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On "Not voting as a form of protest"

The only way to write a substantial book is to lock yourself into a particular ideology, stop second guessing, and just work.

Accordingly, an author’s first words since their last major publication are those they have denied themselves. They are nearly sacred in their innocence, and with the urgency to be spoken ahead of every other thought left unexpressed.

So after 4 years writing her tour de force ode to community participation, it is refreshing but not shocking to read Nadia’s newest post on democratic abstinence.


It’s puzzling however, that Nadia ends by writing:
The reason I’m curious about this topic is because the idea of not voting seems to provoke a sort of digust [sic] and moral outrage that, say, democratic lotteries or liquid democracy, does not, even though these are arguably equally radical proposals.

The gigantic difference between abstention, lottery and liquidity is that only the first is at all attainable. If I meet someone who wants to implement an alternative voting scheme, no matter how radical, my reaction is not disgust or horror, it’s “good luck.”

Voting reform is famously slow, practically so because it tends to involve constitutional amendments, and theoretically so because every politician who could implement it has already benefited from the existing system.

In contrast, abstaining is something that anyone can do right now. In fact, it’s the default position if you simply decide to not do anything at all. It generates moral outrage because it’s an actual threat, not just a radical idea.


Perhaps something should take the place of politics as a better meaning-making structure, but I don’t have a good idea of how abstaining gets us there, or what change it provokes that qualifies it as a “civic engagement strategy”.

US voter turnout is already very low compared to other wealthy countries, and our elections are very close, and the logistics, somewhat questionable. If the idea is to further delegitimize the American presidency, it is difficult to understand how we could try any harder, or accomplish any more.