To Vote or Not to Vote

I have been thinking about voting recently. About what it means to cast a vote, what voting means in our society (I mean the US), and why some people choose to vote and others do not.

Who are voters and non-voters?In my experience, the people who the most invested in equality and justice and social change, and who have the least to lose, are the people who are most marginalized. Those who are winning the game have little reason to change it, and so are not likely to be radicalized. So I find that poor people, people of color, women, trans people, immigrants, young people and queers or people with several of these identities are where you find those most dedicated to a just society—they are the ones with something to gain from it.

So I began to do some critical thinking when I noticed that to a certain extent, people with marginalized identities are less likely to vote. See this Pew Research Center study for the numbers. I thought, wouldn’t those most motivated to change society be more likely to vote? Wouldn’t those who feel the most comfortable with the status quo be complacent and likely to skip voting? That’s what I would have expected.

A common theory about why the marginalized don’t vote as much as those who feel mainstream is that they are stupid and/or ignorant and/or uneducated. The numbers do indicate that people with less education tend to vote less, and people who are marginalized tend to have less access to education. However, as individuals out struggling in the real world without the comfort of a self- or media-constructed façade, I have noticed that the marginalized often have a better grasp on reality than those with money, education, and advantageous skin colors. Without an ivory tower, cubicle cloisters, suburban self-segregation, or much mobility, marginalized people can’t escape the more depressing realities that anyone with advantage would escape from. So the claim by mainstream people that marginalized people don’t vote out of ignorance doesn’t ring true.

People with money and comfortable lifestyles often assume that poor people make inscrutable choices because they are stupid. This is of course pure self-serving prejudice, because it sets the comfortable up as the ‘smart’ standard bearers to whom everyone else must be compared. Perhaps the marginalized are also rational decision makers. Perhaps they too make the best choices given their options, and it is the comfortable who don’t understand the options they face. It is a safe assumption that people, regardless of income, sexuality, race or other such distinctions, make their choices out of rational self-interest. So when a marginalized group, such as poor people, decides to a large degree to abstain from voting, perhaps they have a reason.

I started to contemplate this reason. Assuredly, for different people the reasoning behind the choice to vote or not will be different. But perhaps there are some trends, or over-arching patterns that lead certain people to vote less than other certain people.

That brings us back to my question: why would those with the most to gain from social change choose not to exercise the most highly touted way for the common people to enact change?

What if some of us don’t believe that voting is an effective way to achieve social change? If we take the assumption that marginalized people’s brains work about as good as mainstream people’s brains, that means their choice not to vote is motivated by rational self-interest as much as the choices of mainstream people.

And if, as I suggest, marginalized people are compelled to deal with the harsh realities of our society more often than mainstream people, than their decision not to vote is potentially based on better information than the decisions of mainstream people. For example, when Indians were granted the right to vote in 1924, Chief Clinton Rickard of the Tuscarora declared that he had no interest in “white men’s elections”.

What does that say about voting as a tool to enact change?

It is possible then, that voting is a bad way for marginalized people to achieve positive goals for society, at least in the American context. Why might that be?

First, consider whether voting has led to positive social change historically, as opposed other forms of civic activity. Have our American leaders tended to come from, and act in the interests of, marginalized groups? Or have they continued to come from and serve those who already have a disproportionate share of the power? I would say the latter. And though some would say this is a failure of our system, I say that it is a success for the system, because I believe the system is very good at doing exactly what it was set up to do.

Grade school textbooks reverentially teach us about the pure motives of our Founding Fathers and how they came to devise the Best Government on Earth. Many people don’t trouble themselves with more than this fairytale when it comes to identifying the founding ideals of the USA. But look at who these men were: wealthy, white businessmen with economic and political interests to protect. Look at who they deliberately disempowered, while at the same time making poignant statements about equality and balance of power: women, people of color, laborers, and poor people. Their words sound nice, but the on-the-ground reality of the situation looks a lot like it does now. These Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They set up a system where they, and people like them, would be able to continue protecting their interests from the rabble.

Any improvements that have been made can scarcely be attributed to voting habits, because the marginalized started off with no vote, due to the decisions of the Founding Fathers. They had to agitate outside the system and essentially force the privileged to give them rights out of fear for social stability.

