Bad American

A little-known factoid about me: I’ve never voted.  Never, as in not once in my entire life.

Now this didn’t start out as an intentional thing.  I turned 18 at the very end of 1993.  Clinton had just been elected the previous year, so there wasn’t going to be another election until 1996.

But in 1996, I was homeless, living in a homeless shelter in Joliet.  Because I had no “fixed address,” I couldn’t register to vote.  Simple.

By the time the next election came along in 2000, I simply hadn’t gotten my registration information back in time to vote.  Not that it would have mattered anyway; that election was rigged to begin with.

By 2004, we were already living in the UK.  And while it was possible for me to get a mail-in ballot out here, I didn’t see the point.  I didn’t want either of the candidates to win, so I was fucked either way.

And here we are again.  Another election, and another year when I’m not going to bother going through the trouble of voting.  For one thing, the election in 2000 proved to me that my vote doesn’t really count anyway.  If the individual’s vote really counted, then we would have had a President Gore.  (And personally, I think the U.S. would have been a hell of a lot better off if we had.)

For another, I’m back in the position of not wanting either side to win.  Had Hillary gotten the democratic nomination, I honestly would have considered going through the trouble of getting a mail-in ballot.  But she didn’t, and now I’m stuck contemplating two candidates that I would never, in a million years, choose to run a country.  This, for a lot of little individual reasons.  McCain I honestly just don’t like, period.  Everything about him rubs me the wrong way.  Obama because while I agree with some of the things he’s come out with, the things I disagree on are too important to me to compromise on (Obama: addressing the “role” of “obesity” in healthcare??  RED FLAG!!!).

And I know that some people would say that my deliberately NOT voting automatically makes me a “bad” American.

Why?

Why is exercising my right to choose considered bad?  I could understand if there was one candidate that I really wanted to elect and I didn’t vote (assuming my vote actually counted for something).  That wouldn’t just be bad, that would be downright stupid.

But when I KNOW that, no matter who gets elected, it’s going to make me more determined never to go back and live in my home country, the country of my birth, the country that so much of my heart still lives in, then why would I spend my time and energy to vote for one of these people?  If you were in prison and you got to choose the warden, wouldn’t you choose one that made your life a little bit easier, happier, better?

But it doesn’t really matter whether I vote or not.  America isn’t the democracy it’s fooled itself to believe it is.  It’s a Republic – a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president (taken from here).  The fact is, it’s the upper class that holds all the power, and we’re placated with our “right” to vote.  Don’t believe me?  Go learn how the electoral college is set up, and then get back to me.

So if my choosing not to vote makes me a Bad American, so be it.  Honestly?  I’d rather be a Bad American than a hypocrite any day.  Voting for someone whom I truly don’t wish to be elected would, in fact, make me a hypocrite.

(I should credit Vesta44 and Big Fat Dynamo for inspiring this post.  It was after reading theirs that I got to thinking.  Dangerous, I know.  😉 )

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16 Responses

  1. I don’t see it as a “bad American” thing, but rather as… illogical? Irrational? (no insult intended, and not a moral judgment but rather just saying I don’t understand this line of thinking).

    I look at it this way. Whatever the result, you (along with the rest of us) will have to live with the policies and decisions of the president in office. And those policy decisions will, in fact, be different. Even if Obama and McCain aren’t *that* different, they aren’t the same, either, and they will certainly not make the same decisions.

    You don’t get to abstain from living with whatever decisions they make. Whether it’s Obama or McCain appointing people to the Supreme Court, you will live with the results of that.

    I mean, I guess what I don’t get is this: Do you *really*, honestly see the two candidates as indistinguishable in terms of the results of their being in office? Or, to put it another way, looking back at prior elections, do you see Clinton’s legacy as exactly the same, for all practical purposes (in terms of social and economic policy) as Bush’s legacy?

  2. I don’t think I’d label anyone a “bad American” (there are days when that label seems redundant anyhow…*sigh*), but I do confess to being annoyed with people who don’t vote. It isn’t so much the not voting (I have a friend who doesn’t vote because she doesn’t follow politics and doesn’t want to “pollute the system”–her words, not mine–with an ignorant vote), but the not voting in combination with much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how the country is run.

