2012 will be the first Presidential election I will not participate in since becoming eligible to vote in this country. It's not a decision I've come to lightly, and though I'm not ashamed of it, it's not something I'm proud of either.
I was raised on politics. Some of my earliest memories are from my parents working on local campaigns for city councilors. I remember the sign holding, door knocking, and signature gathering that comes with the daily grind of a grass-roots political effort. I watched as my mom was recognized for her work for the Democratic party, and become a delegate to the state wide conventions. I remember being excited when my state instituted a "Kids Vote" program that had special ballots on election day for the kids to fill out. And I remember how proud I was when I cast my first ballot for the real thing.
I was a junior in high school on 9/11. I was a senior when the Iraq war started. I spent my late teens and early twenties angry at the federal government and the Bush administration. I listened in horror as the drums of war resonated and the masses marched in line. I was angry and ready to make Bush a one term president.
If I was eligible to vote in 2000 I would have voted for Ralph Nader. Even in my teens I was fed up with two party politics, and a vote for Nader would have been my small way of registering that anger. John Kerry failed to excite me in 2004, but I wanted to see him win so badly just to get Bush out of office. But the Electoral College rendered my vote worthless in my state, so I was able to hope for a Kerry win while voting for whatever third party candidate happened to be on the ballot that year (that's right, I don't even remember who it was). It was my first Presidential election, and I was proud to participate in the process while simultaneously disappointed at how worthless my vote was.
But Bush won, and the world fell apart, and by 2008 the country was ready for something different. Or so they said. No one was able to capitalize on that feeling more than Barack Obama. I didn't vote for him. In 2008 I was finally able to cast a vote for Nader, and because once again my vote was worthless, I did.
2008 was the first election cycle that I worked for a news organization. I remember being in the newsroom as election results rolled in, and even though I didn't vote for him, I remember how great it felt when the McCain/Palin ticket lost. I talked on the phone that night to a friend in Australia, and I remember saying how great it felt to have a President that I could actually respect.
But despite the rhetoric there was no change. It's been business as usual ever since, and now we're in the midst of the 2012 campaign season. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the players and I'm tired of the game. I went into the last two elections knowing my vote was worthless, but I cast a ballot anyway. I had hope for the Democrats in 2008, but they proved what I should have known all along: They're politicians and don't really care about any of us.
So until there are some drastic changes I'm not going to participate. First, I'd like to see the Electoral College gone. I live in a state that will go blue every cycle, so what's the point? Beyond that, Washington needs to change how it works. The entire political process is designed to maintain the status quo of corruption. You can't run a campaign without an obscene amount of money, and therefor corporate influence, and you can't pass a law without obscene corporate lobbyists. Everyone in office is too busy worried about staying in office that they don't care about the country. It's all about beating your opponents and paying tribute to your corporate backers, country be damned. So I refuse to participate. I refuse to lend more legitimacy to a corrupt process by casting a ballot and boosting the turnout rate. How can democracy be legitimate if people won't vote? It's the only option I have left.