So what kind of rights have the privileged given to the lowly? The most highly touted one is the right to vote. Even the marginalized have celebrated their victories in achieving the right to vote. But did the powerful actually present the marginalized with a tool that they could use to reign in the powerful; a tool that the marginalized could use to share power with the elites? Or has the vote simply been the most effective way control dissent by giving it a largely impotent safety valve? When people express discontent, they are urged to Go to the Polls! Punish the scoundrels with a loss of office, reward the virtuous with the continued opportunity to serve the public!

Martin Luther King Jr. had a lot to say on this topic, which can be found in his later writings and speeches. For example:

We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?” These are questions that must be asked.

There is much to be said about placating the population and diffusing dissent with a toothless semblance of a ‘say’ in politics. But right now I would like to focus on one aspect: A vote means a choice between two or more options. What is the quality of the options we are presented to choose from?

On November 2, 2010, I have the opportunity to vote for either a Democrat or a Republican for various offices. I have yet to hear of a race in this country with a competitive third-party candidate who is not simply a Dem or Repub running as an Independent because they are angry they lost their primary. So, Democrat or Republican. As Gore Vidal said:

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party…and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt—until recently… and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.

John Dewey calls American-style democracy “the shadow cast on society by big business” and Noam Chomsky says:

It has often been pointed out by political scientists that the US is basically a one-party state — the business party. with two factions, Democrats and Republicans.

I find it hard to believe the political theater that goes into making it appear that these are parties who actually oppose each other on any matter of substance. And I find it dispiriting, to say the least, to find myself always facing the same choice between Bad or Worse. Neither party has made a serious move to address the structural problems that thwart justice and perpetuate inequality in America. That is because both parties are equally invested in those inequities and have no motivation to change what keeps them in power. Being periodically asked to give my assent to this power which is tossed back and forth good-naturedly between two players on the same team does not feel like an activity likely to create social change.

I am beginning to tire of being complacent in this tool designed to manage my anger at the present state of things; this tool meant to confine my dreams of a better way. Voting for one corporate-backed privileged person seeking personal power over another has lost its shine. Now I’m left wondering: is it better to vote Third Party or to abstain from voting?

As MLK said, “[L]et us go out with a “divine dissatisfaction.” “

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21 thoughts on “To Vote or Not to Vote

  1. I can see how a minority can gain something from a process naturally supporting majoritarian views: a minority may have her own interests, peculiar to her group, and that won’t be vindicated by majority vote. But, there’s nothing to say that the same person doesn’t have other interests that do align with a much larger group. There is a balancing act that active voters have to take where ultimately one issue determines their vote. At some point, any group of eligible voters can care enough about an issue to go to the polls.

    How about studies which show that our voting numbers, for a country, are average, considering that we don’t have compulsory voting? The reasons for not voting are so many…

    I do take issue with the premise of your article that voting is touted as for the minority even though it is clearly, facially a device used to find a majority.

    “So what kind of rights have the privileged given to the lowly? The most highly touted one is the right to vote.” – I would dispute this. The lowly that you bring up in your article are representative of various minorities and sometimes protected classes. But, “most highly touted”? By who, pundits? Do they teach our children and write our histories, or do they entertain and distract our elders? Majority rule, minority voice, right? Who would most highly tout to vulnerable people that they got their say, and that’s the system working for its favor? Sounds like something Marie Antoinette, or someone with such a brash insensibility, would say.

    Your article recognizes majority rule inherent in the voting system, and in that system the loser is the minority. Why would minority interests be ‘most highly touted’ by their ability to vote?

    Instead of going with the ‘election season’ and all the mainstream and even blog media, how about considering the longer view and taking a more reasoned approach to what is most likely’touted’ for minority rights?

    The hope that the majority will make sure that minority interests are protected has not played out in history, and even “[g]rade school textbooks reverentially teach us” that individual, constitutional rights were 1) established by amendment (13-15), then 2) argued for and won at the Supreme Court, and then 3) enacted and enforced by law of Congress. That’s a 150 year back of the envelope look at how marginal classes were able to achieve protection of law, and how they will in the future.

    How did this happen? By voting? The civil rights amendments were ratified by reconstruction governments in the south, which didn’t reflect the will of the defeated confederates. Fortunately, the constitution was silent on that point. Then, the supreme court, through persuasive and repeated arguments led by NAACP lawyers, recognized rights as guaranteed by these amendments. Then, Congress reacted by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The only time voting played any more than an indirect role was Congress’ passing of the Act, and that was in following no less than 6 Supreme Court Decisions.

