Voting is one of American's main civic duties, second only to flag brandishing, competitive eating and stimulating the economy at the Macy's 4th of July White Sale. Yet according to the non-profit research and analysis organization FairVote.org, only about 60 percent of the eligible voting population casts their ballot during presidential election years, and only about 40 percent will do so during the midterm. At first, you may be tempted to think "Hey that is pretty good! I thought it was much lower" and then you, too, would have been duped by whom ever continues to crank out the buzzkill-y "disengaged populace" rhetoric. Good news: voter turn out is not as low as you may have thought. It's just that it is 10 percent lower than any other comparable democracies. So there's that. Is this bad news? After all, this is 'Merica we live in; Land of the free, home of people who dropped the 'A'.
Each election year there is a large get-out-the vote effort. Some of the more disingenuous vote-or-die folks will say "I don't care who you vote for, just get out there and vote." What a crock of horse bollocks. Of course they care who you vote for. I know I do. I want you to vote, and I want you to vote for the Democrat. If there was a Green Party candidate, or someone who would stand behind environmental regulations, push a green energy economy, reign in wall street, uphold and defend freedom of the press, and the right to privacy, strengthen organized labor, and support worker-owned businesses, (I'm looking at you, Bernie Sanders) then I would want you to vote for them. Voter suppression aside, I can't imagine that there is even one person to be found who believes in the ideology of voting above the outcome of the election. Face it, no one involved in a Get Out The Vote effort would volunteer to spend 8 hours fake-smiling over a molten plastic folding table in the parking lot of some Publix to get you to vote for someone they don't support.
In order to get the non-endangered American non-voter to show up and vote, GOTV folks use 2 time tested mother-approved techniques: Guilt and Shame. They suggest not casting your ballot is one of the worst things you, a patriotic American can do. "Don't you know men and women marched, fought, and died" for your right to choose between a rich prick and another rich prick?
First of all, I can easily think of 10 things worse than not voting.
The Top 10 Things Worse Than Not Voting:
10) Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
9) Leaving a tampon applicator on the beach.
8) Letting your kid scream it out, it's good for him, who cares if there are other
people on the flight.
6) Low T
5) Too Much T
4) Running a right wing talking point media empire and calling it news.
3) Climate Denial
2) Being David Gregory
There are several types classifications of people who do not vote. I'll focus on 3 main types: The Uninformed, Subversives, and Miscellaneous Other. The individual American non-voter needs to be treated according to their type, not with an 'all of the above' policy. That kind of thinking never works; just look at President Obama's energy policy. We're getting totally fracked.
The following is my letter to American non-voters. I hope this letter shall be used as an example to the vote-shamers everywhere, as it lays bare the secret fear lying deep in their hearts: that not all of America's non-voting population should be encouraged to cast a ballot.
Dear American Non-Voter;
You are receiving this letter because you are one of the 40 percent of America's eligible voters who does not cast a ballot on Election Day. I'm not here to shame you... at least not about the voting.
If you happened to be one of the non-voting uninformed, (you know who you are...or... perhaps you don't) I'd like to take this time to offer you a special message: Thank you. Thank you very much for staying home on Election Day (it's the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in an election year, by the way). Thank you for not casting a ballot in favor of a candidate who may undermine the social fabric of our country. Thank you for not trusting "The Most Trusted Name In Television News" ™ to tell you what to think. If you know that you don't know what is going on and you don't vote because if it, then you are a responsible citizen. If you know that you don't know what is going on, and you go find out, you will no doubt realize that unless you are part of the 1% or deluded by religious fanaticism, there is absolutely no loving and humanitarian reason to vote for a Republican, much less a Tea Bagger, and then you vote, you are a patriot of the highest order. The danger to our society lies not in you (or y'all as the case may be) but in those uninformed voters who vote.
As even some uninformed voters know, uninformed voters are not necessarily stupid people. You do not have to be literate to understand justice and peace. Just like you don't need any learnin' to understand any show on The Learning Channel. But there is a difference; informed voters don't waste their time 'learning' from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. They are too busy watching Democracy Now, reading Matt Taibbi and questioning everything.
No, not all uninformed voters are lacking intelligence. Not all of their jaws are slackened. Mostly, you are folks who have watched too much Fox News, which, when it comes down to it, is any amount of Fox News. According to a survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind ™people who watch Fox News are less informed and less knowledgeable about current events than people who watch no news at all. The study holds true for those who watch MSNBC as well. Yes, that is true, according to the study. Now go get an 80% post-consumer-non-Georgia Pacific-subsidiary paper towel and wipe up the mouthful of grande skim mocha you spit all over this book after reading that. I'll wait.
The Fairleigh Dickinson study holds true for MSNBC viewers as well. I'd prefer to believe that is not true and certainly insist it cannot be to the same degree. Perhaps they mean viewers of Morning Joe, which is hosted by a former Republican from the great hate state of Florida. Or maybe they mean folks who watch beltway insider and power sycophant Chuck Todd's The Daily Run Down, for some inside-the-box thinking are less informed about the reality of events. Certainly those that tune in to Chuck every morning at 9 am EST to hear what information government officials and corporations are releasing and repurposing are not truly informed. Aren't official government talking points meant to keep folk fat and happy or angry but not at the proper targets or generally misled? By the way, the appearance of those shows on MSNBC confirms that it is truly a liberal network. Who else would give valuable air-time to Republicans and company men in order to be 'fair'? Either that or its just your average corporate media squeeze out of any kind of progressive talk. Lord knows they are squeezing progressive talk radio shows off the air faster than Suszanne Sommers can squeeze her way to shapelier hips and thighs.