    The president is (obviously) not an insignificant part of our government, but I think people put way too much emphasis on that role. Many (most) of the people and laws that affect our daily lives are decided upon at the state and local level. It puzzles me when people treat the presidential election as “THE” election, as if all the stuff about your senator and your local zoning issue and your K-12 funding levy is unworthy of attention.

    Choosing not to vote seems like a self-fulfilling prophesy–I don’t vote because I don’t think it will make a difference, and since I don’t vote I don’t make a difference (and bear no responsibility for my government or its impact on my life but retain my right to be upset about the results that I chose not to affect). It seems awfully easy to sit on the sidelines and say, “Don’t blame me–I didn’t vote for any of those bastards!”

    Perhaps this is my youthful naiveté speaking, but there are a lot more colors on the political spectrum than blue and red, and a lot more elections than the presidential. Maybe change doesn’t start with the presidential election–maybe it starts with a revamp of the electoral college, or with a firebrand third-party senator, or with a small-scale local voter education program. But to just give up? I think if you do that you loose your right to moan about what happens next.

  3. I had my blog-dig in at the whole “magic of voting” thing too:
    http://sugar-for-sugar.livejournal.com/2764.html

    Doesn’t it just make you want to puke? American Politics: YOU CAN’T WIN, SO DON’T BOTHER.

  4. I’ve never voted either. Part of it is that my interest (such as it is) in politics is a very recent thing.

    Part of it is that i’m incredibly intimidated by the fact that i don’t know HOW to vote. I know that sounds kind of stupid, but my knowledge of computer technology is VERY specific. Give me a machine with a windows interface and i can make it obey my every whim. Give me a mac interface and we can find a peaceful accord. Ask me to send a fax and i will develop an elevated pulse. Ask me to fix a copier and i will instantly begin evaluating my options between fight or flight. Granted, i hide this well and am quick to learn – but if i feel pressure (say, people waiting behind me in line), it’s going to stress me way the hell out.

    But the more i read about what happened to the voting machines the LAST time we had a presidential election? The more i want to move to a deserted island. 😛

  5. I got here off the fatosphere feed, so apologies for the drive-by commenting! I hope this doesn’t sound snarky, but if you would have voted for Hillary, I’d encourage you to take another look at (a) Obama’s policies, which aren’t realy too different from hers, and (b) who each of them is likely to appoint to the Supreme Court and some of the issues likely to be decided in the next two decades. Because to me, that’s a HUGE area where Obama and McCain differ and the impact in our day-to-day lives is likely to be really large. For instance, I would be surprised if Roe v. Wade survived a McCain presidency and even more surprised if it didn’t survive an Obama presidency.

    That may not be something that concerns you, which is totally fine – just something I wanted to point out since I know it would concern a lot of Hillary supporters so it seemed possible you were one of them. 🙂

    The fat is evil position of Obama bothered me too but . . . I don’t expect anything else from a politician at this point. I really don’t. In 20 or 30 years, maybe I’ll feel like I”ll have a shot at realistically distinguishing between candidates on that ground, but not now. Instead, I go for the candidate who is more likely to support anti-discrimination policies and the like generally, which I think is clearly Obama here (note McCain’s vote against the bill making it, essentially, possible to bring a feasible lawsuit against gender-based pay discrimination last year), because I think those are the candidates who will be best for fat people in the short term. Certainly not the end game, but better.

    I understand your frustration about the 2000 election, too. But in a country of 250 million people there will always be problems and irregularities. I’m not a huge fan of the electoral college, although it has its purpose, and I don’t like at all that that election got thrown to the Supreme Court in the manner it did, but I guess I haven’t seen any evidence before or since that the election was realy rigged from the start, instead of an ad hoc series of issues, or that it’s likely to reoccur. In some sense, it was such an unlikely occurrence of events!

  6. Just a little drive-by here.

    I’ve read all the comments so far, and I DO want to address each and every one of you. But it looks like I probably won’t have time to do it until tomorrow. Kitchen needs cleaning, children need feeding, and I’m going out with “the girls” tonight, so I just doubt that I’m going to have a chance until tomorrow.