    Did this solve every problem? What about the Equal Rights Amendment? Interestingly, to defeat that amendment, marginal interests were amplified until enough states were convinced that we would all use unisex bathrooms, so here a minority defeated a move that arguably could have passed as the necessary supermajority to enshrine women’s and men’s rights in the constitution. Though the amendment didn’t pass, there is significant Supreme Court precedent to rule discrimination based on gender unconstitutional in many areas.

    I understand that your blog is based on social justice, that is, rectifying inequalities or harms that are accepted (or not condemned) in society. I realize that a lot of injustice can happen in the face of laws prohibiting that action. That I support, I just feel like the premise of this article is misstated or those you take issue with are simply blowing steam.

    In your attempt to portray voting as being the one thing that is held up as really important for minority interests, I think realistically it’s illogical so, who cares if anyone with a camera and microphone says it? Constitutional guarantees and, possibly, increasing attention to movements towards recognizing rights in the Western Hemisphere are currently the most highly precedential, followed, and convincing methods for protecting minority rights. And worth touting, no less.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful response Wellsmus.

    I take issue with only(!) a couple of your points.

    You will have a hard time convincing me that Americans are taught that some other method of civic engagement is greater than voting. I don’t believe I was the only one told that voting was not just a right, but a duty. And many greater leaders and activists have spent their time fighting desperately for the right to vote. What other right have marginalized Americans fought for and laid down their lives for, above voting? The phrases “community organizing” or “activism” or “armed insurrection” are rarely presented by teachers, politicians or others as civic rights or duties the way voting is.

    Also, I think you are mixing up “marginalized” and “minority”. I am not talking about the tyranny of the majority. All together, there are probably more marginalized people in our society than “mainstream” people. The majority is ignored, and the minority (wealthy elites and businessmen) takes the power and other rewards of our society. If you were to add up the poor, the people of color, the women, and the queers, you would have a majority of the US population.

  3. Is this at all bittersweet in the wake of yesterday’s election? Many of the most progressive members of Congress lost their seats (Feingold, Grayson, Kilroy, thank goodness not Barney Frank!) The youth and minority votes stayed home, as you advised above, and the results were dramatic.
    I understand the gist of what people like Noam Chomsky mean when they say there is really only 1 party, but I lost that attitude in the wake of the election that ushered in George W. Bush. Remember that guy and how indistinguishable his policies were from the Democrats?? I do not find the “No Difference” argument to hold water at this point. There are too many issues where there is a bright line difference between the two.

    Your train of thought on this seems to be:

    A – Marginalized people have little to no power in this country

    B – Marginalized people vote at statistically lower numbers than elites, so although they make up the majority they don’t control who is elected.

    C – Hence, marginalized people should continue to not vote, because whoever wins will not represent their interests anyway.

    D – I’m not sure what you’re advocating instead.. armed revolution? Mass strikes? “Ending Capitalism NOW” (My favorite anarchist rally sign)?

    Our system may be a mess, but Politicians at the end of the day still pander to the old white motherfuckers because they Show Up and VOTE. Consistently and in large numbers. If marginalized people who don’t currently vote showed the hell up they would represent a mighty coalition, but their inconsistency in showing up makes them too unreliable for Pols to count on. I agree that our system is structured this way intentionally, but to me the response is to fight for greater voter turnout, not to wash our hands of it entirely.

    Pardon me if I’m a bit over-the-top today, super bummed about the election. I am also reading a book (the Race Beat) about the Civil Rights movement, and some of it’s early leaders who were openly gunned down for their efforts to register black voters in Mississippi. Heroes. After reading that it’s hard to swallow your dismissal of the primary importance of voting to our democracy. I understand your motives, but to me it is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    ROCK THE VOTE!!!

    XOScorn

  4. Oh, and I could not disagree more with this statement:

    It is a safe assumption that people, regardless of income, sexuality, race or other such distinctions, make their choices out of rational self-interest.

    I think ‘rational self-interest’ is something Economists made up; people do things for all kinds of ass-backwards reasons.. Behaviorism all the way!

  5. Oh, and I could not disagree more with this statement:

    It is a safe assumption that people, regardless of income, sexuality, race or other such distinctions, make their choices out of rational self-interest.

    I think ‘rational self-interest’ is something Economists made up; people do things for all kinds of ass-backwards reasons.. Behavioral Econ all the way!

  6. @Scorn: Thanks for engaging in this discussion!

