Why Vote?

by Joe Peters | 10/14/96 5:00am

Does anyone out there have a good reason to vote?

All year, we've been deluged with campaign propaganda and slogans like "Choose or Lose." They all somehow conclude that voting is a good thing since we have the power to do so. But I feel that the term "Choose or Lose" is a misnomer -- there is nothing to be lost by not voting in this election. The stakes are low, the candidates uninspiring, and the issues stale.

Consider the leading candidates for president. Robert Dole, a caustic senator turned man of the people, has little more to offer us but random promises and his version of the American dream -- a 15 percent tax cut. Bill Clinton, who ran in '92 as a "New Democrat," is now more of a "New Republican." He has given us our first postmodern presidency: four years of disconnected acts, policies and "leadership" without a theme.

This choice is no choice.

The most common arguments for voting have as their basis a feeling of obligation: Vote because you can. They contend that because we have the opportunity to vote, we can "change things" by our choice and make our leaders take responsibility for theirs. In some cases, this is true -- when there is a clear-cut choice and opportunity for decisive change. But in this election, the only choice is between more of the same and a variation of the same, and so the argument that I must make a choice defies common sense. Why would I choose between two brands of cheap beer if what I really want is some champagne with zip?

While pro-voting arguments may be made with good intentions, in some cases they have an unfortunate effect; namely, to reduce voting to the state of a ritual. In such cases, people vote because they think they should, not because they want to. The act of voting becomes separated from intelligent thought and becomes a rubber-stamp of approval for politics-as-usual. Why vote for continued mediocrity?

Perhaps the final days of the season will bring clarity to the campaign -- and, in the process reveal some significant differences between the two candidates. Or maybe not. In any case, unless something drastic happens or someone presents me with a remarkably good argument to the contrary, it looks like I'll be sitting this election out.