If you dont vote, you deserve what you get
MY VIEW • Why should we listen to anyone who couldn't even lick an envelope?
A month has passed, and there's no election going on right now, so I can talk about this. I won't use your name; you'll recognize yourself if you read this, and you won't be surprised by my reaction unless I'm a much better actor than we both suspected.
We were talking the day after the November mauling, when the Republicans were gleefully tearing down the goal posts and Kulongoski and Mannix were still tussling neck and neck. You snarled. You railed about the recession, the corporate corruption, the Supreme Court, the incompetence of our president.
'The man is an idiot,' you said, weeks before Chretien's astute aide could articulate the same sentiment. You recounted your experience working in the Capitol in Washington D.C., and how it soured you on all politicians and the process itself.
'There's only one politician I trust, and that's Ron Wyden,' you said. (Wait, Sen. Wyden, before you feel anointed.)
We commiserated more about our disappointment as earnest liberals wanting abortion to remain legal and trees to remain upright. You were indignant and alarmed and even borderline eloquent, and then you leaned forward:
'I'm going to tell you something I rarely tell anyone,' you said, 'because of the repercussions that result, but É'
I wondered, briefly, if you had slept with Ron Wyden.
And then you said: 'I've never voted in my life.'
I couldn't absorb this immediately. I asked: 'Never? Not even for something local Ñ a library levy, a public transit É'
'No,' you said, shaking your head and pressing your manicured hands on the arms of the chair. 'Not once, not ever. I'm 54 years old, and not once have I voted.'
We were consultant/client, you and I, and our conversations had always been jovial. You had told me a bit about your divorce, about your zigzagging career, your spiritual meanderings. You also were a paying customer, and it was not appropriate for me to eject you from my office or excise your eyelids.
'Oh,' I said.
I got to thinking. What if Kevin Mannix, whom you had moments before compared to Beelzebub, had won the governor's race by a single vote? Unlikely, of course. But did your complexity of emotions also include gratitude to me? Was I your savior, or in your eyes some deluded fool? If you feel good about not voting, what do you think of those who do?
I puzzled some about this; I, and my fellow plurality in Oregon, gave you Kulongoski, and voters elsewhere gave you Saxby Chambliss. They sent Walter Mondale packing and Katherine Harris to a victory ball.
You stayed home. You didn't lick the stamp for your ballot envelope or pop into the library to drop your choices into the box Ñ if you ever even bothered to register. You had other things to do.
It's a clichŽ to speak of the legions who died pursuing the right to vote, or to wax rhapsodic about those who stand in line for 19 hours just to make a mark on a piece of paper. You don't need that from me.
Most people, of course, do not vote in most elections. Their reasons sometimes echo yours: I hate the whole process; they're all crooks; what's the point; politics is B.S. Some say they didn't have time to read the voters' manual or didn't feel qualified to make choices.
Nonvoters are the disenfranchised, the disaffected, the dismayed and distraught and disturbed and dysfunctional. But you? You who are simply dyspeptic?
I have no soapbox to mount; I lack the energy and the will. Here's the thing, though. Gripe all you want about legislator perks and overfunded TV campaigns and slimeball special-interest groups and horny legislators and backroom payoffs. We can swap our grievances and rue our lost freedoms and hoist a few glasses to the warriors who fell and the bond measures that died.
But please, if you didn't vote, keep it to yourself. Leave me my illusions, and then get outta my way.