Voting is the Lowest Form of Political Participation

Let’s face it, in about 99% of elections your vote won’t matter.  This is especially true for the majority of us who live in winner take all jurisdictions for the electoral college.  The closest I’ve come to having my vote really make a difference was during this year’s primaries, where the candidate I supported won outright and avoided an expensive runoff by an 1151 vote margin.

Voting is easy, and it makes people feel good.  But really, at the end of the day, voting is the lowest form of political participation.

Here’s a few things that are far more influential than voting:

1. Campaign contributions.  Most candidates wouldn’t openly say this, but they’d rather have $100 in campaign funds than your vote.  That $100 can pay for a lot of bulk mailing or yard signs, and if it brings in just 2 new votes, it’s well worth the trade off.

2. Contact your representatives. Most people assume that letters to their representatives go unread or are responded to with form letters. And, many are. But, while you may be only .001% of the people voting, if you write a letter or call, you’ll be maybe 0.1-1% of the people engaging their representative in this way. Your voice just got amplified a whole lot. Members of Congress get about $1.4-1.7 million a year to spend on offices and staff. There are people paid to listen to your complaint and then go advocate for you (assuming you’re not a complete nutter). Make use of them.

3. Get informed and yell at idiots. You can find Obama’s birth certificate online with a simple Google search. McCain was talking about a long term peaceful presence in Iraq, like we have in Germany and Japan. Obama believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Overturning Roe v. Wade makes it a state issue, it would not be an immediate ban on abortion. Bush didn’t have anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, large chunks of debris from the plane that hit the Pentagon were in fact recovered, and the terrorists who attacked us didn’t do it because they were Muslim, they did it because they were violent crazy people. Putting one dumbfuck in his or her place is far more important than having yet another useless vote cast.

And of course, none of these are mutually exclusive, and not mutually exclusive with voting.  But, let’s still recognize voting for what it is, a way for people to feel like they’re being responsible citizens by sacrificing and entire half an hour once every two year.

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16 Responses to “Voting is the Lowest Form of Political Participation”

  1. Dan Says:


    While you are sure to rub people the wrong way, I applaud a post like this.

    “Get informed and yell at idiots”


  2. bl1y Says:

    A woman at our campaign office was talking about Juan Williams, and defended his comments as “freedom of speech.”

    I informed her that freedom of speech only protects you against the government. It does not protect you against your boss firing you if you say something stupid.

    She had the most distinct “Why I never!” look on her face. It was priceless.

    I do however believe that we should strive to follow the same principle in our private lives. Shouting down unpopular position or politically insensitive remark, and publicly attacking people for these remarks and firing from their jobs does chill speech and does not foster honest debate or a market place of ideas.

    But, prior to this woman’s free speech remarks, she agreed with Williams about being worried when she sees Muslims on a plane. And, she went one step further, indicating that she thought her feelings were a virtue, not an instinct she was ashamed of. So, I opted to just shut her up instead of engaging in a more intelligent discussion of freedom of speech.

  3. J-Dogged Says:

    When I was about 12 or so, I had a conversation with my then state rep who told me that voting was the most important job a citizen had, and that some of the most bitter complainers to his office were people who didn’t vote, and that he thought that was ridiculous.

    Many years later, I’ve come to realize he was full of crap and the people writing his office had a point even if they didn’t vote. Not voting can be just as much a political statement as voting is.

    The most important job a citizen has, IMO, is to be intelligent regarding the issues and work with their representative when they want policy enacted. If it’s time to vote and the choice is between a douche and a turd (i.e. neither is more likely than the other to listen to constituents or make intelligent decisions), why bother voting?

  4. evrenseven Says:

    Getting informed and yelling at idiots is useless. I know a guy who is convinced that Obama is putting flourine in the “national water supply” to soften our brains for mind control. Apparently, this is well known in conspiracy theory circles. Try getting informed and arguing against that. How about that great clip where Chris matthews hands G Gordon Liddy Obama’s birth certificate? He just tosses it aside and calls it a forgery or that it doesn’t prove anything.

    People will believe what they want to believe, and no amount of “getting informed and yelling” will help.

