HighbrowNovember 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

Word on the Street: Why I Didn’t Vote

You’ve got two choices: chocolate or vanilla. If you really like pistachio, you can technically choose pistachio, but you’re still going to get either chocolate or vanilla, so you might as well choose between those two.

At Penn, liking chocolate means you fit in. You can scream it from the rooftops, run around wearing chocolate scratch–and–sniff stickers, and even hang out onstage with the former CEO of Häagen–Dazs. If you like vanilla at Penn, it’s advisable not to be very vocal about it. Vanilla might have its own benefits, but handing out vanilla–scented flyers would undoubtedly cast you as a social pariah.

On the big day, when students on campus remind you to choose, you know they’re really reminding you to choose chocolate. Many students proudly sport a chocolate sticker. No one sports vanilla.

This is all rather unfortunate because, really, most of us don’t even like chocolate or vanilla all that much. Sure, some of us do, but most of us think they’re just okay; neither is ideal. Some people like them mixed — in vanilla fudge chunk, for example. And some people don’t even like either at all; they prefer strawberry or whatever “red velvet” is.

“Quit complaining,” some say. “There are people out there who don’t get to choose their flavor at all!” Well, if we are forced to choose something we don’t like, then are we really choosing?

Transparent ice cream analogies aside, I didn’t vote. It’s not because I was lazy or didn’t care or took my right for granted. It’s because I hated that I essentially had only two options. I realize it’s impossible to mold an ideal candidate, but I think that our two–party system fails us and strips us of the opportunity to make optimal decisions for our nation and its people. The Democrats like chocolate, so the Republicans must like vanilla. This polarizing dichotomy neglects all of the dynamic discourse scattered along the middle of the spectrum; it neglects most of us. It definitely neglects me.

Particularly at a place like Penn, supposedly a beacons of intellectualism, it’s not only upsetting that we feel limited to two options, but it’s especially disheartening that the lack of thorough discourse has trickled down to us. If students are embarrassed to wear Romney stickers and undecided voters feel pressured to vote for Obama last–minute, then we have basically negated the democratic process.

I’m not saying your vote doesn’t count (I’m an idealist, not an idiot), but what I am saying is this: unless you’re an ardent Democrat or Republican, your vote has essentially become as ineffective as my non–vote. It’s only a representation of choice.

11 People have left comments on this post

By Flavors on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

Really? The black guy had to be chocolate?
This articles dumb. Just because you can’t find your perfect candidate doesn’t meant you should not vote and be a whiny brat.

Surely there’s somewhere you can percieve a difference between the two. Maybe it’s women’s issues (can’t imagine you equally prefer having control over your own healthcare versus not), or LGBT rights (you simultaneously like and don’t like equal rights?). But if you got off your holier-than-thou horse and stepped up to your responsibility as a citizen (thank goodness people died for your decision to be a brat about all this) then you’d provably have “discovered” all thats out there to vote for.

By thejortsreport on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

Sandra for president.

By Not Just President on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

I see your point that there is definitely pressure to vote for Obama at Penn, and I still think you should have voted (so many people have died and are dying for the right to vote, and just because your dream candidate isn’t running doesn’t mean you should just neglect that duty); but that’s beside my point.

THERE ARE OTHER THINGS TO VOTE FOR BESIDES PRESIDENT. Pennsylvania and EVERYWHERE ELSE had OTHER THINGS ON THE BALLOT, arguably equally important senate and congressional races that you might have had an opinion about. But everyone forgets about them, during a presidential cycle and during midterm elections, which is really frustrating. We don’t live in a tyranny. There are other branches of government that we also have a say in. Plus, there were amendments to Pennsylvania’s constitution that you could have contributed to (Yes or No questions to particular issues, so you can’t pull the “but where is MY opinion?”). But everyone forgets about them because their idealized candidate isn’t running, and apparently that takes precedence. It shouldn’t.

