Today is the election here in Canada. I won’t be voting. I can hear the gasps already. I’m not against voting in general, and my basic stance is that I should vote if I can sincerely get behind one of the candidates/parties.
My reasoning for not going to the voting booth this year, is basically this:
A. No party or candidate in my riding in (my opinion) seems to have a track record which indicates they will protect individual liberty and limit the size and scope of government (which is intimately tied to personal economic liberty).
B. So, then, if I were to vote, I’d be faced with voting for what, in my mind, is an unworthy party just to try and keep an ostensibly more unworthy party out.
C. Realistically speaking, the impact of my vote is small (actually, to say it is small may be an understatement), even if it were a low turnout in a small, hotly contested riding.
D. But supposing the impact of my vote were significant, I would have to weigh the positive impact of my vote working toward keeping that other party out of office with the negative impact of emboldening the less unworthy party to continue in its unworthiness and not change.
E. Also, supposing the impact of my vote were significant, I would find voting for a party I don’t really like and can’t really ultimately support on their own merits distasteful.
F. An additional complication to the things I mention is this: In Canada we do not vote directly for our Prime Minister, but rather for parliamentary representatives, the proportions of which determine the Prime Minister. So in addition to the problems outlined in D & E, we also face a potential disconnect between my support of the Prime Ministerial candidate and the other person from his party (the parliamentary rep) that I would need to vote for in order to work toward getting the correct PM into office. So in some situations one might want to vote in support of Joe Smith from the Rhino Party in the race for PM, but not support or condone John Doe (also from the Rhino Party) in his campaign to become parliamentary rep. And there is no way to separate the two. So the discerning, critical voter is often faced with that dillema.
Ultimately, you may think I’m over thinking this or having too picky of a criteria and therefore excluding everyone. But I don’t think its that. I do want to have realistic expectations of leaders, but on the other hand I believe if voting is important, it would be important to try to be consistent and make a good decision. It is in light of a desire to be consistent and vote according to my conscience that I am not voting.
Does that make one a bad citizen? I don’t think so. It’s quite ironic the way the romantic and sometimes even messianic themes come up in relation to voting. I see it as a mildly significant thing. I think it is often over inflated. The state is not our salvation. Neither is voting.
It’s quite ironic that a zealous politico could look at a man or woman who loves their spouse, cares for their family, is successful and innovative in business, faithful to their friends, faithful to their convictions, generous and involved in their church and/or other organizations and yet who doesn’t vote, and declare them as a “bad citizen” and “helping the bad party get in” and “not allowed to complain”. The thing is, this person who does all those other things and yet doesn’t vote has identified the things that are more effective than voting. They’ve identified other areas to exert their energies (areas that are far more effective in changing society and having a voice) and have done WAY more to benefit society than someone who merely voted. Voting is a small, easy thing to do and doesn’t require the dedication that these more effective society transforming things require. So why do we attach such high importance to voting often over and against them?
So I just want to stick up for non-voters and say, non-voters have a right to complain (as much as voters do) and can be good citizens (there are good and bad citizens among non-voters just like there are among voters). They have chosen to not get involved in the process for various reasons, and quite frankly, sometimes they can be very valid ones.