    And for any commenters between now and tomorrow who get caught in the moderation/spam filter: if I’ve got a few seconds, I’ll check the moderation queue and see if I can push them through. But if you don’t see your comment, I’m probably just too busy.

    Kay? Kay. 😉

  7. I always vote. But rarely vote for the people on the ballot. I take advantage of the write in option. The last presidential election I voted for Oprah. And whereas yes, I know that a whole lot of people would say that I’m throwing away my vote, at least I voted for someone that I honestly believe might do a half decent job of running this country. When it comes to politicians, especially on the presidential level I feel its like voting between two evils. Its looking like this year I will once again be voting for Oprah.

  8. I’m doing the write-in for President, mainly because I don’t like how either main candidate is so willing to take advantage of misogyny in order to win.

  9. Well, when Hillary was running, she had an entire Obesity Task Force, designed to ending obesity. I’m not happy that Obama wants to end obesity but NOT voting, you might be voting for McSame.

    I’ll respect your decision but what about the Green party or voting independently? As far as I’m concerned, people who don’t vote don’t have the right to complain.

  10. I’m going to write in Hillary. I feel this is the best way to get across to the Democrats, that yes, my vote is one they could have had. If I didn’t vote, stayed home, or voted for McCain, then they could just write me off as someone who would have done those things anyway. With a write-in for Hillary, that rubs their noses in it; they can’t argue it away.

  11. I’m going to write in Hillary. I feel this is the best way to get across to the Democrats, that yes, my vote is one they could have had.

    I’m not trying to be snarky – this is a serious question. Is there something specific the Democrats should have done to have your vote? Or is it just that you think people should have voted for Hillary in the primary instead of Obama?

  12. I vote. It’s one of the first things I registered for when I was 18 and more of an idealist. Fourteen years later, now I know that whoever you vote in, will for the most part do the opposite of what they said they would do before they won.

    I’m a Democrat. No, I’m not thrilled with how Obama thinks we’d be better off if obesity rates went back to 1980 (I was a very skinny FOUR year-old then). I’m not thrilled when Mariellen blogged about some “ZOMG TEH FATZ IS EVIL!” group getting lobbying time at the Democratic convention. But, any candidate, regardless of party affiliation, will jump on the “fat people are bad for the nation” bandwagon. It’s a given. Remember Mike Huckabee, who had WLS and insists all people are fat because we can’t stay away from the buffet? Republican, and card-carrying fat hater. Thank God he’s not in the running. I don’t even want to imagine what he’d do in regards to fat.

    But since Obama is more flexible when it comes to issues that affect me, he’ll get my vote in November.

  13. The reason I ask that, Piffle, is because I’m a democrat and was an Obama voter in the primary. I voted in a late-voting state (Oregon) and spent months trying to decide. I loved HIllary and would have been fucking thrilled to have her be president. I ultimately decided I would be slightly more thrilled to have Obama be president (it was his speech on race that really edged me over).

    So if it’s that decision to vote that I made, I guess it seems . . . insufficient to me to be the cause of actions that lead to all of us (hillary and obama voters alike) having a president who we agree with less than the alternative. I mean, what is the message here? That next time I Should vote for the candidate whose voters tell me they won’t vote Democratic if their candidate doesn’t win?

  14. Medea is right on about the presidential election not being the only game in town. I admit it’s hard to NOT feel cynical about the political process on that level, but local stuff does genuinely matter to how lives are lived locally. And local votes can count.

    I live in Washington state and in 2004 the democratic candidate for governor defeated the republican by 133 votes.

  15. First, let me apologize for taking so long. I’ve not been feeling well (it wasn’t the drinking :P) , Hubby and I have been passing some sort of cold/virus back and forth, and I was just generally feeling like a deep-fried turd. I could barely SEE straight, let alone THINK straight. I feel SLIGHTLY better today (but only slightly) so I figured I’d better get this done before my brain turns to mush again. 😉

    Miriam:

    Do you *really*, honestly see the two candidates as indistinguishable in terms of the results of their being in office? Or, to put it another way, looking back at prior elections, do you see Clinton’s legacy as exactly the same, for all practical purposes (in terms of social and economic policy) as Bush’s legacy?