    Just a note: I did not “advise” anyone to stay home. This article is about how I noticed certain people tend to stay home, and I started to contemplate Why.

    You said: “Politicians at the end of the day still pander to the old white motherfuckers because they Show Up and VOTE.”

    I disagree that this is why older white people are so often privileged by politicians and our political/economic system in general. It goes much, much deeper than that.

    How do you explain the low voting numbers of people with marginalized identities? (Especially since, as you recall, leaders from marginalized groups have fought so hard to win political rights?) If they aren’t making choices based on reason, well, what in your opinion are their choices based on?

    You state: “I do not find the “No Difference” argument to hold water at this point. There are too many issues where there is a bright line difference between the two.”

    Where you see a bright line, I see a flimsy partition.

  7. Sorry, didn’t mean to be so accusatory.. rambunctious today.

    Example of a bright line? Every one of the record number of newly-elected openly gay politicians voted in yesterday are Democrats. There is not one single Republican in the House of Representatives who identifies that way. Zero.
    This is not a coincidence.

    I honestly couldn’t begin to tell you why voting patterns are how they are. I don’t profess any mastery of the subject, but the day after a trouncing of an election I felt compelled to defend the act of voting to be as sacred as anything we do. Debased? Rigged? Tilted? Clusterfucked? Those words could all indeed describe our electoral system, but at the end of the day they still count the votes cast and elect the human with the most checks next to hir name. I don’t see many bright lines, but voting or sitting out is one of them..

  8. ..whoops. ahem.. And another thing :D

    I didn’t mean to suggest that elections are the reason white people hold the cards. They’re already in power, but they aaaalso show up and vote more than anyone else. I am not impugning anyone else for not showing up, but staying home does warp the shape of the Electorate, in a white and Conservative direction.
    I don’t see a straight-forward path to remove white CEOs from their posts, but the path to vote the worst assholes out of the government has one lever – the vote.

  9. Interesting thought experiment here. You a trying to get to the bottom of paradoxical phenomenon. Why do the people with the most to gain, seem to vote in the least numbers? It’s an extremely important question to ask. I think your reasoning is pretty flawed, however. I’ll explain below.

    Ultimately i think it comes down to lack of education in CIVICS. This doesn’t mean people are stupid, or ignorant, or even lack education overall. And this lack of education in civics goes for 99% of people in this country mainstream AND marginalized. Most kids are taught basic civics, sure, but they aren’t really taught what the implications of voting are (or not voting). More importantly our education system doesn’t MOTIVATE us to get involved in politics or to take small local elections as seriously as large national elections. We’ve lost our democratic fire as a people. We’ve become complacent with our right to vote, and we have simply taken it for granted. The very people who have the most to gain by voting, are not. HUGE PROBLEM.

    Your argument is: If we take the assumption that marginalized people’s brains work about as good as mainstream people’s brains, that means their choice not to vote is motivated by rational self-interest as much as the choices of mainstream people

    problems –

    a) you assume all people vote out of rational self-interest. evidence? i’d grant that it is often true, but certainly not true all the time. for example, i would vote for ballot initiatives for gay marriage, multi-lingual government, legalizing pot, etc. etc. all instances of me voting for reasons other than ‘rational self-interest’. i also think some people vote in an effort to do what’s best for society. is that so crazy?

    b) you assume that because people don’t do something they must have a rational reason for doing so. this is a huge leap. we are rational beings, yes, but are ALL of our decisions rational? hardly.

    for example, there are elections that i haven’t voted in. did i have a rational reasoning for doing so? not really, i was simply disinterested. does that make me ignorant? no. stupid? not really. ill-educated? absolutely. there are elections that i have abstained from because i knew nothing about the people who were running, or much about the posts that they were running for. i had no clue how those elections would effect my life or the people around me, so i chose not to vote. and to say that i CHOSE not to vote is a stretch too, it wasn’t really even an active decision not to vote in those cases, i simply didn’t care.

    c) there should be a distinction between choosing TO DO something and choosing NOT TO DO something. people DON’T DO far more things than they DO. Are there self-interested RATIONAL reasons for EVERYTHING you don’t do? I think it would be hard for you argue that. Doing something requires active thought, rational or otherwise, not doing something sometimes involves active thought, but most times involves zero thought. Example – i forgot to do my laundry today, i.e. i didn’t do my laundry today. was it a rationally self-interested decision not do my laundry today? no, i simply didn’t think about it.

