This year, participating in democracy feels more like a demented religious ritual than ever before.
If I don’t vote, my friends and neighbors will know about my un-American activity, says a YouTube ad from a super PAC that looks like an official bulletin from a propaganda bureau.
Voting in elections is kind of like when the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 “voted” to overtake the Sept. 11 hijackers and crash the plane, according to a blue checkmark on Twitter.
Anyone who dares suggest voting that, actually, voting isn’t that important is reported en masse to our social media overseers.
And we’re not just supposed to vote for politicians — powerful people who can smother our livelihoods and even our lives — we’re supposed to think of them as personal friends and play online video games with them.
I always vote, but I have a lot of bad habits. In my 12 years as a voter, I’ve rarely been enthused with my choices on the ballot, but this election is the worst one yet.
No, the two major parties aren’t the same, but both of their presidential nominees are wannabe authoritarians who, if elected, would continue on the path of expanding federal and presidential power well beyond the bounds of the Constitution.
It didn’t have to be this way, America. There were other choices.
Republicans renominated President Donald Trump, the bigoted huckster who has gleefully abandoned almost all of the tenets of limited government. He regularly exhibits contempt for free markets, due process and fiscal restraint.
GOP primary voters and caucusgoers paid no serious consideration to Trump’s respectable challengers, former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Trump won about 97 percent support at the Iowa GOP caucuses in February.
Democrats nominated Joe Biden, a former booster for the War on Terror and the surveillance powers that came with it. He was the worst tough-on-crime candidate in a large primary field, and he went on to select the second-worst one as his vice-presidential nominee. Only the California congressman who suggested dropping bombs on defiant gun owners might have been worse.
Biden and his fellow Democrats rightly criticize Trump’s record on immigration enforcement, yet Biden and Barack Obama built that enforcement apparatus and set arrest and removal records Trump has not even come close to. In the last debate, Biden was bold enough to suggest that was all Obama’s idea, not his. Sure, Joe.
We are called to worship at the altar of the polling place — for the soul of the nation — but these are our deities? I can’t partake in that.
So, I’m left with seven other presidential candidates on my ballot to consider, none of whom appears to have the money or name recognition to make a serious showing in the national tally of votes.
I will be the “spoiler,” the character who plays the devil in the religion of democracy. I will “throw my vote away,” a grave sin in the statist catechism. But, hey, at least I’m voting, doing my civic duty.
Voting is important, especially in a year when Republicans are actively trying to corrupt the election process. But it’s not the most important civic duty, not by a long shot.
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Next year, whoever wins, our most pressing crises will persist. The incumbent will not change course, and the challenger has promised nothing will fundamentally change. The need for advocacy, activism and protest will be as great as ever.
Voting is like going to church once a year on Christmas. When it’s time for a real spiritual revival, I worry most voters will be at home waiting for the next election.
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