  5. bl1y Says:

    J-Dogged: While not voting is great, in my opinion, I think it’s even better to write in “None of the Above” on an actual ballot. This way it decreases not just the total number of votes a candidate gets, but the percentages as well.

    Evren: That would be true if idiots only came in one variety. But, there is a broad spectrum of idiots. I know someone from law school who thought Obama wasn’t a citizen. I sent him a link to the article discussing it (with a picture of his birth certificate), and about a minute later he said he felt like a dumbass.

    Some people are mildly idiotic (yo!) and welcome to learning, while others are entrenched in their ways, and there’s every variety of idiot in between.

    But, even if someone is completely entrenched and incapable of listening to reason, it’s still better to shut them up so they don’t start polluting the minds of the only mildly idiotic.

  6. Larry Says:

    I personally went to vote and had a problem with the new machines. I over-voted. Can you imagine? I said F*** it. Just count it for what it’s worth. There were NO hot broads at the polling site when I went either.

  7. Aline Says:

    I voted. Yay! No jerks elected in my precinct!

  8. Nando Says:

    Voting is a pointless social activity. What is sad is that so many of the idiotic citizens BELIEVE that their nation will improve because they voted out one corrupt political party. All they did was replace it with another pathologically corrupt, entrenched political party.

    These elected morons can talk about “limited government” and “fiscal conservatism” all they want. Let’s see how their campaign donors, i.e. CORPORATE OVERLORDS, take to those platitudes when it comes time to making budget decisions. In the end, these wealthy interests made an INVESTMENT in their politicians and they WILL get a nice return on their expenditures.

    With regard to voting, George Carlin said it best:

  9. bl1y Says:

    Obama raised more money from donors giving $500 or less than McCain raised from all sources.

    Proof of concept that a mass amount of small donors can drown big business and make their contributions meaningless.

  10. Nando Says:

    Which is why Obama surrounded himself with Rubin, Geithner, Holder, Gates, Clinton, Kissinger, et al. Tell me, where is the representation for people who will look out for the interests of the average citizen?!

    Look at this list of his top contributors. Even if you are correct that much of his campaign chest came from small donors, do you think – for a second – that those small donors can COMPETE with Goldman Sachs, MIcrosoft, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Time Warner, GE, IBM, UBS AG? These intere$t$ have teams of top-flight lobbyists. They have paid their “fee” and that buys them (constant) access. Will Joe Q. Public receive a personal audience with any of the Big Players?

    Will the average citizen receive a bailout? Did the homeowners receive funds so they could stay in their homes – or did the banksters get the loot?

    Perhaps, you have a bias favoring the wealthy and tend to overlook the extent of their control over our social, political and economic lives. Maybe this is residue from having attended NYU Law. The reality of the situation is that we have a small cohort of people who control the system. This is not a conspiracy, but cold, hard fact.

  11. bl1y Says:


    Proof of concept doesn’t mean we suddenly have a new system in place. What it means is that people can look at the way Obama raised funds and see that there is a viable alternative to collecting from big-money interests.

    And really, NYU leaves a residual bias towards favoring the wealthy and politically powerful? I mean, maybe because I thought NYU sucked and rejected a lot of the ideas that were popular there.

    By the way, if you get 416 like-minded individuals together and each donate the full $2400 hard money contribution you can make (you need to save $50 a month, to do this, fyi), your group would be the second biggest contributor.

    Corporations aren’t the problem. Lazy voters who spend more money a week on fast food than they spend every 4 years on political donations and who would rather bitch on line that write to their representatives are the problem.

  12. Nando Says:

    BL1Y, I have written my state senators and representatives dozens of times. I have done the same with members of Congress. At the federal level, what do you receive? A trite boilerplate response “drafted” by some low-end aide and a blue stamped signature. At the local levels, you might actually receive an email from the legislator. Sometimes, they may even pick up the phone. I say this as a registered lobbyist. In the final analysis, those individuals who donate $500 do not have anywhere near the clout that organized PACs and corporations have. That is the simple reality of the situation.

    If 416 people were to each donate $2400, they would have donated a combined $998,400 to a candidate or party. (So, you have shown that this is feasible, in concept. It is also possible that the Republicans will shrink the size of government – and improve the nation substantially.) I submit to you that such a group would be MUCH better served by forming a PAC or “think tank.” Then, they would be in consistent contact with legislators. They could hire private lobbyists, a PR firm, produce editorials, and have instant credibility. In contrast, if hundreds of people each donate $100, $500, or $2400, their influence is watered down. Especially at the presidential level.