    Ultimately your argument grossly over reaches. Sure, some people are choosing not to vote for very specific rational reasons, but it’s a leap to assume that for everyone, or even the majority of those not voting. again, i think the issue is civic education and motivation. if we all understood what was at stake for every election, i think we’d all be a lot more motivated to vote.

    “I find it hard to believe the political theater that goes into making it appear that these are parties who actually oppose each other on any matter of substance.”

    I am sorry, but this is nonsense. The belief that they are the same party is the most disastrous strain of thought to the progressive movement in this country. Every election that liberals and dems sit on the fence (like this last election), sets the progressive movement back YEARs. There are far more registered dems than republicans in this country. All DEMs have to do to win is simply vote. It’s MADDENING that people don’t vote regardless of rational reasons or not.

    Oh and there are a zillion SUBSTANTIVE differences between the parties, to think otherwise is to ignore facts. Sure, there are areas where they are similar, but to ignore the differences seems unwise.

    a) health care – dems passed historic legislation, GOP wants to repeal it. HUGE substantive difference.

    b) taxes – GOP wants to continue giving tax cuts to the wealthy, DEMs do not. Huge substantive difference.

    c) abortion – DEMs largely in favor of the right to choose, GOP largely not. Huge substantive difference.

    d) and on and on

  10. The previous commenters have something in common: while not coming from any of the marginalized groups mentioned in the OP, they all seem to know what’s best for those marginalized groups, and guess what, it just so happens that what’s best for us is to vote the way the commenters would have us vote.

    I find it suspicious that all three of you make essentially the same argument, without once giving credit to the goals and decision-making of the people this article is about: marginalized people. Instead, you suggest that if they would just all vote (Democrat), your personal goals, goals which you assume they should share, could finally be met on the political battlefield. You make it about yourselves, instead of about the people this post was about.

    People chose to vote or not to vote for a reason- I don’t see how this is a controversial statement. Reasons for not voting may indeed include that it is so low on an individual’s list of priorities that they barely even think of it. That is still a reason. We can still examine why voting is a low priority for someone.

    Instead of listing all the ways that marginalized people who choose not to vote are WRONG WRONG WRONG, and determining they just need to listen to some nice liberal white men, I am more interested in finding out why marginalized people make the choices they do, and learning from them. Because my fate is bound up with theirs, but I hardly have the gumption to tell other marginalized or oppressed people what is best for them.

  11. I’m a gay, white, female grad student, and I didn’t vote on Election Day for two reasons:

    I have an anxiety disorder that hasn’t bothered me in awhile but flared up that week. I know it seems stupid to some people, to choose between an extra two hours of sleep or voting that will determine the next two years, but for me, I needed those two hours. It was essential to function.

    As a grad student, my hours do not fit well with the 7 am – 7 pm time schedule. I have night classes, and voting stations are off campus. In fact, my Tuesdays run something like this:

    School (getting ready, traveling to campus, staying on campus between classes, and homework): 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.; homework/settling in the house: 10 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sleep: 2 a.m.-10 a.m.

    I would have been able to vote, even with the sleep issue, if the polls weren’t only open during my prime sleeping and working times. I feel like this current voting system works against marginalized communities.

  12. I do not understand how the proposition

    “VOTING IS GOOD”

    is any form of me lording my white privilege over anyone else. I did not instruct anyone to vote any way, nor did I belittle any other people or culture. Your response completely shuts down dialogue without answering any of the critiques contained in the responses. If we cannot agree on the simple premise above, nearly a truism in our country, then what do you suggest as an alternative?

  13. Your summation of the discussion up to this point is not accurate, and disagreeing with you is not “shutting down the dialogue”. Not one of the three white male commenters seriously addressed the topic of the post: that perhaps there is a reason, besides stupidity, why marginalized people vote less. As a corollary, that perhaps it is worthwhile to look to the voting patterns of the marginalized in order to learn something valuable.

    In your comments as well as SweetPete’s, there is a strong implication that you would like marginalized people to be civically engaged the way you are, so that they would vote the way you would vote. Here’s where I get that from one of your comments:

    “Many of the most progressive members of Congress lost their seats (Feingold, Grayson, Kilroy, thank goodness not Barney Frank!) The youth and minority votes stayed home, as you advised above, and the results were dramatic.”

