SYNDICATED COLUMN: If You Vote, You Can’t Complain

Why It’s OK for Disgusted Liberals Not to Vote for Obama

Here we go again. Like Charlie Brown considering Lucy’s offer to hold the football so he can kick it–and Lucy’s promises not to pull it away at the last second, as she’s done every time in the past–lefties are being urged to set aside their disgust over the last four years and vote Democratic.

At least Lucy respected Charlie Brown enough to lie to him. President Obama isn’t even bothering to tell disappointed progressive voters that things will be different this time. At last night’s second presidential debate, for example, he promised to create jobs years in the future–not now, when we need them.

Despite my well-documented doubts, I voted for Obama in 2008. Not this time.

“If you don’t vote for Obama, you’re letting Romney win.” (So many friends, colleagues, family members, correspondents, bloggers and random whoevers have told me that that it hardly seems fair to single one out for attribution.)

Nonsense!

No election in the U.S. has ever been decided by one vote. None.

Thus, by definition, my vote is purely symbolic. (Don’t give me that “if everyone thinks the same way…” garbage. If everyone bought my book, it would be a #1 bestseller. If everyone used trashcans, there wouldn’t be litter. If everyone…if if if. The only vote you control, the only action you can take, is your own.)

My vote has no value other than as a symbolic endorsement. And I refuse to endorse what this president has done and failed to do.

I won’t symbolically endorse his drone war, which has killed thousands of Pakistanis–98% of them innocent civilians, the other 2% political dissidents with no designs against the U.S.

I will not endorse Obama’s 2009 decision to hand $7.77 trillion–$24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country–to bankers, no strings attached, who ought to be in prison while consciously standing by and allowing millions of homeowners to fall victim to illegal foreclosures and failing to abolish the time limit for unemployment benefits, as is standard in other countries.

Obama can go golfing more than 100 times while prisoners the Pentagon has declared innocent continue to rot in Gitmo dog cages. I can’t stop his war crimes. But he can commit them without my tacit silence-equals-death consent, much less my voluntary endorsement.

I could write a book.

The comedian George Carlin said: “People say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that? If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who in fact did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with.”

If you’re like me, you think Mitt Romney would be even worse than Obama. What should you do? Whatever you want.

I don’t care if you vote for Obama, or for a third-party candidate like Jill Stein of the Greens, or if you don’t vote at all. Do whatever you want, but don’t think about it. Electoral politics is a distraction.

You should be spending your time and energy thinking about revolution.

Between now and the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, we have to fend off a lot of stupid pro-Democrat entreaties to forget the dead Pakistanis and the desperate poor and your own bank balance and endorse the man and the administration who made them possible. To help you refute your pseudo-liberal, Obama-loving, Democratic apologist friends, here are some powerful counterarguments to their lesser-evilism.

Argument 1: If you don’t vote for Obama, Romney will win.

Your response: Bull. That might be true if you live in a swing state. (If you’re one of the three out of four Americans who don’t live in a swing state, stop reading here.) A 2010 study found that zero out of 20,000 elections–including for Congress and Senate–has ever come down to one vote. The closest margin, for one race in 1910, was six votes. Feel free to stay home. Hell, vote for Romney. Won’t make any difference.

Argument 2: Obama will be more liberal in a second term.

Your response: How do you know? Not having learned anything from the last four years, Obama still says he’ll be “more than happy to work with Republicans” after the election (to help them dismantle Medicare). Let’s take the man at his lack of word: he hasn’t promised much. Even if we stipulate Obama’s secret, silent liberal intentions, how will he push them through House that will likely remain Republican? Not to mention, lame duck presidencies aren’t renowned for their record of legislative achievement. Obama will have as much chance of signing big new programs into law sitting in his kitchen in Chicago as in the Oval Office.

Argument 3: Romney will push the country even further to the Right.

