On my usual travels round the blogosphere tonight, I must have read twenty or thirty exhortations to vote in today’s US election. Many such posts state that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just so long as you vote. Why is this?
When I was too young to vote, I was very keen to do so. We had debates and mock elections at school, and were pretty opinionated and (naively, maybe) informed about which party we supported and what they all stood for. For many years, every time there was a general or local election, I voted (not always for the same party). I used postal votes when necessary, and always made sure to get to the polling station if I was based at home at the time. But in recent years, I have stopped. I still vote in general elections, true, but without any enthusiasm for the menu of candidates I am offered. In local elections, I do not vote any more. I have lived in this town for 15 years and have seen all parties either in control or in coalition form — none of them is the slightest bit different in the event. I have become a cynic — engendered by their horrible nasty election leaflets that come through the door blaming everyone but themselves for every wrong in the world and making unrealistic, blanket promises they have no intention of fulfilling.
On the national level, too, politicians are employing an ever-increasing number of unelected special advisers, press officers, PA people, minders, gurus, hairdressers, fortune-tellers and assorted hangers-on. We have seen our main political parties jettison any pretence of conviction politics in favour of appealing to a narrow set of swing voters who can tip some constituency if they are satisfied on a single issue. We’ve seen spin, media management, honours given to newspaper editors while the editors are still in-post, focus groups, opinion polls, etc.
I am not mentioning greed, corruption, hypocrisy and delusions of grandeur, because politicians have always been like that — it was always par for the course. If they were unlucky enough to get caught (eg Profumo) they resigned. Now they just cling on shamelessly for as long as they can persuade their political agents and parties not to sack them — and if they are sacked or if they quit, it is because of votes, not principles. Everything seems to be acceptable.
Politicians in power are tinkering at the edges, sacrificing their election manifestos and failing to represent the interests of the people who voted for them. The media is pathetic, preferring to focus on trivia, gossip and hysteria than in providing decent investigative journalism.
So tell me again, why is it so important to use your vote? Not voting isn’t opening the door to fascism or communism or any other horror. It is a small, inoffensive way to indicate one’s inability to make a positive choice from the depressing options on offer.
Let me know where my argument is flawed.