Two good friends of mine have asked one question over Facebook recently that many people are wondering: if Trump gets the nomination, for whom will moderate Republicans vote? Do they feel strongly enough about party differences (or more realistically, about Hillary Clinton) that they will vote for him despite their dislike? Or will they vote for another candidate they fundamentally disagree with (a Democrat) in order to avoid supporting someone as dangerous as Trump?
Both statuses racked up a lot of comments, and though these two people have no overlap in acquaintances, one answer came up frequently in both sets of commenters: I just won’t vote.
Call it the young idealist in me, but this answer is infinitely scarier than Trump as president…because in this scenario, he still ends up president.
Replace “Trump” with “Clinton” here if that is the scariest outcome you can imagine, but political preferences are beside the point. If you do not vote, someone you hate wins. If you do not vote, you did nothing to prevent a terrible candidate from taking control of the entire country. If you do not vote, you relinquish the right to have any say in the outcome. The only problem prevented by not voting is your sense of personal responsibility for contributing a vote to a candidate you dislike. However, if you do not vote, you are still responsible for that person’s victory.
You may think you are letting other people make the choice, which is well and true, except you did make a choice: a choice to give up your voice, give up your contribution. If you can identify serious problems in two polar opposite candidates, it is reasonable to assume you are informed on the issues and their political histories; if you don’t vote, that is one less informed voter to balance out many uninformed voters. You may not think your individual voice matters, but this is not about one person not voting, this is about many.
If you think your non-vote is a signal, a protest, you are wrong. Your conscious abstinence from democracy will not be noted, because American voting rates are incredibly low: approximately 53.6% for the 2012 presidential election. No one is listening to say, “hm, lots of people did not vote this time, they must be indicating dissatisfaction” because there are always a lot of people who do not vote.
This is not just a moderate Republican problem, this is an EVERYONE problem. There have been supporters of every candidate that have said that if their candidate doesn’t get the nomination, they’re not voting. When you vote, you exert control, even if it is a minuscule, fractional amount, over the political reality of the country. When you do not vote, you are still contributing to the victory of unsavory candidates—pick your poison, plug your nose, and swallow, but don’t let other people choose for you.
According to that same Pew Research article, only 71% of voting-age citizens are even registered. If you are a U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older, please register to vote! You can do so easily and for free from turbovote.org. Tell your friends, siblings, cousins, and neighbors to do the same.
Photo from MSNBC.