People come up with all kinds of excuses as to why they didn’t or don’t vote: they don’t like the candidates, they don’t care about the issues, they don’t believe their vote matters, they’re suspicious of governments, they’re too busy. All bullshit excuses.
The fact of the matter is, the act of voting is more important than the results. I heard someone say of democracy that “it’s about having your say, not necessarily getting your way,” and I completely agree. Democracy operates under the principle that everyone (of voting age) has the right and mental capacity to be self-determining and deserves a say in how society operates. Democracy requires citizens to have knowledge of democratic institutions like elections and political parties, knowledge of the issues at hand and to then act on that knowledge by doing things like voting or protesting.
I should mention that thousands of people have died for the right to vote, here and around the world. In some countries, citizens are barred from voting and the government has complete control. There are countries where voting is mandatory. In other countries, elections are held but they’re not considered free or fair because of voter suppression, electoral fraud, unbalanced campaign finance rules and/or media manipulation. Some of the people who’ve immigrated to Canada probably chose to come here partially because of our democratic system and the freedoms it allows.
Even if you’re someone who’s against voting because you take issue with the party system or someone who argues for electoral reform, or who thinks all politicians are the same, those are democratic issues. They’re issues of democracy which must be solved by democracy; by not participating in democracy you are not part of the solution. The same goes for societal issues.
The thing about claiming to be “not into politics” is that it’s impossible: politics is inescapable. Politics quite literally governs most aspects of our lives. I got a clear example of that earlier this week while I was talking to my aunt.
My aunt immigrated to Canada from Jamaica when she was six years old. She told me about the hassles of getting documents in order to travel and the process of applying for her citizenship. Her daughter attends a daycare that costs $2100 a month. Things like these have a tangible impact on your life, and they’re affected by government-mandated policies. And if you need a more practical reason to vote, this past election political parties listed tuition fees and cell phone plan prices among their campaign issues.
The fact that politics nowadays is so divisive is proof that the personal is political. Not only are politicians attacking each other’s morals and intelligence, so are their supporters. We tend to see each other as political enemies who need to be destroyed instead of political opponents who we need to defeat. Policies no longer represent people’s ideas but rather their character so political differences become personal grievances.
If you’re a liberal or progressive or woke-identifying person, not voting is perhaps the worst thing you can do. Statistics show that in Canada, Conservative voters are the most dedicated. That means they’re the most likely to go to the polls (even if a result forgone conclusion either for or against them) and they’re the least likely to waver in their party support. In addition, votes tend to be split between the Liberals, the NDP, the Green Party, and the Bloc Québécois, who all identify as left-leaning progressive parties. So by not voting you’re not “sticking it to The Man,” you’re giving the man the stick.
This rationale can also be applied to small conservative ideas outside the Canadian political landscape. The fundamental tenet of a conservative is that they want to conserve things the way they are. Conservatives don’t like change, so they strive to keep the status quo. Or in the case of the infamous “Make America Great Again” slogan, the desire to change is a desire to change back to the ways of the past, which tends not to bode well for marginalized people.
When it comes down to it, whatever reason you have for not being into politics is not a good reason to disengage. The consequences of not voting almost always outweigh whatever chance benefits you might get as a result of the victorious party.
Back when I was at UTSC, a referendum was held to decide whether or not to increase the levy allocated to our community radio station, Fusion Radio. At the time, $4.85 from each student’s tuition fees went to Fusion. The referendum asked students whether or not they supported the $8 increase, and out of the nearly 13,000 eligible voters only 59 actually did vote. 43 people voted in favour of the increase while 16 people opposed it. We have no idea what the other 12,941 or so people thought about the situation because they didn’t vote, they decided their vote didn’t matter. Because they voted, 43 people decided the fate of the entire student population of UTSC including future students (those ancillary fees can’t be opted out of).
Civil literacy and engagement are crucial components in a functioning society and should matter on a personal level. Voting provides people with an opportunity to stand for the values that matter to them and potentially have their needs met.
Think about voting like getting food; everybody needs to eat. You can get your food from an upscale Greek restaurant, a cozy Jamaican bakery, a mom n’ pop pizzeria etc. If you don’t like the food at one restaurant, you can get your food from another. If you don’t like any of the vendors, find a community garden or open your own restaurant.
[N]one of this “I’m not into politics” nonsense. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many times and it’s stupid and irresponsible.
If you go on a hunger strike people are bound to question why, and some people might even support you and your cause and work towards better options. If you’re simply not eating and you don’t tell anyone why, people won’t notice, nor will they care, and things will stay the same.