Your response: The U.S. has moved to the right since the early 1970s. But it wasn’t just because of Reagan and Bush Jr. Presidents Carter, Clinton and yes, Obama also moved the needle to the right. Their most important actions were pro-Republican: Carter’s pre-Reagan defense build-up and arming the Afghan Islamists, Clinton’s gutting of welfare and hollowing out of American manufacturing with “free trade” deals, Obama’s expansive drone wars and bank bailouts, which increased the chasm between the rich and the poor. They ridiculed, marginalized and silenced liberals and progressives within the Democratic Party. Most of all, they didn’t hold the line against GOP ideas, rarely resorting to filibusters and frequently going along with conservative initiatives.

Whether Romney or Obama wins, the Right will continue to get their way. That’s how the system works.

Don’t forget the ironic only-Nixon-could-go-to-China phenomenon: Democratic presidents sometimes go further right than Republicans can. If George W. Bush were still president, he would have taken a lot more heat from the left than Obama has. It’s easy to imagine him being forced to, for example, extend unemployment benefits indefinitely–something Obama hasn’t even tried–to avoid a revolutionary uprising.

In the short run, it makes sense for liberals to vote Democratic. In the long run, voting for conservative Democrats costs libs their leverage. During times of crisis, like now, short-term and long-term considerations intersect. This is not a time to vote same-old, same-old–or to think that voting matters.

(Ted Rall‘s latest book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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9 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: If You Vote, You Can’t Complain

  1. “You should be spending your time and energy thinking about revolution.” – WHAT! Are you nuts?! I am barely getting along, and I have a wife and family to think about – And you think I should go out and do crazy violent revolution things because YOU SUGGEST IT? DO IT YOURSELF! Give us a good example, pundit. I can think all I want, but I have to live and survive first. Like John Lennon said – “You say you want a revolution…..” Do it guy! – run out of your apartment now and do it – Stop asking and telling us to do it, you lazy whining pundit wimp!

  2. @Ted: Delete this fucking Whimsical post. In fact, you need to dox this fool. Out him. Put his real name and address out here for us to see. The revolution starts with purification of the left and fucking Whimsical is number one on the list.

    If you’re serious about putting energies toward revolution, don’t respond to Whimsical. Dox him instead. For the good of the progressive movement.

  3. Wow, even for you this is way off base. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say you couldn’t have written out a more exact prescription for what NOT to do if you were trying to do so.

    Where to begin taking this nonsense on? Guess we’ll start from the top:

    ““If you don’t vote for Obama, you’re letting Romney win.” (So many friends, colleagues, family members, correspondents, bloggers and random whoevers have told me that that it hardly seems fair to single one out for attribution.)”

    To quote my favorite signature line at Daily Kos: “Minus two votes for the Democrat equals plus one vote for the Republican. Math doesn’t give a damn about your feelings.” Whether you want to admit it or not, not voting for Obama helps Romney and the Republicans. Your shtick about elections is nonsense designed to distract from this very fact.

    “But he can commit them without my tacit silence-equals-death consent, much less my voluntary endorsement.”

    As I said in my last post, – so you’re gonna demonstrate how angry you are about the unjust killing of brown people by taking actions that endorse the unjust killing of MORE brown people as well as the destruction of your own country? Again, like it or not, your not voting is a tacit endorsement of Romney.

    “The comedian George Carlin said: “People say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that? If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who in fact did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with.”

    All due respect to George, that’s a load of crap. Not choosing is a choice- its a choice for the people you would least like to see win, and there’s no way around that. If you aid and abet the Republicans in ANY way- and not voting certainly counts- you bear a share of the responsiblity for their actions. In fact, not choosing means you have MORE to do with the created mess then someone who votes for a candidate that loses.

    Feel free to complain if you don’t vote, by the way. Just don’t expect anyone to listen to you. Politicians won’t listen to you because by not voting, you’ve told them that you’re just fine and dandy with WHATEVER they do. The rest of us get that not voting means you have zero credibility on how to make things better, so we won’t be listening to you either.

    And that’s not even touching on how by not voting you are abandoning your moral obligation and duty to your country. . .

    “You should be spending your time and energy thinking about revolution.”

    This is the LAST thing you should be doing. This is the equivalent of being one of those poor people who constantly bitches about their circumstances while spending all their spare money on lottery tickets (yes, it’s a sterotype, but all sterotypes have some basis in fact).

