So, apparently it’s about time to vote again in the good old U.S. of A. and I, of course will not be voting. And for the first time I’ve been castigated by a few of my acquaintances over my non-voting status. I’m curious to see what people here might think about the whole matter. Obviously for folks outside the U.S. there may be some different dynamics at play in how such questions are evaluated in various contexts.
Fundamentally, I simply find it ridiculous that Christians would consider voting in the U.S. a viable way of “making a difference”. The “elections” that we have here are utterly obvious in how they are bought, regulated, and sold. The idea that we can somehow “influence the system” by voting plumbs the depths of absurdity as far as I’m concerned. It’s tantamount to saying that the early Christians should have tried to work within the “proper chanels” to influence the emperor, or the senate. Or even more appropriately, its tantamount to the eight white religous leaders who told MLK to back off and go through “orderly” and “legal” chanels to bring about justice.
I think that for many evangelical Christians in the U.S. the idea that you must “vote your conscience” is inseparable from the meaning of good citizenship. (As and aside, if you find all that many issues or candidates that you can authentically “vote your conscience” on, then you’ve reached a level of moral clarity – or superficiality that is far beyond my humble abilities.) At its core I feel that the common sensibility that we have a moral obligation to vote just utterly fails to acknowledge the way in which our entire “democratic process” is circumscribed within the framework of global capitalism. The idea that we can influence the shape of our political-economic life by voting is ridiculous. All of our elections are either determined in advance by who has the capital, or rendered innocuous by ensuring that candidates are fundamentally no different from one another.
As the chracter Mac said on a great episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Who am I going to vote for? The Republican who’s going to blast me in the ass or the Democrat who’s blasting my ass? Politics is just one giant ass-blast!” Or, perhaps more poignantly, in a great episode of South Park, when the elementary school children are responsible for nominating the new animal for their school mascot (PETA forces them to dispense with their evil mascot, the South Park Cows, that’s why they need a new one). So, Kyle tries gets everyone to write in “a giant douche” as their mascot, while Cartman tries to get everyone to vote for “a turd sandwich.” In the meantime Stan gets sick of the whole process and elects not to vote, since he sees no difference between a douche and a turd. He subsequently gets hunted down by P. Diddy and his “vote or die” posse and eventually exiled from the town for being undemocratic. The show reaches its climax when Stan finally realizes that every election is a choice between a “douche and a turd” and he then comes on back and casts his vote for the turd sandwich only to see it beat out by the giant douche by some hundred-odd votes, leaving him still questioning the importance of voting. Fortunately, the whole process is brought to a happy end when P. Diddy and his posse slaughter all the PETA members and South Park elementary is free to bring back the Cows as their mascot.
With Stan and Mac, I find the whole idea of voting in the U.S. to be pure theatrics. The idea that who we vote for, rather than global capitalism actually determines the shape of our lives is just silly. That’s why I’m not voting. I’m trying instead to do what I think really matters in terms of reshaping human life in the face of global capitalism: participate in the re-shaping of human social relations in Christ. Being the church, the place in which the human desires which stand deformed by the forces of production and consumption are healed and made whole is the most important political action that Christians can take.