    No of course I don’t see them as being the same, but you bring up a point that a lot of people usually use. They talk about elections in terms of “the lesser of two evils.” To use that terminology, if they’re both “evils,” albeit one is a “lesser evil” than the other one, then why would I waste my vote? Why would I vote for someone that I really don’t want to see elected?

    Medea:

    as if all the stuff about your senator and your local zoning issue and your K-12 funding levy is unworthy of attention.

    While I DO agree with you that those things are just as important, you have to remember that I no longer live in the U.S. The only elections I’m eligible to vote in are the Presidential ones, because while I’m still an American citizen, I’m no longer a resident. I have to look at things from that point of view, because that’s my life.

    there are a lot more colors on the political spectrum than blue and red, and a lot more elections than the presidential.

    While I will admit that that is true, when was the last time someone other than a Republican or Democrat got elected president? Honestly, when the American public (as a whole) starts looking at presidential elections as something other than a “black/white” issue, then maybe I’ll feel a little more confident about voting. But the fact is, politics in America have always been split down the middle. Anything that doesn’t fall into one of those two categories seems to fade away. And see the above comment about the second half of your quote.

    Sugar Leigh:

    American Politics: YOU CAN’T WIN, SO DON’T BOTHER.

    Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. Unless, of course, you happen to be in the top 10% of the population in terms of economic wealth. The sad fact of the matter is, all throughout the course of American history, it’s always been the rich people that benefit from the government.

    Lindsay:

    i’m incredibly intimidated by the fact that i don’t know HOW to vote.

    I have to admit, I’m somewhat intimidated as well. I think I could get through it, if I honestly thought it was worth it. Unfortunately, for the reasons I’ve stated both in the post and in my replies so far, I honestly don’t feel that MY voting would be worth the time and effort it would take. Maybe if I still lived in the U.S. and had to deal with local city councils and senators and whatnot I might feel differently. I honestly don’t know.

    LilahMorgan:

    if you would have voted for Hillary, I’d encourage you to take another look at (a) Obama’s policies, which aren’t realy too different from hers, and (b) who each of them is likely to appoint to the Supreme Court and some of the issues likely to be decided in the next two decades.

    Okay, here’s where the difficulty in my living in another country comes in: I only get snippets of information about American politics. So I can only make my judgements based on what I DO know, not what I would have known had I been actually living IN the U.S. at the time. I made my judgement on Hillary based on what I heard and what I knew about Hillary herself. Having come from roughly the same area as her, we actually studied her in school when Bill was elected, as part of our Current Events and Sociology classes. So I knew a little more about her background than your “average” American would (unless, of course, someone went out of their way to find that stuff out).

    But I freely admit that there may be (and probably will be) some things about the candidates that I don’t know, simply because it’s not deemed important enough to report.

    Sweetness814:

    I take advantage of the write in option.

    You know, if it wasn’t such a royal pain in the ass to even GET a write in ballot, I would seriously consider taking that sort of action. But when getting a write-in ballot will require numerous long-distance phone calls and repeated insured deliveries (because they’d need to see my passport) and possibly even a trip all the way to the other end of the country (which isn’t cheap, mind you)? Not worth it.

    Mari:

    when Hillary was running, she had an entire Obesity Task Force, designed to ending obesity.

    Honestly, I didn’t know that. It wasn’t mentioned in any of the television news or printed news that I managed to catch.

    I’ll respect your decision but what about the Green party or voting independently?

    Well, it’s kind of hard to vote for people you’ve never even heard of.

    Piffle:
    See above comment to Sweetness814. Applies to you as well. 🙂

    Bree:

    any candidate, regardless of party affiliation, will jump on the “fat people are bad for the nation” bandwagon. It’s a given.

    But WHY should I HAVE to accept that? If one of the principles I’m not willing to compromise is the eradication of FatPhobia™, then why don’t I have that right? Why should I be made to feel forced by the rest of the American public for NOT being willing to betray my own convictions?

    Elizabeth:

    You do have a point for Americans in general. But I CAN’T vote in my local elections, because I’m not a citizen of the country I’m currently residing in!

  16. I’m personally frightened to death by Cindy McCain, she gives be the weegiebeegies

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