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With the 2012 Presidential Election at last coming to its ugly and no-doubt contentious conclusion, the American public is eager for the cessation of those unpleasantries attendant with any election year, but which have become especially pronounced in recent years. The most ubiquitous among these are the dizzying array of inescapable political ads which ruin commercial breaks and jam the nation’s mailboxes and inboxes, replete with well-moneyed half-truths and contradictory claims designed to fool the very stupid. No less odious are the half-witted, hyper-strident statements made in public and on social media by partisans of all stripes, armed with questionable facts and subjective statistics culled conveniently from publications which mirror their dogmatically monomaniacal beliefs.
Most insidious of all, however, is a widely held misconception which is quickly gaining an acceptance so entrenched as to render it a bedrock tenet of the American mythology, and unless quickly checked, will continue to fill the hallways of power in Washington with ineffectual partisan functionaries perpetually running for re-election. This misconception most often takes form in the platitude, ‘It’s vital to our democracy that everyone vote.’ Ignoring for the sake of argument the contention that the United States is a democracy,¹ the idea of voting at all costs, despite your head being firmly entrenched within your nether-regions, is a perfectly horrible notion.
But the idea takes shape further in the notion that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain, meaning only those who directly participate in the electoral process have a right to express dissatisfaction with the nation’s leadership. This is at best iffy logic in a society where freedom of speech is enshrined more highly than direct representation. And yet, if we follow this flawed logic, we see that like those who didn’t bother to vote, those who voted for the winning candidate have also forfeited their right to complain. In fact, the only people with a right to complain are those who voted for the other guy.