Is it alright not to care?
I have a confession: I am a part of what used to be known as the non-voting majority. Since the last presidential election, it has lost the title of "majority," but only by a very slim margin.
Before your jaw hits the floor and you start rushing Get Out the Vote to save me or begin pontificating the importance of voting in a democracy, listing all of the reasons why I should be absolutely ashamed of myself, stop. Stop and listen for a bit.
Voting is important in the maintenance of a healthy democracy. But the United States is not a healthy democracy. It isn't even a democracy. It's a republic. So, when you vote, you aren't voting on the issues, you're voting on a candidate. That part is obvious.
But the United States isn't a healthy republic, either. The choice of candidates has been narrowed down to a very small group of people: extremely rich, white, Christian, male "Democrats" and "Republicans" who, for all intended purposes, work very hard to keep fellow extremely rich, white, Christian, male "Democrats" and "Republicans" in power. People often argue that, in actuality, anybody can become President of the United States. This is not true. The group is so heavily selective that even Catholics seem to be having trouble getting noticed.
Not only that, but when you have such a small group of people in power, their mutual interests tend to become very important. Then, all of a sudden, there aren't so many differences between the duopolous parties. For all of the partisan bickering in Washington, there seems to be a general -- even cordial -- agreement between Democrats and Republicans regarding the notion that only Democrats and Republicans should be in Washington.
Then you have this thing called the Electoral College. The Electoral College says that if I live in Massachusetts, my vote doesn't count, regardless of how I vote. If I vote Kerry, my vote does not help him in any way, as the national, popular vote has no effect on the election. If I vote for Bush, I might as well be voting for myself, since Bush has no chance of winning Massachusetts, and again, the popular vote doesn't matter.
Despite these three glaringly obvious reasons why people may be disenchanted with the federal electoral process, people often find other reasons to vote. The most important reason, it seems, is a moral one: people should vote, because they are lucky to live in a democracy, and because people have died to ensure that we can vote.
First of all, just because there are starving people in the world doesn't mean I should feel obliged to eat slop when it is served to me. Or that I should feel ashamed for not eating that brown piece of lettuce that was served with my steak.
Just the same, I should not feel obliged to vote for one of two terrible candidates who will not fight for any of the issues that matter to me. And I should not feel ashamed for not wanting to vote in the presidential election, when I can dedicate more time and energy to events and activities that have real positive impacts on people around the world. On that note, I vote often locally, in a directly-democratic system.
As for the many wars the United States has fought, I can think of two that were wars of self-defense. The first was the War of 1812. The second was World War II. The Spanish-American War doesn't count, because Spain never attacked the U.S.S. Maine, and Teddy Roosevelt was just looking for some country to hit with his big stick.
All of the others were wars of aggression. It seems like presidents have a hard times keeping their hands of the trigger.
Since people like to use the aforementioned moral arguments to "rock the vote," here's a moral argument to knock the vote: no matter who you vote for, people will die as a result. Civilians, somewhere in the world, will die. Especially if you vote Democrat. I don't know where this idea came from that Democrats are doves. Please, refer to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for references.
Considering that I don't like reinforcing an unfair electoral process, voicing my agreement with the plutocratic farce that is our "choice," contributing to something that will more likely than not lead to the deaths of innocents, supporting a system that I do not agree with, backing up a candidate that does not share my views, or countless other moral reasons not to vote, I don't like voting in presidential elections, and I don't think that people who refuse to vote based on these reasons should be demonized.
A lot of people like to say that if you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain. I say exactly the opposite. If the system is not working, and you continue to reinforce it, you have no right to complain. I'm putting my energies towards more productive things. I'll leave the decision regarding which wealthy, white, Christian (and, it seems, preferably Protestant) male gets to be the next Commander-in-Chief to others. Voting for the lesser of two evils, in my opinion, is still voting for evil.
I'd rather not.
(Note: Yes, I did vote in the last election. Only because I love my parents.)