supposed to represent the will of the people. It would seem that the people do not control the government.
The media has also highlighted races between candidates where one seems completely incompetent and idiotic, while the other is a happy combination of bigot and religious that you can’t imagine either candidate being someone you’d want in office. Is it then okay to not vote in that situation? Is it always more ethical to vote for the lesser of two evils than to not vote at all?
So let’s say you believe government is broken and/or the two party system is broken, and you have terrible candidates to choose from and you wish to let the powers at be know that this is unacceptable, does not voting said that message? Now a scholar may look at the level of apathy and say, wow nobody really has faith in our government or political system and so that’s why nobody is voting. But of course that may be right, but it also may be wrong. There are other possible reasons for apathy. One is that you are person who thinks everything is just rosy and so you really don’t care who is in power. Or like many, you can’t afford to miss a day’s work to go an vote with everybody else. Ultimately those in power though won’t really care as long as they are re-elected they just need at least somebody to vote in order for a candidate to be chosen. Perhaps if everyone refused to vote that might make a difference, but that’s unlikely to happen.
So “not voting” isn’t really effective. So what might be effective? One possibility is that you could run for office yourself. Of course you are likely to get “out-moneyed” by any of the two established parties, but you could still run. The Tea Party movement, as misguided as they all are, was grass roots, and grass roots movements can grow into something big. When they got big enough to try and make an impact in government, they got absorbed by one of the established parties and as a result it’s actually weakened the identity of the Tea Party and the Republican Party. It should have remained its own party. Anyway, that’s besides the point. The point is that a difference can be made even if you start from the ground up. But maybe you’d like some encouragement that your movement might be successful. This brings us to the second possibility of how you can protest and that’s simply to vote. You don’t have to vote for Democrat or Republican. You can vote for another party, you can even write in a candidate. If the amount of people who seem dissatisfied with congress actually didn’t vote for the established two parties many would realize that there is actual need for some other party to establish themselves and that there are a bunch of people who are not apathetic about the process but actually really care, but think that the current two party system or current set of people we have to choose from are unacceptable. So the answer is still to vote, but don’t feel like you have to vote D or R. The right to vote means you have the right to vote for who you want and who represents your views. You don’t have to always vote for one party, you don’t have to feel like you have to just vote for the other guy, because the current guy wasn’t great. So your research, get informed, and vote for somebody you think will do the job well and represents your views.
The only true way to waste your vote is by not voting. Because if the current system of government is truly broken, then doing nothing changes nothing. And remember that voting is only one way in which your voice can be heard, so don’t forget that caring doesn’t need to only happen at election time.