This is sizing up to be the dullest election in memory: in state after state, candidate A vs. candidate B, both of them liars who want to line their pockets and expand the government, no matter what they claim in their rallies. The permanent government in the executive branch and the courts runs everything anyway. What a racket.
For that reason, turnout this November may well be the low. So pundits are decrying the lack of public interest in politics. Neoconservatives are moaning about the collapse of America’s “civic culture.” Whatever happened, they ask, to the days when the pledge was our prayer, the Star Spangled Banner our hymn, war a sacrament, and the flag our most precious icon? They hoped that 9-11 would bring it all back, but, alas, it was short lived.
Civic (pertaining to politics) and culture (pertaining to society) represent opposite concepts. For fifty years, world politics was dominated by the prospect of nuclear war from which only the state could save us by constantly threatening nuclear war (I don’t make this stuff up; I just report it). Now partisans of the state hope that the fear of terrorism will take the place of the Cold War.
Essential to the false and artificial national religion has been the vote. It is our central means of participation in civic life. With our vote, we signal our essential trust in the system, our belief that it can truly work to the social benefit. It used to be said that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the outcome. It turns out that even if you do vote, you’re not allowed to complain about the outcome. Democracy means acquiescence.
Under the original American compact, voting was restricted to the very few. And even so, there were several layers of filters between the ballot box and elected officials, so that politicians were largely prevented from selling favors to their supporters. As the framers designed it, the senate was for appointed representatives of the states, and the electoral college prevented the president from being chosen by popular mandate.
But with the end of the constitutional republic came mass democracy. No law is fixed. No principle of government is secure. There are no rights that cannot be trampled on by the plebiscitory dictatorship called the presidency. By what right does he rule us? By right of the great god democracy, a concept that has been transformed from a simple voting mechanism into a mystical Rousseauian notion of the general will.
Democracy is only the most recent god to fail, but what can we do about it? Simple: Don’t Vote. Consider your non-vote an act of private secession from the system that robs our liberty and tricks us into obedience. If you don’t vote, you will have clean hands. You will have declared you independence. You will be a true rebel. You will contribute to the decline and fall of the state.
Does not voting make a difference? Indeed it does. When the Soviet Union forced its citizens to ratify pre-arranged political transitions, it wasn’t just going through the motions. It was subtlety roping people into the psychology of participation, trying to underscore the myth that government can be of the people, by the people, for the people. For the same reason, US power elites fear the day that Americans can no longer being tricked in a similar racket.
Even if there is a good candidate to vote for, highly unlikely, we might as well face the fact that our vote make no difference anyway. There is a one in ten million chance we will sway the presidential race, and the odds in Congress aren’t that much better. You are far more likely, as economist Gordon Tullock pointed out, to be killed on the way to the polls than to make a difference. There’s also the question of moral sanction. How can we put our stamp of approval on the “lesser of two evils”?
How many times must we be “betrayed” by our favorite candidate before we realize that betraying us is the very purpose of a monstrous system sustained only by our willingness to participate? Make a bigger statement. Don’t acquiesce. Abstain. The freedom not to vote is one of the few we have left. Exercise it while you have the chance.