It's Better to Lose an Election, Than to Win


Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
I've read lots of articles about the disutility of voting. It's not like there are a shortage of them! Here's my take on it, perhaps a bit different than most (my title refers to winning or losing from the voter's point of view, not the politician's).
At my age, 60, I've seen a lot of elections. Much of my life was spent in frantically working the political process, trying to get the "right" guy elected or the "right" policy passed. I finally ended up a non-voting anarchist. How, after all that partisan effort?
I'd breathlessly watch the election returns, particularly the presidential ones. Usually by the next day I'd know that either "my guy" had won, in which case I was elated; or that he'd lost, in which case I was dejected and depressed.
But the funny thing was, over time (say a few months), I'd get less and less dejected if my guy had lost. I'd discover yet again that the opponent turned out not quite to be the Adolf Hitler my guy had claimed he was. At the same time, I would start to recognize how much I had compromised my values in selecting "my guy" in the first place. He wasn't quite the knight in shining armor he claimed to be.
Conversely, if my guy had won, my elation would fade away in time, to be replaced by disgust and the feeling of betrayal, when "my guy" went back on everything he promised in the campaign, and instead just paid off various cronies and committed various criminal outrages.
It took some number of elections for me to realize that my feelings on election night were nothing but fantasies, and that the real feeling took about a year to show up. And that feeling was usually better if my guy had lost! Who wants to spend the next four years feeling disgusted and betrayed? When the President (or whomever) brings out some awful policy, as is inevitable, it is much better if he was not the guy I had voted for; because I could say, like that old bumper sticker had it, "Don't blame me, I didn't vote!" It actually improved my life when "my guy" lost!
Now, I've heard lots of people say things like, "Yeah, he's a worthless bum and a bastard, but just think how much worse X would have been as president!"
Yeah, right. It's clear some people are not paying attention, or are getting their news from the Ministry of Propaganda.
Here's a funny anecdote for you. I once was trying to help a woman get elected to a state representative seat in Oregon. She had just received a $25,000 check from the state teachers' union, which was a fair amount at the time. I asked her, "After taking that check, how can you maintain any independence on a vote involving schools?" She blew it off, saying something like, "Don't worry, they don't know what they are buying!"
Wow, there is a lot of BS in the world of politics!
Well, eventually I came to the realization that I preferred it when "my guy" lost, and the best way to ensure that is not voting at all. Then I could always say, "Don't blame me, I didn't vote for him!" I was never betrayed by a politician again.
Some say that if one doesn't participate in the process, one can't complain about the results. Of course that is silly; people complain regardless of whether they voted or not. But morally, it's even more accurate to say, if you participate in the process, you've endorsed the outcome--even one you don't like! You've signed off on it. Those who don't vote are really the only ones being imposed on, the only ones in the morally superior position.
And that's another good thing about not voting. It just feels great to climb out of that mud wallow and clean yourself up. It's good to feel good!
I hope younger folks don't waste as much of their lives discovering the nature of reality, as it took me to do it. I'm just a slow learner, I guess. Maybe this article can help. If you feel obligated to do something helpful for society, then go learn how to shoot. Or study up on nonviolent resistance. Or start writing about freedom. All these things are helpful, on this eve of the Revolution. You can't vote yourself free.

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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 106


Suverans2's picture

It's even more accurate to say, if you are "enfranchised[1]", it means you're a voluntary member of the body politic, "you've signed off on it", you've endorsed the outcome--whether you vote or not!

[1] Quick definitions (franchise)
noun: a statutory right or privilege granted to a person or group by a government

Quick definitions (enfranchised)
adjective: endowed ["by a government"] with the rights of citizenship especially the right to vote

Paul's picture

I'd agree it's a more emphatic way not to participate. But having an election in which 100,000 voters are registered, but only 1000 bothered to vote, also sends a message - i.e., "take those candidates and shove them".

I suppose not registering is more a philosophical rejection, while registered voters not voting is more an ad-hoc sort of rejection. Either one is better than voting. Either one will make you feel better.

Suverans2's picture

I admittedly may be misunderstanding your reply, Paul, but non-members, i.e. non-citizens, are not able to "register". And, as tzo has correctly written, "All governments must have citizens in order to exist".

Paul's picture

Just an editorial comment. In two places in the article, I wrote, "Don't blame me." Somehow they got reversed; that is, the first should say, "Don't blame me, I didn't vote for him!" The second should say, "Don't blame me, I didn't vote!" It makes more sense that way.