So, if you haven’t heard, Obama is president elect. Through out the past couple of months, many naïve and young people turned out to volunteer for this particular candidate. His message (read marketing campaign) and charisma (read Rolling Stone covers) brought the youths of world to his knees. With it came hours of relentless volunteering from nameless, faceless bots programmed for handing out brochures, baking cookies, knocking doors down, and getting “the vote” out. Here at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), our club was not so easily swayed by the pretty words and peer pressure. Getting out “the vote” was not our concern and, in fact, doing just the opposite, that is to say questioning the entire system of voting, was the goal of our now infamous Nobody ‘08 campaign. And now that the blood pressures are lowering, the debts are being settled (except the national one), and this whole mess is finally being done with, it is a time to reflect and assess what it is we set out to do and what we accomplished.
We started out as many others had: we were annoyed at being bothered for petty political reasons. We knew the political system did not really work all that great for two important reasons: the government is necessarily inefficient and voting as it is employed now is fundamentally illegitimate. Since we focus on the inadequacies of government the rest of four year cycle, our attention was focused on reasons for voting and reasons for not voting.
Voting only works if everyone agrees in advance to the rules and agrees to abide by the outcome. If not everyone who is affected by the rules of the game agrees, then there is no justifiable position to take in enforcing those rules for them. It would be like an umpire calling you safe or out when you walk into work in the morning or Uncle Moneybags not letting you pass Go or collecting $200 while you are riding the bus. If we don’t agree to playing a game, how can we possibly be subjected to its rules? The way many people get around this is by saying that if you are a citizen of the country you have already made an implicit contract. By what authority does the State to “claim” me as its property at my birth? If I have no right to claim dominion over another man (which I do not without violating his very basic right of self-ownership) than I do not see how the government, which is merely a group of men, can claim that they do?
Another claim made is that if you don’t vote you have no right to complain. The reasoning is that if you do “nothing” to better your situation then you must be held responsible for the consequences. But the two statements are not analogous. First of all, not voting is not the same as doing nothing. If I have the “option” of having thief A or thief B steal from me, am I really not justified in saying that neither have my vote? How else am I supposed to express this, than by denouncing the institution of voting and by following through by not voting? Voting is when you say what you would like to do and if enough people agree with you, then that is the way something will be. Implicit in this is the idea that the majority should have the right to rule over the minority. Put less epically, voting implies that one person has the right to impose his will upon another through force (yes, force. If you vote for a law banning jeans, you have made jean-wearers criminals who, if they refuse to obey the law, will be thrown in jail, fined, etc…). But what gives anybody the right to impose force on another? Self-defense. This is among the strongest arguments for voting and on the face of it, it is a very good reason for voting. But I have no right to trample on you simply because I am running away from a bear. Sure, it might be pragmatic and it’ll probably be what most of us do in that situation, but in that case, we are aggressors…not against the thing we would defend ourselves against, but against others. So when people said they were voting for Obama so that McCain wouldn’t get elected, they may be protecting themselves from McCain, but they are also imposing Obama upon others.
There are many other reasons for not voting and we used many breaths and finger taps explicating them, but perhaps the most telling of all voting myths is the idea that your vote means anything. It speaks to people’s lack of knowledge on basic economic principles, their incomprehensibility toward large numbers and big groups, and their unsound critical thinking. And individual vote is worth nothing…or so close to it in practical terms as to be considered negligible. To put this in some kind of perspective, consider the follow. There are 560,000 words in War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy in a standard English translation. Your vote in this election for president would be worth as much as 1 word in nearly 227 copies. Let me repeat that, because I believe it needs repeating: a single vote cast for a president this year was equivalent to 1 word in 227 copies of one of the longest novels ever written. The shear audacity of anyone to claim that a vote is powerful is ludicrous. It can rightly be said that they are being disingenuous if not just plain deceptive. Your vote is only “worth” something if it comes as a package: the black vote, the women vote, the youth vote. Not your vote, your category’s vote is what matters. If the president wasn’t in a position so far removed from my daily life, I’d say this was a much larger travesty than it is.
