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Jul. 17, 2005

The United States of No-More-Ica
What matters and what does not in the USA
posted by Rick Gagliano

Largely, my opinions in the great political debates of America don't matter. And equally largely, I don't care. I've voted once in the last twenty years, and I can't even remember when it was or for whom I voted. I make more than my fair share of political noise, but that's simply my free choice. There are things I like about the United States, things I don't particularly care for, and some things that I absolutely abhor. I still, to some degree, have the right to sound off on anything, a right of which I normally take full advantage.

The fact that I don't vote does not deny me the right to object or complain, nor does it invalidate anything that I assert. Rather, it is an affirmation of one of my most basic beliefs - that until voting becomes mandatory, I have the right to reject all candidates and all proposals that are put before the public. In my view, the less time spent on politics and the passage of laws, the more time the American public would have on those other things guaranteed in our Constitution - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The idea of making voting a mandatory obligation is law in quite a few nations, though it would hardly be given lip service in the United States. Besides being nearly completely unenforceable, it would also be extremely unpopular. For instance, in the last presidential election, the one that was supposed to be the most important of our lifetime, about 42% of the American public decided not to engage in that particular folly at all.

According to any available figures (I used these), the number of people who didn't vote vastly outnumbered those who cast their lots for either candidate. Here's a breakdown:
Total eligible voters (according to the 2000 census, so the real figure is probably higher): 205,815,000
Bush: 62,028,772
Kerry: 59,026,150
Neither or Nobody: 84,760,078

The newspapers on the morning of November 3rd should have heralded the announcement: Nobody Won! and that nobody won handily. A large plurality of Americans once again soundly and overwhelmingly rejected the two party system, as they have for longer than anyone can remember.

Think about it. If a mere 5% of those people who didn't show up decided to vote and went out and voted for Kerry, he'd be president, not George W. Bush. But I don't actually believe that could have happened and will likely never happen. Those 84 million Americans who didn't vote, didn't because they just don't care who wins. They probably have more interest in who wins the Super Bowl than they do the presidency. They likely wouldn't vote even if you offered to pay them. They are the real silent majority, and they're saying, and have been saying for some time, government is absurd, we don't agree with most of what they do and we don't want to be a party to any of it.

Of course, I'm making some pretty big assumptions about the non-voters of America, but I think I can speak for them in some regards, having been one of them for the better part of the last forty years. For instance, every time the government does anything, we would rather they not. Go to war? I don't think so. Raise taxes? Uh-uh. Lower taxes? That might get a little interest, but to really get aroused the government would have to propose abolishing taxes!

There are issues that the washed or unwashed masses of non-voters might actually support. Tops on the list would be a massive reduction in the size of the federal government. If there was a proposal to cut the federal budget by 25% or more, I'd be out there rallying for it with all my heart. Likewise, if there were ever to come a day that a proposal to ban political reporting on television, I could go for that in a big way. We might then see more cartoons, or maybe even news that mattered to us.

But generally, these things will never occur. Big government, big media and big business will do what they like. And the 84 million (and their kids under 18) will largely ignore all of it because we consider most of it as a huge waste of time and energy. Thankfully, it's not our time nor our energy.

Take, for instance, the work of Congress. Lately, they've intervened in a right-to-die issue (Terri Schiavo) in a way that 85% of the American public disagreed. 85%! Yet the Senators and Congresspeople and even the President went out and stuck their noses where they did not belong. If that isn't a sure sign that government is broken and clueless and not worthy of our votes, then what is?

How about the endless debate over the so-called nuclear option of changing the rules of the Senate, to disallow filibusters in the confirmation of judicial appointments? This issue is so convoluted and demonstrably stupid that most Americans would rather the senators just do whatever it is they need to do and get on with it. And what is all the news coverage, debate and wrangling over? A couple of judges. Who cares? The chance that a ruling by any one of these judges would ever effect the lives of any of us is infinitesimal. Approve the judges. Move on.

But if the Congress isn't wasting our tax dollars debating their own rules, they're either playing politics, passing bills that are either detrimental to the general public or beneficial to big business, or, as is the case most of the time, passing legislation that accomplishes both. For perfect examples of how the legislature does this, take the recent passage of laws on bankruptcy, tort reform and the estate tax (passed by the House, soon to be before the Senate), and the no vote on raising the minimum wage.

And if you want to see government in all its wasteful, ill-conceived glory, just follow the President along to the "town meetings" (staged political events) on Social Security reform. The President's plan for private accounts has been so much of a dead issue for so long the mainstream media doesn't even bother to report on it anymore, yet he's out there "on the stump", "doing the people's business."

Hello, Mr. President! The people have completely rejected your idea, so you can stop wasting our time and our tax dollars. Besides, less than a third of us actually voted for you, so whatever business you're doing for whomever people, it doesn't apply to the majority.

And that's why people don't vote, and why I urge more people to resist voting. Only by proving that our elected officials do not represent us can we actually change the direction of our country. When the number of voters dwindles to less than 25% of those eligible to participate, maybe the politicians will get the message that they aren't working for us, haven't been working for us for many years, we don't want them working for us, and they'll just give up. I can only hope and wait for that day. In the meantime, let them go on passing their laws, spending more than we give them and generally wrecking the country along with its laws, its traditions and its constitution. When the entire weight of their mistakes finally comes crashing down around their ears, those of us who resisted the urge to vote for ANY OF THEM will be here to pick up the pieces and maybe start over again.


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