Suffrage as Nihilism: Voting is Dead

Suffrage as Nihilism: Voting is Dead October 27, 2012

I’ve seen and heard an election dogma that can only be described as pure, unadulterated nihilism. A complete void of being. It goes as follows: “it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the only important thing is that you vote.” Another version plays with words a bit: “the only wrong choice is not to vote.”

How clever!


The implication is clear: who or what gets elected isn’t important; the only thing that has importance is that someone, anyone, gets elected. It may not even matter that anyone or anything gets elected at all, the only essential thing is that people show up to vote, come what may. We just need to look good on the surface — like white-washed tombs.

Why is suffrage the only thing that matters? When did it become an end in itself? It could be the case, if we take these claims seriously, that modern liberal democracy — or call it whatever you want, you get the point — has finally realized its heartless, empty core and is now willing to confess to a zombie public that can hardly stay awake to understand the confession anymore.

If the only thing that matters about voting is voting, no matter what the outcome, then voting has no direction, no telos, no being in-itself. Nothing. No thing.

Voting is dead.

Suffrage — the practical political muscle behind modern democracy — is no longer just a shallow projection of our romantic longings for free will and self-governance and other impossible pipe-dreams. Suffrage is now aware of its own emptiness and is willing to admit to being a ritual where nothing matters. The gods do not eat the offerings, they are idols. The only fragile thing holding us together is that we continue to bring our sacrifice, mindlessly, regardless of the god or the sacrifice.

There is nothing. Nothing but nothing. Or, as Slavoj Zizek suggests: less than nothing. Vote for nothing: vote to vote to vote to vote to vote to vote…

Therefore, now more than ever, it absolutely important that we vote. Don’t forget to remember to vote. Burn it into your memory, like a cigarette smolders into your soft arm-flesh. Otherwise, nihilism will vanish into itself. And we would not want that to happen. We might lose our indoor plumbing. And shopping, too. And Disneyland, what about that!

Again, with feeling: don’t forget to vote — modernity itself depends on it. Like the Kings of yesteryear depended on their subject’s unqualified obedience, so too today: by not voting we risk revealing the dark, apophatic reality of the divine right of democracies: it doesn’t exist.


(Read the follow-up: Abstention is Still a Choice: The Power of Negative Voting)

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