    Your comments demonstrated little interest in the motivations of the marginalized, and little willingness to listen to their voices to gain an understanding of why so many marginalized people choose not to vote. There is a much larger lesson here, but if you refuse to even address it, I am not obligated to take this thread down a rabbit hole of your choosing.

    Regarding your belief that there is a “bright line” dividing the dominant parties from each other: you are welcome to that opinion, but other intelligent people can differ from you on this matter. Some of my reasons:
    1. You focused only on vote-splitting issues, the very issues candidates use to artificially create a perceived difference.
    2. The Republicans did run openly gay candidates, but they lost to straight Democrats.
    3. You say: “I understand the gist of what people like Noam Chomsky mean when they say there is really only 1 party, but I lost that attitude in the wake of the election that ushered in George W. Bush. Remember that guy and how indistinguishable his policies were from the Democrats??”
    … I will leave Clinton aside for now. But consider Obama: he has perpetuated the Recession out of fear of Wall Street donation loss, he has perpetuated both of Bush’s wars, he has done nothing to advance the situation of LGBTs, he has kept Guantanamo, CIA black sites, military tribunals, the practice of using mercenaries while occupying foreign countries, the Patriot Act, he has not acted against corporate personhood and unlimited secret corporate campaign donations, he was not able to pass the Women’s Equal Pay bill or meaningful health care reform, and he has authorized extrajudicial assassinations. We still have 100s of military bases in other countries all over the world. And what about our shameful military occupation of Haiti as it was reeling from natural disaster?

    Are Democrats really so different from Republicans? Do marginalized people who were convinced to vote in the 2008 election have anything to show for it? Is it possible that they feel they were simply used as pawns in one person’s quest for personal power? Perhaps some people have realized that by voting for a corrupt party, you are legitimating the corruption. Voting abstention can be viewed as a refusal to legitimate the various crimes, invasions, and human rights abuses perpetuated by both dominant parties.

    Just one possible reason for not voting, but one definitely worth consideration.

    You keep asking what I think the alternative is. I think anyone with a reasonably functioning imagination could figure out alternative kinds of engagement to voting that would actually produce a difference in the lives of the marginalized. But it isn’t exactly for me to dictate an alternative. I am interested in learning the alternatives by listening to other marginalized people, because I have found that people, even if they are poor or have no college degree, are still often able to discern what would be in their own interest. Truly remarkable.

    Take a look at my 11/26/10 post on Iceland for example.

  14. Just two notes..

    In your criticism of Obama you mentioned that there has been no headway in LGBT rights. Do you really think DADT would be on the block under a McCain presidency?

    Second, you criticize Obama for the hundreds of military bases around the world that are still operating. The fact that you consider this a valid criticism shows that your expectations are completely unrealistic. Who do you think could be elected that could wind down that system in two years?

  15. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I came across an interesting graph today regarding voting habits that I found enlightening:
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/.a/6a00d83451c45669e20148c67d20fa970c-popup

    I respect your perceptiveness and passion, but I am flummoxed by our disagreement on this very basic issue. The poor don’t vote, hence their demands are not taken seriously. Know why the NRA strikes terror into the hearts of Pols? Their.members.VOTE. Same with the AARP. The young are ignored, because we cannot be relied upon to show up.

    To me this is an issue of the core mechanism of democracy and of mathematics. Earlier you dismissed me by saying “There is a much larger lesson here, but if you refuse to even address it, I am not obligated to take this thread down a rabbit hole of your choosing.”

    Please do share that lesson, if I am truly missing the point perhaps you should share it. I am a passionate debater, but I am interested to understand your view. If you just insult and dismiss me I learn nothing.

    I will say that I tacitly reject the notion that it is noble to sit out in order to not legitimize either party. They don’t need your legitimization to be in power, and sitting out just enables and encourages the worst from our pols.

    You mentioned that that was one of many reasons not to vote. If you have a reason beyond a symbolic middle finger what is it?

  16. Right. Not going down the rabbit hole. I wrote this bit to consider that there is something to be learned from the marginalized and their/our (non)voting patterns. Something coming from their/our personal autonomy and ability to make choices that they believe are best for them/ourselves. What that is exactly I don’t know… My writing was about my willingness to find out, not about passing judgment or trying to recruit people to the Democratic Party.

    If you insist on explanations of nonvoting that don’t acknowledge the autonomy of marginalized people and demonstrate unwillingness to look at their/our motivations before assigning judgment, this conversation can’t move forward.

