What’s the Point: An Argument Against Voting
Before we go any further I would like to make one thing abundantly clear. I cannot stand Russell Brand. This is in no way, shape or form an endorsement of that man, or anything he has said or done. He is in my mind a ridiculous and cynical figure who’s hopped onto the bandwagon of a climate of political dissatisfaction and antipathy in order to sell a poorly written book and make himself a quick buck while appearing relevant. Having said that, if we separate one of the messages espoused from the man, it has at its core a salient and timely point. Just why should we bother to vote in the first place? What does it do for us? What’s the point in participation in the mass illusions of choice presented to us a civic duty and virtue when whoever we ‘choose’ we’ll just end up with more of the same?
The answer, at least the conclusion I come to on this, is that there isn’t one. Just why should we take part in a process that legitimises and reinforces a system that protects the status quo and elites at the expense of the poor, the downtrodden and the disenfranchised? First Past the Post, the electoral system used in Britain, is specifically designed to prevent any major upheaval to the parliamentary status quo, admittedly it somewhat failed to do this at the last election when it landed us with a coalition government, but even then did that much really change? The Conservatives, even with the addition of the Lib Dems as a supposedly ‘humanising’ factor, still pushed ahead with the policies of neoliberalism. Nothing happened to disturb the neoliberal consensus that exists at the heart of British politics, the banks were not restrained, the corporate 1% (despite populist rhetoric being spouted by politicians) were not effectively taxed, nor was their un-democratic control over the managing of our country curtailed. But what if Labour were to be elected? The party on the ‘left’ of mainstream British politics would surely have a vested interest in sorting these issues out? I doubt it. Miliband talks a fair game, and he’s probably better than Cameron with his UKIPesq swing to the right in recent years, but he’s not exactly proposing anything that will actually amount to real change is he? No matter what party wins a majority or forms a coalition after this election very little real change is likely to be the result of it. Austerity will still be the order of the day and constitutional reform that makes the electoral system more representative of people’s actual desires will be ignored once more.
So why bother? More than this why are we being encouraged so rabidly to vote if this is the harsh reality of the political landscape? The immediate response to Russell Brand’s call that people refuse to vote in the upcoming election was widespread distain, some, like that perpetually relevant butter sales-man Johnny ‘Rotten’ Lyndon, called this stance idiotic. While I agree with the crumpet scoffing punk that Brand is indeed a “bum-hole”, forgive me if I also find myself asking just whatever happened to ‘anarchy in the UK’? Did it get distracted by the innumerable virtues of Country Life Butter? Because I really don’t think it is idiotic to reject legitimating and perpetuating a system that results in your personal disenfranchisement and disadvantage. In fact the only intelligent response to a situation like this is to refuse, to conscientiously object. And I do object. I object to the suggestion that a system that corrals us into a safe and enclosed political arena, where the real and important issues that need to be addressed are kept away from us, is something I ‘should’ participate in. Don’t vote. Don’t bother. Because voting in modern Britain is simply the illusion of choice. It is a means via which to restrain us, to hold back reform, and to perpetuate a system that takes advantage of us.
So what’s the alternative? Certainly not apathy, merely to not vote is not enough, it does indeed marginalise us if that is all we do, because we are not making alternative attempts to get our voices heard. But, if we make it very clear to the powers that be that our refusal to vote is not apathy, but an active and conscious choice on our parts, a decision that we are intentionally refusing to lend further legitimation to the system. Then and only then can we start on the path towards real change. The current system operates on manufactured legitimacy, the factory of this legitimacy is the ballot box. If we refuse to vote in a manner as I described above we are going on strike, we are refusing to produce the legitimacy the system needs to survive. This is the only course of action that will bring real and meaningful change, because it sends the message that we do not agree, that we’ve had enough of this and we’re not going to take it anymore. By refusing to vote we are taking the power of choice out of the hands of politicians and those wealthy enough to buy themselves power, and we are returning it to ourselves. Not voting is not anti-democratic. It is the only truly democratic choice left to us.
Written by Jack Agnew