COLUMN: Caring about the presidential election is a sign of apathy
One of the most socially destructive traits is apathy. Without paying attention and being involved, one can not only fail to stop, but even perpetuate, the worst social ills imaginable.
That’s why I advocate staying as uninvested in the current presidential election as possible.
This probably sounds like a contradiction, but it’s an unavoidable conclusion once one recognizes what a waste of time, energy and resources it is to care about who wins between two roughly indiscernible candidates.
The political campaigns — which exist for the purpose of trying to “win” — give participants the feeling they are doing something. Meanwhile, this feeling of “doing something” fails to translate at all into anything remotely relevant to the causes they hold dear. After it’s all over, the activist is exhausted and unable to take on any action that has real effects on the community.
Of course, one must be first convinced that the two candidates are, in fact, “roughly indiscernible” and irrelevant to the causes one holds dear. But this should be the opinion of many who still plan on voting for either President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. The former has alienated serious liberals with an atrocious civil liberties record, expansion of American military involvement and harsh prosecution of the drug war, among other issues. The latter has alienated serious conservatives with his endless politically convenient conversions, most notably in literally crafting the basis of the much-derided Affordable Care Act.
Even if there were serious differences between the two candidates, it’s very hard to overstate the ineffectiveness of voting. Given the huge number of people your vote is up against, the odds show it is literally more likely for you to die in a car accident on the way to the polling place than to cast a decisive vote in the presidential election. This is even more of an issue in a state like Oklahoma that currently has zero chance of even remotely resembling a “swing state.”
What if your candidate wins? That might be the worst thing that could happen to you. Candidates don’t have a very good track record of fulfilling promises. This is likely because they don’t have structural incentives that give them good reason to do so. The policies that help them win elections are ones that have concentrated benefits to groups who are already wealthy or otherwise powerful and costs dispersed in largely unnoticed ways toward everyone else.
At this point, everything might seem hopeless — if you’re one of the many who think of political action as election-centric, what else is there?
However, political action doesn’t end with political campaigns. Real change, change you can actually see with your own eyes, comes from direct action. You must personally engage the culture you’re wanting to change rather than relying on structurally stagnant hierarchical institutions to do it for you.
Care about the environment? Do your part to educate others in your community about sustainability and work toward it, rather than relying on a president who disregarded environmental concerns and property rights by supporting the Keystone Pipeline.
Care about self-defense? Take advantage of Oklahoma’s open carry laws. Learn how to safely use a firearm as well as how to avoid having to do so, rather than voting for a candidate who signed into law what the AP called “one of the toughest assault weapons laws in the country” while he was governor.
Poverty? Organize groups like Food Not Bombs, which regularly provides for the victims of policies like inflation and the bailouts — policies devoted to privileging some at the group’s expense. Don’t vote for someone who’s been a part of those policies.
Don’t be apathetic. Stop caring about the election.
Jason Byas is a philosophy senior.