I want the Obama supporters to know that he won not because he spoke a message of hope and change, not because he was an ideologue that the masses could get behind, not because he had sensible policies or bold and innovating ideas, not because his message mattered. He won because of the effort of his supporters. He won because a bunch of ethically shady people did a bunch of ethically shady things. I couldn’t walk five feet on this campus without some picture of Obama staring at me (or mostly off to the side), from the wall, on a post, in every window, from a trashcan, torn up and stomped on from the ground, hecklingly in a toilet stall. His supporters turned chalk into dust trying to get out “the (Obama) vote.” Baked at least one metric ton of cookies. Gave away a thousand posters, a thousand bumpers stickers, at least a thousand lies. Stopped students, who neither cared nor wanted to care, to tell them to vote, to plead with them that voting for Obama was the only thing they could do in their lives that would make this otherwise pointless existence of theirs mean anything. Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Psychology, Geography, Medicine, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Engineering. All worthless. Barack must be president.
“cin >> whatpersonresponds >> endl;
” If(whatpersonresponds == “yes” || “totally”)
” cout << highfive << “Yea!”;
” cout << “Great to see some sensibility of campus!”;
” cout << s
elfimportantspeech1 << endl;
” cout << selfimportantspeech2 << endl;
Such unwarranted self-importance was exuded be these Obamabots that it is amazing they did not merely say these words into the mirror (they did after all, only really appear to be talking to themselves). But of course, the use of a mirror would require self-awareness, which, based on their lack of decency and respect for others, clearly was not programmed into them. They had their slogans and their pins and their signs. Change, they say. Change. Delta X over delta T is change…what they offered were promises either too good to be true or too vague to be false. And they’ll never know.
I am truly ashamed to have wasted as much of my life on this election or the political process in general. It is full of terrible people doing terrible things to themselves and others: there is nothing noble about it. The rhetoric, the speeches, the suits, the ties, the phone calls, the buttons, the brochures, the stickers, the posters, the door-knocking, the window dressing, the make-up for the cameras, the op-eds for the Times, the punches pulled and mud slung about the most pointless of minor details (preconditions? Who gives a crap?), the squabbling, the narcissism, the pettiness, the run on sentences that don’t really say anything, the empty promises, false hopes, shattered dreams, broken homes, and masses yearning for their turn to wait in line for bread and water and change. I brought myself to write this because I thought it would somehow justify and explain what I did with my time and my life. I felt it would somehow explain it, clarify it: this last year or two couldn’t have been a total waste could it have been? Unfortunately, for me and for you and for everybody, it was. It was all a sham. It will always be a sham. We were tricked. We thought that if we loved our country we should let it know what we are thinking. And if we love our neighbor we should try to help them. And if we love ourselves and our freedoms we should attempt to protect them. All true. It is when we are told that voting is the only way to accomplish these that we are being swindled. Freedom and love and patriotism are great and wonderful. It is voting that is wrong and nasty and divisive. All I wanted to do at the beginning of this election cycle was to become the most informed first time voter ever so that I could feel good about myself about helping my fellow man. But I realized that in loving humanity you forget that it’s humans you should love. And that’s where we all went wrong.
The thing to take away from this and this election is that we were all wrong because the election was wrong. Good people acting through bad systems will produce bad results. The Obamabots were loud, naïve, fervent believers. We were crass, mocking, mirrors held up to their face. We wanted to point to their absurdity, but a bot not programmed to see itself, can’t see itself. In the end, we were all wrong and we all won. That’s what’s wrong with the system: you don’t have to be right. They won because their candidate got elected thanks to their lowball, grassroots, followed-the-rules-when-they-suit-their-purpose campaign that they all seemed so smug and self-righteous about. We won because we got to mock them mercilessly, inform those who wanted to be informed, left those alone who wanted to be left alone, spread the message of critical thinking, and because when this is all over and we’re all older and we have dead-end jobs and mid-life crises and mortgages and kids what we’ll all remember is those crazy Students for Liberty and their plea not to vote. And every election from here on out, those who heard about us will ask themselves if its worth voting, they will ask if voting is legitimate, they will ask if they want to be part of this process. Because we got them to ask and because I believe they will continue to question, because they will remember us and what we have done and will forget the Obamabots (those nameless, faceless obstructions on their way to class or called their homes or interrupted their classes), because we didn’t need to shout from the rooftops because we were whispering in the halls, we have won, and will continue to win even when we all turn back toward apathy and our studies and our lives.