Do you guys remember the old show “3rd Rock from the Sun?”
The premise is that aliens come to earth, take the form of humans, and learn the way of Earthlings.
In one episode, the aliens learn about democracy. One, played by John Lithgow, seems to perfectly sum up the 2016 Presidential race when he learns he has to vote.
Perhaps because of the lack of character and competence of both nominees, this video has resonated with the American public.
But is it an accurate representation of 2016?
Is it right that — as he was instructed — that we “have to vote?” And that if we don’t vote, we lose the right to complain?
Because my husband David French and I are very loudly #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary, we often hear, “well, I feel I just have to vote for one of them.” In fact, it’s a deeply held moral belief: it is the responsibility of all Americans to vote. Not doing so would be spitting on the graves of people who fought and died for our liberties.
Except that this is not quite right. In fact, it’s a lie.
In 2016, we are presented with two equally terrible choices. At one point, we were told that Trump voters were “choosing the lesser of two evils,” but every new Trump scandal threatens even that tenuous calculation. Hillary is a liar who deserves to be in jail; Donald makes the word “egomaniacal” sound like a quaint understatement, said Exxon could fight ISIS, and has bragged about sexual assault.
David Harsanyi, writing for the Federalist, makes a great point: “Demanding (or forcing) people to vote for immoral, corrupt demagogues is one of the most un-American things I can think of.” In his piece, he says that votes aren’t really as important as our school teachers made them out to be:
… my vote really wasn’t that important at all. Most of the time, neither is yours.Yet, from school-age onward, we are instructed to “get out the vote” or “rock the vote.” You must get “involved”—which nearly always entails getting involved politically. (Because the Left—and increasingly the Right—believes politics is the wellspring of all good things.) Also, of course, the most morally bankrupt and un-American platitude about voting ever concocted: “If you don’t vote you don’t have a right to complain.”
As far as I can tell, the Constitution makes no such stipulation for living in the nation or participating in debate. Democracy is not a religion. I am not denied entry into the heaven because you’ve decided neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton will do. Notwithstanding the sanctimonious lecturing of many politicians and pundits, voting is not a civic duty. Millions of Americans avoid voting as a political statement. Millions more should avoid it because they have no clue what’s going on. Not voting is a valid statement. It can be an assertive expression of free speech.
I agree! In fact, in 2016, perhaps NOT voting is the most patriotic thing you can do.
I intend to go to the polls, to vote the down ballot, and to write in someone I think would be better than the two running, or vote for a third party candidate. Yes, I know whomever I write in has no chance. But it will send a message — I want America to know that I went to vote for President and refused to comply with the two options being shoved down my throat.
Call it patriotic dissent.
Either way, I won’t come out of the voting booth like the man above — desperately hoping I did the right thing. I’ll come out knowing that I chose a third option in a presumably two option race.