It can be argued that all corporate sponsored media cannot be unquestionably relied on to put the interests of the people above the interests of their profit margins. That is what corporations are for, maximizing profit. The Fairleigh Dickinson study suggests that if we rely solely on corporate media to get our information, we are all uninformed voters. Scary. Now I see why zombie movies are so popular; art reflects life. Also one could stave to death looking for a working brain. The fact that airports, elevators, taxi cabs and even the friggin' Rockaway, Queens Bagel Shoppe are all pumping Fox or CNN's fear and hate speech into our brain-spaces makes me question if MSNBC is as bad as these other networks. Never once have I been assaulted by Chris Hayes's upbeat concern for humanity while waiting for Jetblue flight 460 to board Zone 3. Perhaps ideas discussed on some MSNBC shows might actually be a bit more threatening to the corporate stronghold over our democracy, like organized labor, civil rights, and equality. They sure do love Obama though. And war talk. Nonetheless, if that study is correct, most of us don't have a clue. The scary part of the uninformed population is not how many uninformed non-voters there are, but how many uninformed voters.
So thanks again uninformed non-voters. Thanks for staying out of it. If you ever feel like giving in to the public pressure to vote, or question whether not voting is worth the scarlet letter of non-participation shame, consider this: a big red "Non-Voter" on your lapel is less publically humiliating than being seen with a McCain/Palin 2008 button or anything Bush-related. I encourage you to stay home.
This brings me to another type of non-voter: Subversives. I am not referring to those of you who would like to over throw the government or shrink it down so small you can murder it in your bubble bath. I am not talking about Birchers, Birthers, or 'Baggers. I am talking to those of you who feel that the American experiment has gone so horribly awry that it is further beyond repair than your 1971 VW Bus. I am talking to those of you who say "The system is rigged. What is the point of voting?" You, who have dared to read alternative accounts that counter official narratives. You, who are well aware of the corrupting influence of money in politics, the secret wars, the malfeasance of the NSA, CIA, FBI and other clandestine agencies with three letter acronyms. I am speaking to those of you who think that the government is totally bought and sold by the corporations and that all elected officials are puppets dancing on the string of some shadowy master.
I have only one thing to say to you: ROCK ON.
But I beg of thee to vote. Its funny how those who know too little should not vote and those who know too much don't want to. Sure, maybe we won't stop global climate disruption but you could help make it better for your uncle Bruce and aunt Steve before sea level rise destroys their Fire Island bungalow. You could help allow some windmills to go up so that if a real Progressive gets into office, we will already have a running start. At worst, you'd be making sure, when the apocolype comes, the doomsday preppers aren't the only ones with heat. You don't have to love the candidate, wear the buttons or drink the Kool-aid.
If not, you are just one more person that the system is using for their own benefit. One more potential participant made mute. Its convenient for the powers that be that you don't to vote. They want you to pay just enough taxes to keep the arms manufacturers from going hungry but not enough to cover a social safety net so that you and your neighbors won't. Go ahead, work your shift at the coop, reread The Boiling Frogs Report, strain your neck by nodding too hard at Chomsky's next lecture and don't vote. You are playing right into the hands of oppression. Congratulations. I offer you a heartfelt thanks a lot. But this time it's more sarcastic than the thank you card I sent Uncle Ed for the $15 Olive Garden gift card he gave us from himself and his 5 eater-spawn who came to my wedding. I guess keeping up that classic European car collection on an oil executive salary is hard these days.
I promised I wouldn't shame you. I am just asking you to reconsider your stance. And I never said I wouldn't try guilt. I hope it works.
PS: I did mention the miscellaneous category of American non-voters. You may find yourself in this category for the following reasons:
1) Sight/smell of middle schools gymnasiums or church basements creates overly-painful flashback to pre-teen angst. (Usually only affects Liberals)
2) You live 'completely unplugged from the grid, man' and didn't realize that it was an election year, or November, or Tuesday. (Again, Liberals, this time far left)
3) You've been disenfranchised! Perhaps it was a voter purge technique or possibly being run through the Prison Industrial Complex on some small ridiculous possession charge, paid your debt to society, and still aren't allowed to vote (Mostly People of Color; probable Democrats.)
4) You were too busy as a captain of industry controlling America's media/investment banks/fossil fuel industry and what's-the-difference-your-lobbyist-will-get-you-whatever you-want-no-matter-who-wins. (Republicans, the 1%)
5) Freedom!!!!!!! (Libertarians)
6) Too busy keeping your government hands off your government. (Tea-Party)
Addressing the miscellaneous category is beyond the scope of this letter. (Especially #6) but can be seen in my upcoming novel on voter suppression "50 Shades of Wicked Foul Play".
Excerpted with permission form the book "Letters to The American Voter":