Here on California's central coast, the most glorious weather comes not in summer, when tourists gather, but in fall, after the crowds have gone home. So last weekend, I hunkered down outside a streetside coffee house to enjoy the sunshine and general quiet, armed with a cup of dark roast, an Ed Gorman western, and a ten-buck Macanudo.
But my splendid afternoon was crudely interrupted. Two grinning teens danced up and pushed a red-white-and-blue "Re-elect Gray Davis for Governor" sign in my face. They looked too young to even vote for the shady little conman. Caught off guard, I barked something nonsensical and batted cigar smoke at them. The kids scooted off to badger other innocent bystanders.
In 1970, at a libertarian conference at USC, I first heard the great Bob LeFevre suggest we "abstain from beans." He was referring to the act of voting in ancient Athens different colored beans were dropped into a box. To refuse to vote was to "abstain from beans." This was a startling notion to a 16-year-old Young Republican. But when I came of voting age two years later, I avoided the polls deliberately. Since then, I've only strayed once from my principles and cast a ballot.
A few years back, the Los Angeles Times reported that in California alone, the "Anti-Electorate" those like myself who could vote but refrain by choice was about 14 million. Imagine what those numbers would be today. Imagine the national figures.
Of course, Big Media, political wonks, and Hollywood's get-out-the-vote "Left" insist that we members of the Anti-Electorate are too lazy and/or apathetic to exercise the right to choose our own masters.
Baloney. More and more, non-voting has become a conscious choice for Americans. And as Frank Chodorov wrote almost 60 years ago: "Remember that the proposal to quit voting is basically revolutionary; it amounts to a shifting of power from one group to another, which is the essence of revolution…. Unlike other revolutions, it calls for no organization, no violence, no war fund, no leader to sell it out. In the quiet of his conscience each citizen pledges himself, to himself, not to give moral support to an unmoral institution, and on election day he remains at home. That's all."
A decade ago, inspired by Chodorov, I first published "The Anti-Electorate Manifesto."
We, the Anti-Electorate, do not believe there is a need for "strong leadership" in government.
We are not drawn to "intellectual" authorities and political "heroes."
We are not impressed with titles, ranks, and pecking orders politicians, celebrities, and gurus.
We do not struggle for control of organizations, social circles, and government.
We do not lobby the State for favors or permission to control those with whom we disagree.
Rather, we advocate freedom.
By its very nature, the State does not.
Exercise your right to say "No" to the warfare-welfare system.
Refuse to vote. Then tell your friends why.
I wish now I'd been better prepared last Saturday for my young political assailants. I could have handed them a copy of my manifesto. Maybe, just as Bob LeFevre did for me more than 30 years ago, I would have inspired them to "abstain from beans."
September 26, 2002
Wally Conger [send him mail] is a marketing consultant and writer living on California's central coast. He has been a non-political, anti-party activist in the libertarian movement since 1970. He has a website, www.WConger.com.