It’s been ingrained into the American imagination that voting is not only a civic responsibility, but also one of the most powerful ways for citizens to make a difference in their political system. A true democracy is one that is of the practiced by the people and for the people. However, I have found this basic tenant of democracy to be inheritably false. Surely our founders did not envision a system where only the elite would be able to run for public office? And my “elite” I of course mean those with money. Or did they? Our founding fathers were, after all, elite. We have, therefore, inherited a false concept of democracy. To make matters worse, it seems that the stakes during each election are continually raised and that each election is the “most important election in recent memory.” It’s really all a bit much isn’t it? Is there really any difference between democrats and republicans? Aren’t all politicians truly working toward the good of their own parties and their own careers?
In New Hampshire it seems that we have an election every few months, and this mid-term season is particularly brutal. The volume of television commercials for both parties is tremendous, making it impossible for me to watch my local news in the morning. Moreover, I have received so much mail and email from candidates from the left and the right over the past three weeks that I could fill a small dumpster. The message has turned to noise. “Elect me and I will get Washington working again.” Well, if POTUS cannot get Washington functional again then how can a senator or a congresswoman, or a governor? Being a politician is no longer a noble calling but a ticket to personal and professional advancement at the expense of the greater good.
A case in point: How is it that politicians can find the amount of money required to run a “successful” campaign but cannot balance the budget without making deep cuts into various social programs? Republicans will never concede that cutting the budget for food stamps is irresponsible on humanitarian grounds, while cutting the defense budget is not even a fiscal consideration. Moreover, how can politicians look us in the face while receiving the type of health care they do? Not to mention the salaries, the food allowances, the gifts, the trips, the clothing allowances, and so on. Democrats work harder than any people I know raising money and awareness for their party, yet spend none of that campaign money on social needs, including education (unless it involves purchasing a very expensive standardized test from a company based in their state), health care, and on and on.
It’s all gotten to be so much that I am seriously considering not voting in the upcoming election. My vote would be a vote for politics as usual and send no message to those in Washington. My non-vote, a type of silence, could send a message, but only if those votes are withheld on a massive scale. I want to be clear: I am advocating for the opposite of something like “Rock the Vote!” I am advocating for silence. I am advocating for a spirit of rebellion through the power of silence. “What is a rebel,” asks Albert Camus in The Rebel, it is “a man who says no.” Camus knew a thing or two about the power of silence, of declaring “NO” before the world. He suffered for it because if it is one thing people cannot abide it’s a silent refusal. Camus’ silence precipitated his very public break with Jean-Paul Sartre, who acted like a bully to me at the time. I believe that Camus’ French title captures the spirit with more alacrity: L’Homme Révolté, or “man in revolt” if we want to be technical. I like the French title because it is more closely associated with a verb than a noun, thus marking it as a thing of or in action.
Therefore, let us join with Camus and withhold from the mid-term elections the only thing we have left: our voice. Perhaps out of that silence a new voice, one that is really by the people and for the people, will emerge out of the political debris caused by ideology.