Voters as stakeholders, non-voters as spectators

The midterm elections are two months away. Chris Arnade writes on the American non-voter:

Voting means entering institutions that have given them problems. From schools, where they were tested, measured, and prodded endlessly, only to be then ignored, scolded, or demeaned. To municipal buildings where they were taxed, fined, or charged.

Voting means interacting with a class of people who filled and embodied those institutions. Who either ignored or scolded them in school, or taxed and fined them in the court house. It is rejoining a part of America that doesn’t value them, from the way they dress to the way they think.

Voting means getting further entangled with a bureaucracy that has done nothing before but tangled them up. Hell, it might even come with jury duty. They can’t do that because they are working two jobs and got kids to care for.

All to pull a lever, to be one single vote out of 122 million? Hell. ‘No way my vote is going make one bit of difference with that many people voting. So you want me to have to drive into town when I only got enough gas to get to work and don’t want to have to fill up tomorrow because I am on a tight schedule and need to switch to my back up card because I misplaced the first charge card. All for a vote that won’t change a thing. Even if, miracle of miracles, my vote swung the election. Now what? I got the president I wanted, and nothing has changed. My street still has potholes and my job still sucks.’

That isn’t to say non-voters don’t have views about politics, or don’t have a side they root for, or won’t trash talk the president or a candidate. They have strong views, and they might get emotionally involved for a bit, but they know their place is to watch. They are spectators of a sport that doesn’t involve them, or care about them. The outcome won’t change their life because it never has.

They are the fans with no money on the line, only in it for possible bragging rights. That is different from the wealthy, successful, and highly educated. We all have money on the line, whether we acknowledge it or not.

When we choose not to vote, it’s because we do not feel like stakeholders—literally, we do not believe we have anything at stake in the outcome, maybe because the power of voting matters less than the power of elite classes or institutions.