In defense of not voting

Harper’s Magazine this month has a spirited defense in favor of not voting:

Try to imagine, if you can, candidate Barack Obama in 2008 running on a platform of balancing the budget and appeasing Wall Street by reducing Social Security benefits, restricting Medicare and Medicaid entitlements, increasing the retirement age, and never challenging the established hierarchy of the Democratic Party but rather returning members of the old Clinton regime to positions of power in his administration, especially those advocates of unregulated capitalism who did so much to bring on the economic crisis in the first place. This candidate Obama would not have been elected, which is of course why you did not see him. Yet President Obama has pursued these policies throughout his administration—and they appear to be exactly what he had in mind all along.

Examples follow, including George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

On the eve of what both major parties are telling us is (yet another) critical election here in America, we are forced to question whether it is worth our while to vote at all—whether if, by voting for Barack Obama or for Mitt Romney, we will once again get almost the complete opposite of what we have been promised.


In almost every case, taking part in our democracy proved to be not only disappointing but disastrous. Vote to save your house, bail out a bank. Vote for smaller government, get an empire. Vote to balance the budget, lose your retirement. It’s all good. Or bad. And it has nothing to do with you or the choices you made at the voting booth.

One thing I noticed about the first presidential debate was the candidates’ complete inability to answer the first question and distinguish themselves from each other.

Both candidates are in the pocket of Wall Street. Both think extrajudicial assassination via drone strikes is just fine. Both will allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (Obama’s just delaying it until after the election). Both have the same ideas about healthcare, which involve funneling money into the pockets of insurance companies—so they were reduced to bickering about whether or not one of the schemes included coverage for pre-existing conditions. (Obama was lying or misinformed about that, both Obamacare and Romneycare have coverage for pre-existing conditions.)

I’m not saying they’re both the same; Barack Obama could have said that the big difference he offered was protecting the right to abortion and supporting gay rights. Mitt Romney could have said that his difference from Obama is his desire to give big tax cuts to rich people and cripple the economy with austerity measures against the middle class. But neither of those statements would be palatable to voters, so Romney lied about his own tax plans and Obama quietly refrained from mentioning any policy of his that might actually distinguish him.

Romney did attempt to paint himself as different by saying that he was willing to ‘reach across the aisle’ and work with Democrats. Unfortunately that’s news to those of us who watched him play Governor in Massachusetts, where he had an autocratic style of leadership and would simply veto anything he didn’t like, at more than twice the rate of his Republican predecessors.

It’s possible that Romney would be a disaster by signing any crazy garbage passed by a presumably Republican Congress, from ‘Defense of Marriage’ acts to abortion bans to destruction of Medicare; it’s hard to tell by looking at his track record, and you certainly can’t trust what the slimy weasel says. He would most likely make a lot of use of that Presidential veto against anything Democrats passed that he didn’t like. Obama would presumably be a bit less likely to roll over and sign anything Republicans wrote, and doesn’t seem to like vetoing Democratic measures. So, um, yay Obama?