    You don’t like the way things are politically- WORK. WORK your ass off. Don’t waste your time and energy on a solution that is virtually certain not to occur in your lifetime, and even if it did, will not be the panacea you believe it to be (in the case of revolution it will be a solution that is far, far worse than the problem).

    Cause here’s the thing- much like the poor person who blows all their spare cash on the lottery, getting what you wan’t wont fix what’s wrong. Cause your dissatisfaction is internal, and if you got what you want, you’d just find other things to complain about (though in the case of revolution, you would most likely lose the ability to complain. . . )

    Argument 1: If you don’t vote for Obama, Romney will win.

    If you don’t vote for Obama, you’re endorsing Romney and you are helping him win. Fact. No way around it. Now, if you personally don’t vote for Romney he’s still probably going to lose, you’re right about this much.

    But if you belive that Romney will be worse than Obama, then its schizophrenic at best, hypocritical at worst to endorse him and aid his victory.

    Argument 2: Obama will be more liberal in a second term.

    Why should he be? Liberals abandonded him pretty much from his inauguration, and in their dissapointment with his not achieving the unachievable in an impossible timeframe sowed the seeds of dissastisfaction that led to the midterm losses and the last two years of hell.

    Worse, they shown no signs of learning their lesson and changing their tactics. Why on Earth would anyone believe that a politican would reward such intransigence by moving in their direction?

    No, all liberal strategy (including and especially the ones you espouse) has done and will do is guarantee that politicans will run as far away from them as possible, as fast as possible. Which even you admit is EXACTLY what has happened for the past 40 years.

    Argument 3: Romney will push the country even further to the Right.

    Your response: The U.S. has moved to the right since the early 1970s.

    Since right around the time Ted Kennedy decided not to take the health care compromise offered by Nixon and work with it, deciding instead that he could get EVERYTHING he wanted if he could just get the voters to punish the Democrats for not delivering it immediatley, in fact.

    Difference between Ted and most liberals? Ted eventually wised up and saw what a terrible, awful idea that was and how badly it failed. In fact, he would later go on to say that not working with what Nixon offered on health care was the biggest regret of his life.

    Sadly, liberals embraced the idea that they could get everything they wanted without working for it for decades and compromising if they just punished Democrats for not moving left enough, fast enough. And whenthey failed to get everything they wanted, over and over and over again, they became convinced it was because they hadn’t punished the Democrats HARD enough.

    I don’t know why or how they came to belive that- the truth that it is a miserable, failed, failing, and will always fail strategy seems glaringly, blindingly obvious. My theory is that they were infiltrated by the right wing who convinced them of it, but I was 8 in 1972, so I’ve got no proof of that.

    “But it wasn’t just because of Reagan and Bush Jr. Presidents Carter, Clinton and yes, Obama also moved the needle to the right.” Because the left has tried to punish them for not delivering the unachievable in an impossible time frame, which, as discussed above does nothing other than cause politicans to run from you.

    Yes, the country has gone right for the last 40 years, Ted. You want to know why? Look in the mirror. You want to stop it; hell you want to send it the other way? Acknowledge that what you’ve been doing for the past 40 years has been a complete and utetr failure and change. your. tactics.

    The country will go right until those who suggest we punish the Democrats by abandoning them are laughed into obsucrity (and as a side note, until those who suggest extreme violence are investigated by law enforcement.

    The tradegy is- it doesn’t have to. But the left appears to be “stuck on stupid”. (Stupid election strategy, that is).

    ” It’s easy to imagine him being forced to, for example, extend unemployment benefits indefinitely–something Obama hasn’t even tried–to avoid a revolutionary uprising.”

    And less of this. This is a fantasy designed to make you feel better about your failed strategy and not putting in the necessary work, and it needs to end if there is any hope of leftward movement in this country.

    Let me lay it out for you in plain english: There. will. NOT. be. a. revolution. in. the. lifetime. of. anyone. reading. this. and. even. if. there. was. you. would. LOSE. and. not. care. for. the. end.result.

    Stop fanatsing about something that won’t happen and get your ass to work- that is if you’re actually instreted in making real change and progress on the things you claim to care about and not just stroking your ego.