    I’ll give you the opportunity to have a final word if you like, but then I will close this thread, as it hasn’t generated much on-topic discussion.

    I will close this thread in January if there is no further commentary.

  17. I didn’t know this was still live! Great.

    Okay, so earlier, Havlova, you said that the majority class commentators shouldn’t be opining on how minority class people, and women (a majority, if you’re counting) should vote. Purely for arguments’ sake and not endorsing that viewpoint whatsoever, I will turn the question to you:

    What do marginalized peeps, and women, want from the voting process that they do not get? And, how can they get those things other than voting? Finally, is there some aspect of voting that should be left unchanged?

    Thanks,

    Unwillingly labeled “majority class member.”

    PS:

    “while not coming from any of the marginalized groups mentioned in the OP, they all seem to know what’s best for those marginalized groups, and guess what, it just so happens that what’s best for us is to vote the way the commenters would have us vote.”

    – btw, I actually said that the vote didn’t count much for minority interests, which i mean, the smaller than 50% group. What’s more, your grouping of marginalized people into one common interest needs substantial justification. What rationale do you think that such disparate people think alike? Do you not subscribe in individuality? Admit, at least, that for the sake of your points you’re simplifying people’s interests greatly for the purposes of argument.

    – Unwillingly labeled.

  18. @Wellsmus

    I don’t know where you’re coming up with some of these terms. “Majority class” and “minority interests” do not appear in my article or comments. Perhaps you should reread my comment at November 3, 2010 at 11:40 am, where I addressed this misunderstanding.

    I’m not sure who labeled you “majority class member” (it didn’t happen on this blog), but I think it was yourself, so it’s not clear what you’re protesting there.

    I enjoy how you don’t believe that I am aware women make up 51% of the population. If you want to participate on this website, please do not treat me like I’m an idiot. This includes the comment “Do you not subscribe in individuality?”

    Again, refer to my comment at November 3, 2010 at 11:40 am.

    Yes, it is true that individuals with marginalized identities have many different reasons to vote or not vote. The point of my article was to consider the reasons why marginalized people vote less, and to search for patterns. As I stated in the OP: “Assuredly, for different people the reasoning behind the choice to vote or not will be different. But perhaps there are some trends, or over-arching patterns that lead certain people to vote less than other certain people.”

    The point of this article was NOT to endorse one particular reason, but to ask questions. Why both you and Scorn keep trying to pigeon hole me is a mystery… the point is to ask questions, look for patterns, and reframe our perspective so that the autonomy of marginalized people is acknowledged.

    I will repeat this as many times as it takes, until when I close the thread in January.

  19. I know this is rather off the main topic of the original post (which I will try to comment on once I get a breather from work), but I couldn’t help but comment on two aspects within wellsmus’ latest post. First, one can be in the majority number-wise and yet in the minority power/privilege-wise. It is not just about numbers (in terms of population). Second, you chose to put women outside of the category of “marginalized” and I was not aware that they did not belong to this category. Depending on each woman’s other social identities she will have different levels of marginalization, of course.

    Also, scorn – I checked and I do not see where Havlova is asking people to believe that not voting is “noble.” I did not get a sense that this was the point of the original post.

    I just find these choices in phrasing/wording interesting. I think we need to be careful about making assumptions about what Havlova meant or didn’t mean (or knows or doesn’t know).

    I will try to comment later about some of my thoughts and what I personally (I can not and do not want to speak for all members of the groups/identities that I am a part of) would like to see in the voting process. Hint: it is not rich, older, straight, white men continuing to privilege rich, older, straight, white men.

  20. Fair enough, the quote below is what has caught my ire. Sounds like imbuing sitting out with a sort of Purist nobility, does it not?

    “I am beginning to tire of being complacent in this tool designed to manage my anger at the present state of things; this tool meant to confine my dreams of a better way. Voting for one corporate-backed privileged person seeking personal power over another has lost its shine. Now I’m left wondering: is it better to vote Third Party or to abstain from voting?

    As MLK said, “[L]et us go out with a “divine dissatisfaction.” “

    Havlova, since you like to be precise please quote any point at which I said anyone has to vote for the Democratic Party in order for me to support them voting, and where I passed judgement on those who don’t vote, except in terms of their not voting skewing the Electorate. You talk about being respectful but you are rude and dismissive in your replies — you want discussion but have little tolerance for disagreement from those of the wrong gender and skin color.

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