Sunday, August 07, 2016

Principled Non-Voting: The Missing Element

I'm listening to Free Talk Live (and I'm listening live, so I can't just link to the episode; I'll try to remember to come back later and do that here), and there was just some talk about voting, not voting, "principled non-voting" and so forth.

One of the hosts (Mark) is apparently a little sick of "principled non-voters" belly-aching about how voting is "supporting the system" etc. He hates it -- not because he thinks it negatively affects the libertarian movement in terms of large numbers, but because he thinks it's irrational and that the irrationality is infectious.

I kind of agree, but probably not for the same reasons, at least from what I'm hearing so far. The discussion doesn't seem to have come around to what I consider the main thing:

If all you do vis a vis voting is not vote, it doesn't bother statists nor does it really negatively affect the state.  There's a certain amount of immunity there in the form of the claim/perception that people who don't vote aren't voting because they're apathetic rather than because they have a problem with the system, and that in turn buttresses the whole "if you don't vote, don't complain" / "not voting is consent to abide by whatever the people who do vote decide" consensus.

As a former and possibly future "principled non-voter" I have to say I have always agreed with what Mark seems to be getting at.

In order for not voting to be an effectual statement, or to be or become the tactic of a movement, the people who don't vote have to say why they're not voting, and some non-trivial portion of them have to agree, at least roughly, on why that is.

One of my past little projects (you know me, I start projects to see where they go and abandon them if the answer is "nowhere") was to try and get a campaign going through which non-voters could, as a group, publicly say (through a sort of public registry and communique system) "we're not voting because we don't consent to your system." I called it ⛒-VOTERS. Didn't really go anywhere, but I still think it was an interesting idea with potential.

IIRC, somewhere in the neighborhood of 22% of Americans voted for Barack Obama for president in 2012. 78% did not, and a majority of that 78% didn't vote at all.

Suppose that in addition to the ~22% of Americans who voted for Obama, ~22% or more had joined together in publicly stating "we neither want nor need a president thingie, have your little ritual if you want to but keep it to yourselves." Somewhat different perceptual story there, huh?

But absent that joining together around a message, not voting really isn't any different than not checking the mailbox or not having mayonnaise on your ham sandwich, or not watching Game of Thrones. Nobody notices that you didn't do it and nobody cares why.

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