Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Progressives and the System

Yes, it's Election Day, and before I even go into my little rant, let me stop and plea: Vote, if you haven't already. Please . . . just vote. You have a problem with "the system"? Could you just humor me for today, and we'll talk about it when you get back?

Did you do it? Well, chances are, if you haven't done it by now, nothing's going to convince you otherwise. But I still have to try.

In the days leading up the election, there's been a fascinating discussion taking place on one of the atheist email lists. Someone was taking a step outside the discussion about who or what to vote for and actually arguing that we do not have the authority to vote on what rights a person should have, using gay marriage as an example. Even though he was in favor of allowing any consensual couple to marry, he objected to the system that allows him to decide upon the rights that all human beings should have in the first place. For him, no one on the list can satisfactorily answer where this "right" comes from, and that the majority is simply imposing its will on the minority. Therefore, he chooses to abstain from elections.

My purpose isn't to pick on this one guy, but I know there are others like him. I commend his intellect and thoughtfulness, and I even agree with his points to a certain extent. It does seem wrong that we should be voting on other people's rights. What authority do we have to make such a decision? This system is rife with problems, and from that point of view, you could argue that not voting is voting.

Um . . . but this is the system we have, as unfair and disillusioned as it might be. Yes, you could say that by giving in and voting, when we have ethical issues with the very notion of voting, we're just perpetuating a broken set of rules, and no fundamental changes are going to take hold. I get that. But if we could take a step outside of that bubble, which I believe brings us back to our sorry reality, I'll get to my main point: Many liberals -- educated, progressive, caring folks -- are philosophizing too damn much! I hate to say that, because I crave to have my ideas challenged, to raise my level of consciousness, to encourage rational and thoughtful debate. But when it gets to the point that people are actually abstaining from voting, I need to remove my head from the philosophical haze and remember reality and the bigger picture.

The truth is, the fundamentalists, the tea-partiers, the conservatives, etc., are not sitting around intellectualizing about the voting system itself. Frankly, I don't see that ever happening. So when you choose to abstain -- regardless of your righteous reasons -- the reality is that you're not making a statement about the problems inherent with the system; you're just helping them win. Yes, I'm taking a lesser-of-two-evils position on this, but I think it's necessary. For the time being, I say we need to work with the system we have, and slowly improve it with the tools available to us. That means voting.

So please, please, please, vote. It frustrates me beyond belief when I hear about someone -- who holds the same ideals for progress and bettering this country that I do -- choosing not to vote. You're not doing us any favors. Please. Vote. Now.


  1. That's an odd statement he makes. I have trouble understanding why a secular humanist would even make the case for intrinsic rights separate from society. As far as I can tell, "rights" are simply social advertising--a super effective way to communicate collective principles that can help us reason about morals. They aren't intrinsic to anything but people and therefore it is people who have to decide on them. We have a responsibility to each other to help figure out the best rights, the best rules, the best morals to build an effective society.

    But yeah, I guess that's off topic. Voting is good :)

    Is this a public list, perchance? I'm curious.

  2. Well, all you're doing is submitting to your rulers. ;P

    But seriously, given the lousy voter turnout we had, I just can't buy anyone's arguments about not voting. The right-wing conservatives must laugh their asses off when they find out about liberal-minded folks abstaining from voting.

    The discussion was (well, still is) taking place on the Tacoma Atheists meetup list.