    It would also take a hell of a lot longer than 12 months to reach $2400 – if one were only saving $50 a month. It would take 48 months to be exact. (Now, we are splitting hairs.) For most Americans, saving $200 a month is a very big task. Yes, people could live in smaller homes, give up their satellite TV, etc. However, that amount of money represents a large investment for families. Conversely, this is chump change for Corporate America.

    Jim Hightower noted that someone might donate $100 or even $1000, if they believe in the candidate. When someone – or an entity – donates $10K, $50K, then they are making an investment. Then again, the pigs on the Supreme Court feel that campaign contributions are free speech. Well, the obvious problem is that those with deep pockets will have a hell of a lot more free speech than everyone else.

    In the end, despite the negative connotation of your heading, you want more participation by citizens – certainly more than just voting once every 2 or 4 years. It is not going to happen. People are content with their toys, i.e. laptops, cell phones, 300 channels, football. It seems that most people do not care about concepts such as federalism, equality, etc. Most are content to drink another beer, scratch their ass, and cheer on their favorite football team. This is a nation of idiots.

    Lastly, to lay the blame completely at the feet of the powerless, i.e. the bottom 80 percent of the population, is disingenuous. Do you also blame 4th graders who get their asses kicked by the bigger, stronger 6th graders? Yes, people are apathetic, and Business takes advantage of that. However, even when people get energized, they still elect piles of excrement into office. These officials are then quickly co-opted by Big Money. For instance, the historical results last night will not lead to any meaningful change. The same rich pigs who have owned and operated the country for centuries are still in charge.

  13. bl1y Says:

    Saving $50 a month would take 48 months to reach the $2400 you’re allowed to contribute? Shit!

    How many months are there between Presidential elections?

    To claim that the bottom 80% is powerless is retarded. Maybe the bottom 20% is powerless, but certainly the 50th-80th percentiles could wield a massive amount of power. Trouble is they just don’t care.

  14. Nando Says:

    “To claim that the bottom 80% is powerless is retarded.”

    With compellng logic like that, it is perplexing as to how you graduated from a top 5-6 law school and still live in your parents’ basement.

    Yeah, they can make phone calls and write letters and emails to their congressman – who doesn’t care whether they live, die or grow mushrooms in their crack. Those legislators and appointed officials are shivering in their offices at the prospect, huh?! Is that your definition of power? Real power consists of assets, important land, plenty of money, social status, “friends” in important positions, etc.

    Making a phone call or writing a paltry little $500 check to Tweedledum is not in the same category. By the way, millions of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. They would be better served by using that $500 – or $2400 – to buy diapers for their kid, insulation for their garage, food, blankets, coats for winter – and putting the rest in savings. (Or to move out of their parents’ basement.)

    Furthermore, it is a hell of a lot easier for 10 heads of industry to form a coalition than it is for 416 individuals across the country. Why not tell us with how 1,000,000 people could theoretically each contribute $37 out of their checking account and direct that towards one party or candidate? Then they would be able to “make Industry’s contributions meaningless,” right?!?!

    In essence, we both agree that: (a) voting is the lowest form of participation and (b) most people simply do not care about the system.

    Where we disagree is the reasons for apathy. You seem to think that people just stumbled out of a vacuum and decided that they would not be interested in politics. This apathy and anger is well-deserved. People are upset with their own impotence, and the fact that the corporate-owned government does not listen to the populace. (You don’t actually believe this is a nation of, by and for the people, do you? If you do, then you need to grow up.) In the end, “the American people” are just a prop for the politicians; plus this is a nice rhetorical device.

  15. bl1y Says:

    If people can organize flash mobs and zombie walks, they can figure out how to pool a little money together.

    There are WoW guilds with thousands of people. Of course, this is a global game, but if you can organize 5000 strangers around the globe for the shared cause of collecting virtual goods, and are willing to pay $12.99 a month for it, you can get a couple hundred Americans to form a PAC and pool their funds.

    And for the record, I’m not still living with my parents, I’m living with my parents again.

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