When the choices are bad, not voting is understandable

Count me as one who has had enough. Enough of the sleazy misinformation campaigns from every political persuasion that corrupts the airwaves every night. Enough of the yard signs that invariably stand long after an election and create the biggest of eyesores.

Although I’m known as an avid observer of the political battleground, the candidates can count me out on this one.

I don’t mean to rain on the parade of those motivated “Get Out the Vote” individuals who register college students across the country, but there are many reasons not to vote this year. It’s probably taboo to suggest such a thing, especially when collegiate newspapers across the country seem to be trying to stem the tide of voter apathy. But for those out there who are looking to find a reason not to participate this midterm election, I have assembled some of my favorites.

Despite the rhetoric lobbed against non-voters, your vote really doesn’t count. Sure, nominally it will be added to some total, assuming that the voting machines are operated correctly and haven’t been tampered with, but the probability that your vote is the decisive vote in the election is infinitesimally small. That being established, your vote will likely be translated into no difference come election day, even in the tightest of races.

In addition, politicians of every party seem less able to stand apart and convince me they are really fighting for the people. Yes, their statements sound nice on the direct mail pieces that flood my mailbox, but with a victory in November, few politicians will be able to break the curse of the well-financed lobbyists. The invasion of Washington, D.C., by lobbyists who represent the world of special interests has succeeded in muting the power of individual Americans.

Furthermore, most politicians who run for office are far too detached from the concerns of my daily life. Elected office is now an occupational category saturated with the wealthy and elite who are increasingly groomed at the elite universities in this country. It is difficult to convince me that politicians have my interests at heart when they spend millions of dollars on their own campaign but exert little effort to embody the meaning of representative government.

There increasingly seems to be a divide between the rhetoric of politicians and the views of everyday Americans. Talking to other students on campus, I don’t sense entrenched views akin to political extremism but rather a desire for consensus and compromise for the greater good of the nation. But for politicians, extremism and strict adherence to party doctrine seem the norm.

Those who are independent thinkers or those who, God forbid, change their minds on an issue are branded wishy-washy, spineless or something worse.

On a more practical point, a midterm election that is merely a referendum on an obviously unpopular president seems inadequate in providing a significant change in policy. It is impossible to predict the outcome, but a popular view is that the Democrats may win the House and the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate.

If such an outcome occurs, prepare for more political stalemates, increased investigations of wrongdoing and ratcheted-up ideological posturing for the 2008 elections. The losers in such a case will be the American people who, despite facing both foreign and domestic issues that require decisive action, will find themselves shut out from real results.

Another reason Nov. 7 may be a great time to ignore the political process is that access to unbiased information about the candidates is nearly impossible. Negative campaigning makes it increasingly difficult to see through the haze to what politicians truly believe. Misinformation, lies and character attacks could result in my voting for a candidate who may be further from my views than I realize. Imagine the negative result of voting for the second-best option only because finding the best was prohibitively difficult.

For these and many other reasons, it may be best to sit out the mayhem of this political season. If the message that needs to be sent to politicians, both local and national, is that voters are fed up, then staying home Nov. 7 should be an acceptable way. The right to vote extends the implicit message that people have the right to abstain when the choices are this bad.

Perhaps for many students such a message may be political anathema – that’s fine. If a sense of duty or the “patriotic itch” has imparted a sense of purpose in voting, don’t let these reasons discourage your enthusiasm. But whatever the decision, try to respect people like me who are thoroughly disgusted by the countdown to Nov. 7. Maybe through inaction and non-participation, America can look forward to the possibility of future campaigns being run the way they should be – professionally, truthfully and with class.

Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.