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Short Essays

Vote or Don’t, Just Shut the Fuck Up Already

Stop caring how people spend 15 minutes on election day.
by: an anarchist that votes

“I don’t vote. Two reasons. First of all it’s meaningless; this country was bought and sold a long time ago. The shit they shovel around every 4 years *pfff* doesn’t mean a fucking thing. Secondly, I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. People like to twist that around – they say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain’, but where’s the logic in that? If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You caused the problem; you voted them in; you have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote, who did not vote, who in fact did not even leave the house on election day, am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain about the mess you created that I had nothing to do with.” 

George Carlin, Back in Town [1996]

“Are anarchists voting? Of course we are. Some of us even work on political campaigns. We are idealists, but idealism and pragmatism are NOT mutually exclusive.

Of course we would like to see the state brought down and a more liberated, more beautiful world built in its ashes. But since that isn’t happening right now, many of are working towards damage control — literally just feeding people, saving lives, paying people’s court fees etc

We need to actually survive in this current system. For many people, every day is a struggle, and the current system is against us. Changing policies that are racist, anti-poor, anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-indigenous — this saves lives. That sometimes involves electrions [sic]

Sure, things will be better for all of us #AfterTheRevolution But until then, a lot can be done to help the communities we are in solidarity with. That means paying attention to the system around us, and helping people survive its brutality.

Voting is not, after all, an act of love or devotion. It is an act of strategy. One more strategic action to take to improve lives and relieve pressure from people. And that is nothing to sneer at.”

Lacy MacAuley, anarchist and spokeswoman on Disrupt J20, thread on twitter [2020]

Every time there’s an election anarchist twitter blows up with a debate. The “principled” emphatically don’t vote, and the “pragmatic” reluctantly, or otherwise, do. The whole back and forth is simply about whether an anarchist can vote, whether taking 15-20 minutes of their day every couple years—more frequently for the diligent—negates whatever other work they may be doing, negates whatever beliefs or ideals they may have.

I’m reluctant to even enter into this debate, because the biggest takeaway I hope for people to get from this writing is that it doesn’t matter either way, and if voting is such a waste of time, then certainly discussing it is equally a waste, if not a greater one, since it takes ultimately takes longer.

I personally don’t understand why anarchists want to spend their time telling people what to do.

It seems to me that denying people their claim to being an anarchist based on one action is pretty easily within the realms of the No True Scottsman fallacy. It also strikes me that if you’re an anarchist who does vote, maybe mind your business and don’t spend your time advocating on behalf of the election process: instead you could be working on something else, something more true to your ideals.

I don’t believe that voting takes away your status as an anarchist. I’m pretty sure the only real qualifying factor of being an anarchist is a firm and unrelenting belief in freedom and the abolition of coercive hierarchies. Therefore, if you’re an anarchist and you are spending your time belittling people into or out of voting, that leaves me with some questions.

If you believe that taking part in the electoral process disallows you from calling yourself an anarchist, because it’s effectively playing a part in a corrupted system, then I’d ask what your thoughts are on paying rent, going to work, buying groceries, eating at cafes or restaurants, etc. If you’re someone who believes that voting is at least harm reduction, I’d ask you to consider how flawed the electoral process is and that election boycotts are often effective ways to expose a corrupt system. 

All of this, however, is contributing to a conversation I just want to see die.

Apologies,

My Sincerest,

an anarchist

PS. I vote lol

By MKE Lit Supply

We are a collective of anarchists and prison abolitionists who produce and reproduce radical literature for prisoners. We table literature, stickers and other rad shit at shows around Milwaukee to support this project.

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