If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. We’ve all heard it said, it’s a tired old cliché and I’ve had enough of it. It goes hand in hand with other statements such as “vote Labour to stop the BNP”.
They represent a fundamental misunderstanding of what politics is. The first one can just as easily be turned around. If you vote, whoever you vote for, you can’t complain because you’ve validated the system that selects people to represent you for a fixed term. These people armed with the legitimacy you’ve given them can go on to spend that time doing whatever they like, no mechanism exists to recall them, to hold them to account. You’re stuck with them. Left leaning people with a sense of social justice committed to such things as free university tuition who voted Libdem in 2010 know this only too well. They can’t do anything about it until 2015 and even then the only option the system provides is to go into a booth and tick a box next to the name of some other politician who promises to do something different. And so the cycle continues.
The second pro voter platitude – You’ll get some extremist like the BNP if you don’t turn up and vote Labour (or some other mainstream party). Is this really an argument? Representative democracy reduced to voting for someone less bad than the extremist or that’s what you’ll get? Put another way – Support the status quo because the best (electorally) organised alternative is fascist.
Election day isn’t the day to combat fascism, to try to head off the change that they represent. It’s far too late by then. The question is how the hell have fascists been in a position to organise openly, to canvass for electoral support in your community in the first place? What’s going on there? What were you doing before election day about this?
Do you live surrounded by people with a natural affinity for fascism or are there people in your community so disillusioned with mainstream politics that a significant number are prepared to vote for fascists because they are the only alternative on offer and even then, an alternative wrapped up with the existing system of box ticking every four years we call electoral politics?
Voting? It’s a mugs game.