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Photo courtesy Polling Place Photo Project

The curious case of the non-voter

By Friday, Oct 19, 2018 Viewpoints 9

I realize a lot of people don’t vote. You hear it over and over and you figure, hey, they’re busy with whatever: soccer, bass fishing, sheep shearing. Like flossing your teeth, voting is something we’re told to do as often as possible and it seems about as much fun. So 60 percent of Americans just don’t.

That’s what I thought.

But this election has been different for me: I’ve been pounding pavement and knocking on doors for a year now, determined to save democracy, asking people to register, to vote, to fire John Faso, etc. But more than half of the people I’ve encountered are non-voters. Not just people who don’t vote, but NON-VOTERS.

There’s a difference. People who don’t vote are guilty; non-voters are proud. People who don’t vote have excuses; non-voters have reasons. The non-voter is an electoral identity — confirmed, fortified and defended. Non-voters own it.

For example: an older man walking a pair of toy poodles told me, “Hell, no, I don’t vote. I served in Vietnam: Isn’t that enough?” So, for this guy, going to his polling place on a random Tuesday is on par with surviving a war in the jungle.

From a fellow leaning out his upstairs window: “I’d vote, but I don’t know how.” I offered to register him on the spot. He said, “Not today.”

From a woman hanging in the shadows of her screen door: “My husband votes.” This one cuts to a LOT of chases:

  • The emerging insight that tribe trumps gender, and Chicks for Kavanaugh is a thing.
  • That women support the patriarchy — because Men Say So.
  • Universal suffrage may be the law, but it’s not yet the culture.

From a waitress in the Hillsdale Diner: “What difference does it make? It’s all rigged.” I asked her to expound and she said, “Voting doesn’t matter; they’re just gonna put in whoever they want anyway.” I guess she’s referring to the Supreme Court?

And from basically ALL the  non-voters, who are so very numerous:

“Leave. Me. The Fuck. Alone.”

There is a snarling hatred of politics out there in the street, heavily salted with fear. And that fear is close to the surface: Simply mention voting and there’s a look you come to recognize — panic, “Please, god, get me outta here.” The eyes go left or right, the feet pivot away. A great many people seem physically afraid to even talk about voting. And they can tell you exactly why: Because it’s just too nasty out there. Too loud, too aggressive, too angry. Too Trump.

It’s beginning to feel like 60 percent of us are crouched in the fetal position, holding our breaths and praying the elephants and donkeys stampede in some other direction. Talk about voter suppression.

So my slogan going forward is going to be “Make America Breathe Again.” Then, for Pete’s sake, get back on your feet and vote.


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