Don't vote! Be!
Eleven good reasons to become a nonvoter. Be free! Become a nonvoter today!
1. In any case, politicians don't represent you. Politicians act on behalf of big campaign contributors and major political parties. The major political parties in turn act on behalf of the same big contributors. Unless you are a billionaire, you can't give enough money to have any influence. So don't waste your time and money hoping for politicians to represent you. They won't.
2. Your vote does not matter. Rarely an election is so close that your vote might help elect one person over another--not often, but sometimes. But that does not matter because neither person represents you (see item #1, above). Even that letter you wrote to your congressperson did not matter. Did you think it did? What evidence do you have?
3. But don't despair. Politicians don't matter. The really important problems facing our society are not helped or hurt by what politicians say or do. Consider the problems that really matter: improving education for our kids, strengthening our families and communities, encouraging kindness and care, promoting social and economic innovation, saving the environment, reducing racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and other stereotyping of individuals. None of these are helped by the actions of "political representatives." The most vital contributions in American history are large social and spiritual movements, not who won this or that election.
4. Thus, voting is a false virtue. Voting is a relatively meaningless activity dressed up as a virtue. Voting encourages you to feel you have taken action, when you have not. Voting undermines personal creativity by providing an easy, socially-sanctioned, and ineffective action that salves our conscience and provides an illusion of participation but does not have any other effect.
5. An emphasis on voting degrades communication in society. Political arguments that are aimed at influencing voting are almost always propaganda--and thus degrade citizen discussion and reflection. Swing-state targeting, polling, calculated language and image, spinning: Over a billion dollars was spent on political advertising during the latest US political season. Did it enhance true national dialogue on matters that make a difference to our future? Do we as a nation now better agree on the key facts of our situation? Do those with diverse views better understand and respect each other? The emphasis on propoganda is inherent in a representational democracy, because all the politician needs to do is to get you to vote for him or her--the politician does not need to prepare you for deeper participation, or maintain communication with you. He or she only needs your vote on a certain day, and the incentives to manipulate you to get your vote are very great.
6. There is no way to fix vote-targeted political communication by regulation. Public discourse in many other fields is regulated by prohibitions against fraud, slander, etc. It is well-known that advertising campaigns run by politicians are among the most misleading of all advertising. There is no meaningful way to regulate campaigns without impairing free political speech--and this is rightly judged a more critical value than honesty. But this ensures trouble. Product and service advertisers incur liability if they lie. Politicians do not. Fraud--in the form of false promises--is illegal in product and service promotion. False promises are the stuff of life for politicians, who incur no direct consequences for making promises not kept, and face no criminal penalties. The way to change this situation is to make votes and the process of influencing voting less important, and chose other forms of leadership and participation as ways to improve our society.
7. The Internet does not improve traditional politics. Internet voting does not change the limitations of representative government. It can make voting faster and easier, but it does not change the problem: Working through representatives is an obsolete way to address our common challenges and opportunities.
Internet political messaging and Internet fundraising can get messages out and raise lots of money--but they have not proven effective at deepening dialogue. Centralized Internet campaigning can be corrosive to the spirit of the online community, because politics trades in evasiveness and dishonesty. Candor and honesty are central to dialogue on the web.
Internet blogging and grassroots organizing has proven much better at stimulating dialogue, mostly by hooking up far flung members of a community and making communication fun and easy. But I would argue that this is not an example of online tools improving traditional representative democracy, but rather of online tools helping people come together to help themselves.
If you are interested in using technology for social change, I increasingly believe it makes sense to put your efforts directly into your passions, rather than into trying to influence voting. Technological passions that have already had an impact include RSS, global blogging and enhanced free speech, micro-e-commerce, peer-to-peer music and video sharing. These are just a few.
8. Representative democracy is necessary but far from sufficient. Representative democracy is better than dictatorship--and is necessary but not sufficient for a progressive society. But representative democracy is obsolete as a way to organize society and come together to address our most vital challenges. Direct action is here now.
The opposite of representative democracy is not "direct democracy." Direct democracy is an oxymoron. There is nothing direct about electing a representative and hoping that he or she will take action on your behalf. The opposite of representative democracy is direct citizen action. Let's focus on improving our abilities individually and as groups to take effective citizen action.
9. You matter. You matter most. And you are enabled to matter more each day. You are already an "army of one" without joining any government's army. Your creative action is enabled by widespread public education, free speech and other civil rights, the Internet, travel, globalization, creative capitalism and iPods. Entrepreneurship, blogging, home study and home schooling are all examples of this trend. You do have the power. But your power is not the power to elect or influence political representatives. No, you don't have that power, as explained in item #2. But you have a better power. You have the power to create.
10. You can use your energy for higher and more effective pursuits than voting. Voting and the process of campaigning takes personal time and money from you, and reduce your ability to invest in more effective ways. Do something direct instead. Hire kids to clean up a park. Plant some trees (the latest Nobel Peace Prize was won by a woman who plants trees to help improve the environment in Africa). Write that book, record that song.
The era of citizen power is upon us. You have the power to come together with other people to shape the world directly. Have fun. Don't get distracted from your mission: your mission is creative, satisfying, and more likely to be effective the more you work at it directly.
11. The nonvoter party is global. Given that we don't vote, we do not need to be sanctioned by current political jurisdictions. We can be active all over the world, without concern for national boundaries and rules. Imagine..