    “In the short run, it makes sense for liberals to vote Democratic. In the long run, voting for conservative Democrats costs libs their leverage”

    Nope. In the long run, all not voting for Conservative Democrats does is convince politicans the country wants Republican policies. Even the most cursory study of history makes this obvious.

    “This is not a time to vote same-old, same-old–or to think that voting matters.”

    No, its a time to stop trying to punish Democrats for not delivering the impossible and start rewarding them for the progress that they HAVE made- and to understand that progres takes time, and that as a consequence of those facts, not only does your vote matter, its going to have to matter for a long time to come.

    “Democracy is the worst system of government- except for all the others.”- Winston Churchill

  4. Great piece Ted – one of your best! One can feel the emotion in this writing, a welcome change from the monotonous op-eds published by the Krugmans of the world.

    Best of all, this is a call to arms. A repudiation of the Whimsicals of the world, and it’s about fucking time. These enablers are the worst of all and it’s time to put them on notice. Not later – now! The Whimsicals have to go. To repeat your line:

    “You should be spending your time and energy thinking about revolution.”

    Exactly. And step one? Purification. Time to rid the left of the enablers. By any means necessary.

  5. @Ted, but one party elections are something totally different. If voting is MANDATORY then not voting becomes an act of civil disobedience that can be quite visible. If voting is voluntary but only has one party worth of choices (or arguably two that work like one) then while not voting is no longer a visible act of civil disobedience it may still be a matter of passive resistance. But when voting is voluntary and there are numerous options for a protest vote (beyond the number of third parties running you ALSO have a write-in ballot option) then not voting becomes indistinguishable from laziness, stupidity, or surrender, and the only act of resistance becomes the protest vote.

    All the examples that can be sited where not voting was a meaningful act of civil disobedience are cases where voting is mandatory or is otherwise much more restrictive then the more complex (though possibly no more useful) system of voting we have access to. Apples and Oranges.

  6. I agree with just about everything except that the not voting is the only voting status that gives you the right to complain.

    In a very Edmund Burke like interpenetration (“All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”) I would still argue not voting gives you the least right to complain (though I endorse everyone has the right to complain, even if they do the foolish thing and vote for Obama and then are disappointed when his inevitable useless or outright bad second term comes to pass). If you want the highest possible moral ground for a “holier then thou” right to complain about whoever comes to power and whatever ends up happening then you have to have cast a protest vote. Only from this position can you truly claim you tried to stand in evils way and do something better. Even though it won’t stop anything and is meaningless in the face of real action, such as revolution, a protest vote is still the only method by which one can actual claim to stand in the way of evil within the scope of our limited and meaningless electoral system.

    Not voting just makes the powers that be think they have won – “Cool, fewer informed free thinking people are voting this year! Now we have to promise and say even less and can rely even more on winning the election via manipulating clueless independents through hollow words and shallow attack adds! We don’t even need to pretend to care or cover our corrupt tracks in a veneer of substance anymore! VICTORY!”

    • @Someone: “Not voting just makes the powers that be think they have won”

      This argument is belied by the fact that dictators hold one-party elections.

      It is very important to the powers that be that they be validated and legitimized by us worker bees.

  7. You have summed up my position wonderfully. I would send it to my dad, but I don’t want to drag up this long buried fight. I don’t want to have to hear again how it is my duty to vote. I am voting by not voting.

    Where I live is the bluest of blue states and it doesn’t mater if I vote for Barry, Mitt, or the Easter Bunny, the q-tips will pull the straight party line and put in that nice young colored boy.

    Local races? They are all uncontested so we will get the usual gang of idiots back into office.

    Ballot questions? Again, the q-tips have no idea what a bond is and have no problem saddling future generations with debt for a project that will rust away before the crooked contractor is caught and when the bonds come due.

    Why do I bother to vote then? Well, I work in state government and it give me perverse personal satisfaction to write in some childish vulgarity that sticks it to the boss.

    We do need a revolution and revolutionaries. We need to get people organized. Until then, thanks for all the fish, Ted.

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