Of course non-voters can Complain

My society tells me that if I don't vote I can't complain. As a pragmatic non-voter who loves to complain, I'm offended. Now you've made me an offended non-voter who loves to complain, so I'm gonna have to write about why non-voters like me totally can complain.

Why can't you complain if you don't vote? I feel like nobody asks this question. Maybe it's because the answer is so obvious that asking makes one look like a fool. Or maybe it's because the statement in question is a pithy logical-sounding response to anyone who would reject the sacred ritual of voting. If you ask the question then you'd have to come up with an actual argument, which can then be counter-argued, and the next thing you know your democratic fundamentalism is under scrutiny. That's uncomfortable. Best to say the line, nod your head, and get on with your day.



Maybe you can't complain because you didn't do the one thing you could have done to create a different outcome. You can't complain about a problem if you didn't do anything to fix the problem. You can't complain about being unemployed if you don't apply for any jobs. You can't complain about being single if you don't get out there and try to meet people. You can't complain about being cold if you won't reach over and grab a blanket. By the same logic, you can't complain about politics if you didn't vote.

Owned. Stop thinking now because we're done. Move on. Nothing more to see here. Oh no, I feel thought happening...

The rule is that you can't complain about a problem if you didn't do things that would plausibly fix that problem. Nobody says you can't complain about poverty if you don't buy a lottery ticket. Nobody says you can't complain about skin cancer if you didn't carry a sun umbrella. Nobody actually says you can't complain about getting raped if you didn't cover up your body. Nobody says you can't complain about being cold if you don't move to the side of the room closer to the equator.

Does voting plausibly fix the problem? Democratic fundamentalism says yes, but math says no. Nate Silver estimated that a vote in an American presidential election has about a 1 in 60,000,000 chance of influencing the election, but you don't need to be a mathematician like Nate Silver to figure out that your vote is next to worthless. Just look at how many people vote! (126 million in 2016)

(Another problem is that voting isn't the only thing you can do to influence an election outcome. If I contribute to a campaign, spread the word, spend ungodly hours thinking and writing about politics, and encourage others to vote, why do I still not get to complain?)

Voting is a useless tool for influencing elections, it is, however, a powerful tool for self-expression. It's a way of communicating that you're a certain kind of person or you have certain values or belong to a certain tribe. Besides, voting spares you from becoming victim to society's most powerful weapon; shame. That's why people wear those little "I voted!" pins. It's like a little force field that protects you from society's contempt. But the fact that I don't wear the little pin because I don't partake in the fashion of voting doesn't mean I don't get to complain about the people who rule over me.

Shun the unbelievers.

...

This post is about voting; one of society's most sacred rituals. Other examples like this include:

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