Friday, August 24, 2012

In Which She Acts Like She Knows Something About Politics

I'm (still) reading David Foster Wallace's collection of essays called Consider the Lobster. It's a slow read, and his sentences are complex, and his ideas are even more so, but I've never been the kind of person to choose pleasure reading based on ease. I'm on "Up, Simba," which details Wallace's time on John McCain's campaign trail for the 2000 primary--the one that McCain lost to Bush, who Wallace refers to throughout the entire essay only as "The Shrub" or Bush2.

It is long, and I do not care for politics, primaries, or McCain, but it is amazing. What I love about DFW is that he manages to articulate exactly the points that I invariably end up huffing and puffing and furious about in arguments--but he does it in the calmest, most collected way possible.

I've been bickering lately with Patrick's best friend, a New Hampshire native in his early 20s who is voting this fall for Vermin Supreme, a man who wears a boot on his head and promises every citizen a free pony. The absolutely enticing possibility of a pony aside, this is one of the more illogical, white-&-male-privileged acts I can possibly think of, but I've never managed to articulate this clearly to our friend, let alone have a discussion about it without getting indignant about my uterus & waxing poetic about our societal responsibilities as educated young people. 

The problem with voting for Vermin Supreme is that our friend is, in effect, voting for the opposite of what he believes in, lesser of two evils arguments be damned. But I can't explain this any better than David Foster Wallace can. He is referring to primary elections here, and not to voting for a write-in pun-ster that throws glitter at his opponents, but the sentiment--and the implications--are the same: 
Let’s pause here one second for a quick Rolling Stone PSA. Assuming you are demographically a Young Voter, it is again worth a moment of your valuable time to consider the implications of the techs’ last couple points. If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.
By being in America, and not moving to Canada as most twenty-somethings have threatened to do at least once, we are all participating in the "system," as Patrick likes to call it. This is not a choice. Act accordingly, and with your own--and the country's--best interests in mind.

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