Morris Student DFL Column
On the International Day of Peace I had the great fortune to speak with several students about the importance of registering to vote (after all, peace has never grown from reticence!) Perhaps using more clichés than was necessary – It’s a rare right to exercise in this world; privilege; privilege; privilege – there were a few exchanges that were tenser than others. In fact, there was one conversation I had that left me disheartened, and for as common an argument it is (I hear it a lot), it always leaves me walking away confused.
It goes something like this: “Voting is for the politically pathetic. It is the last option for any idealist since every vote perpetuates the rule of the corporate elite.” Often I will hold my tongue, trying my best to listen, opening my mouth only to point out that not voting is not going to make us not have a president, governor or a senator. The reply? “Well, it just makes me feel good.”
And what can one really say to that?
I usually just quote Ralph Nader: “If you do not turn onto politics, politics will turn on you.”
Should little more than 60% of the population truly have the authority to guide the direction of our state? Given the likelihood of a plurality victory (and that is to be expected in a three party system), should any officeholder claim a “mandate” of 25% of the population – a little more than 1.25 million people? More often than not, these people are not the poor, the young or the marginalized – they are not the people who are most needing of a voice – they are those who realize that not voting is a vote for the status quo.
Studies have been done showing the correlation between voter-turnout rates and how well a government reacts to its wealth/income disparities. Democracy, as wiser men have made clear, is truly the great equalizer that, when fulfilled, addresses all qualms and does more to heal social ills than the charlatans of the few, the affluent. If we want to change the world, we have to be the change we want to see.
If one is not willing to help make the decisions for the direction our state will move, someone else will. It is really that simple. Not voting does more to perpetuate the “corporate elite” than taking the time to actively stand up for what one believes. Resigning and withdrawing will not work; we have given away our right to single-payer health care, to love who we want, to a strong education, and now we want to give away the ballot box? Civil rights do not enforce themselves; corporations do not regulate themselves; public schools do not fund themselves. We, the people, do.
Everyone has the right to guide their lives as they wish, live in any world they wish; it is just that the consequences of their world is the world we have to live in.
Originally published in the University Register at the University of Minnesota-Morris on September 23, 2010.