Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Casting a Vote of No Confidence

Yesterday, Elizabeth Drew put up a post to NYRBlog with the title “Election 2012” (followed by the subtitle “What the Polls Don’t Tell Us”). My guess is that we shall be seeing more and more of this title between now and Election Day, probably by many of the NBYRBlog contributors. The bulk of her post involved discussing the implications of the following premise:
In fact, upward of 98 percent of the voters have already decided, and so the ferocious battle will be over the small remaining number of undecided voters.
However, the most important observation came towards the end of the post, when she observed:
“Staying home” isn’t a passive act.
This has consequences of its own.

Even those who may have decided how they will vote may have misgivings. The problem is that there is no way to give a “vote of no confidence” to the current state of our government. There is no way in which voters cannot speak out against a system that has become too partisan to work for the benefit of the electorate. Indeed, the system is so broken that even the Judiciary Branch, which the Founding Fathers assumed would be above partisanship, has been dragged into the same mud that engulfs both the Legislative and Executive Branches.

Still, it may not be just a matter of staying home for lack of anything better to do. There is a good chance that the “ferocious battle” over 2% of the electorate will appeal to the need to express strong negative opinion. If you cannot raise enthusiasm among the electorate for voting for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, you can damned well get a lot of hot blood flowing by encouraging folks to vote against one of these candidates. So what we are likely to see is a massive advertising campaign designed to inculcate hate-based rabble-rousing; and all this will be supported by a media business that loves to do this sort of thing, since it tends to be a guaranteed formula for improving ratings numbers. Where this will lead will remains anyone’s guess; but it is reasonable to anticipate that, whoever wins the next election, the American people will be the losers.

1 comment:

jones said...

Here's how to vote "no confidence"

Voting behavior has a minimal impact on policy in large part because it is primarily a means of legitimating the power structure from which both parties derive their influence. The current power structure prevents citizens from effectively lobbying Congress, replaces dignified work with automation, uses higher education to turn students into indentured servants, and provides no viable means to halt the post-911 erosion of civil liberties. Leadership is not a viable means to enact social change because belief in political leadership is itself a tool used to enforce conformity. Conformists don't bring about social change.

An alternative to 3rd party voting, which is often denigrated as "throwing your vote away" is to use voting as a means to coordinate the attitudes of the disaffected -- that is, to use the existing electoral system for a purpose other than installing an individual in office. Such an alternate use of voting would be to vote for yourself as a write in candidate coupled with the determined advocacy of this same tactic.

The advantages of such a voting tactic are multi-faceted:

1. Focuses on individual initiative rather than rely on some external organization for efficacy

2. If enough people participate, will create a spectacle that the media can't spin.

3. Lets disaffected voters know how many others like them are out there as a pre-requisite for more organized behavior

4. Gives voters the choice to vote for what they believe in rather than against what they fear

5. Non-violent

6. Inexpensive

7. Able to distinguish the angry voting abstainers from the apathetic non-voters

It is important to the success of such a tactic that participants vote for themselves and not a third-party candidate as a "protest vote." The objective is to create a numerical anomaly in the election results that neither the media nor the political establishment can spin by creating a disparity between the number of ballots cast and the number of votes leading candidates receive. The purpose is to refuse to legitimize a corrupt system.

If a prospective participant is afraid of becoming a "spoiler" and tipping the election in favor of "the other side," then, first and foremost, advocacy of this tactic should be directed towards non-voters who don't vote for major parties anyway.

Also, keep in mind another way of interpreting how close our elections have become:

In 2000, the Florida recount was triggered by statute because less than 0.5% of votes separated Bush from Gore. If one denies that the election was rigged, one must then accept that an election settled by less than the statistical margin of error by definition says nothing about voter preference. An election so close might as well be settled by chance.

A statistically-significant degree of participation in such an action would be 5% of the popular vote, as this is what is required for federal election matching funds. This could be the youth vote. The purpose is to create a numerical "black hole" that the nation will have to examine, both in terms of voter preferences and with respect to the integrity of the voting system overall.

If you're like most voters, then you believe polarization is a problem in contemporary American politics. Voting for Democrats and Republicans will only lead to more polarization, and is not a viable solution. At some point, citizens are going to have to take just a little bit of a risk and change their behavior. Anybody who looks towards the risks taken by protesters in the Arab Spring should consider engaging with this more modest risk.