By etc. on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

I do agree with the sentiment of this article. I myself don’t think either party perfectly – or even close to perfectly – represents my beliefs and desires for the country. And I did find many of the people at Penn who attempted to shove Obama stickers down your throat obnoxious – even if I ended up voting Obama, why make that assumption?

But I don’t think not being an ardent Democrat and voting for Obama is the same thing as not voting at all. For one, as the person above mentioned (though rudely, which I don’t think helps honest discussion), the candidates were different enough on important enough issues that, I think, most people could choose the “lesser of two evils”, even if it sucks that you feel like that’s what you’re doing. The president, the people voted into Senate and the House, the state representatives – they all have a hell of a lot of power in implementing what goes on in this country. I find it hard to believe that anyone out there completely rejects the viewpoints of both Obama and Romney and everyone else on the ballot. Maybe the West Philly hipster-anarchists, but on issues like healthcare, abortion, gay marriage, etc., is there not one candidate that, while not perfectly satisfying you, still had stances that you would rather see implemented in this country? And there were many questions on the ballots that didn’t directly relate to just the president, such as Maryland voting for the Dream Act. I think every state probably had a decently important issue to vote on the ballot this time around.

And if you are really dismayed at the fact that there are only two parties, why not then cast your vote for one of the other parties listed, or do a write-in candidate, if none of the other parties made you happy (which, if that is the case, would any party ever be perfect for anyone? I’m sure that in countries with multiple parties, many people still find themselves unsatisfied with the choices). Maybe some people would call it a wasted vote to, say, vote for the Green or Liberitarian party, but at least you’re putting it out there in a very public form that, yes, support exists for these alternate parties, not just stating it in a college magazine. After all, how will alternate parties ever rise to the status of the Democrats or the Republicans if they aren’t getting votes?

I do really get the frustration, but sitting back and saying “well then, voting isn’t worth it for me” isn’t really taking a stand against the two party system. Unless you’re actively working to rally support for causes, leaders, or parties that fit more within your ideology, not voting seems to just be saying, i’ve given up, I don’t want to participate. I’m not saying those who voted are “better”, or more concerned for the fate of the country ultimately, but, again, I think it is unfair to say that because I’m not an ardent Democrat, my vote for Obama was just an unnecessary concession. I’d rather attempt to fight for the causes I believe in in a country run by Obama than a country run by Romney, even if some of Obama’s policies don’t sit well with me.

By James on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

I see your point, but I’m just not sure where it gets us. Idealism is great, and all, but it gets us nowhere. (I know you claim no association, but your decision not to vote says otherwise.) Yes, I agree that you need to limit how much you compromise on issues like this, but you also need to be pragmatic. Something is better than nothing.

One of the things I so love about Penn is that it is a school of doers, that is, people who are passionate about and prepared for real-world problem solving. One thing that irritates me is that it is a school of people who largely don’t question or are otherwise too okay with the systems in place and the status quo across society. But all things considered, I’d argue that the former attitude should take precedence in an election, especially when the candidates’ platforms are as legitimately disparate as these two were.

By Bryce on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

Excellent article, you hit the nail on the head. I cannot stand being demonized for not voting. Penn students fall prey to the illusion of choice.

By Wow on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

“…Penn, supposedly a beacons of intellectualism…” Seriously? Next time you call the rest of us Penn students unintellectual, please use proper grammar. And while I see your point that only two choices is kind of lame, but our system is the lesser of the evils. Remember the Weimar Republic? The Nazis only won 30 percent of the vote in 1932, but because Germany had the luxury of having so many “flavors,” that 30 percent was enough to put Hitler in power. And we all know what happened next…

By J on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

Fantastic article, I completely agree with your points about the flaws of the two party system.. Unfortunately, though, given that it’s our only option at present, it’s more useful to choose the better of two evils when you dislike both candidates… Or even vote for an alternative party to promote having additional choices further down the road!

By I love ice cream on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

Thanks for this article, it’s great to know that others feel the same way I do. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that people like flavors other than chocolate here.

waiting for the day when pistachio has a chance…

By Really? on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

“supposedly a beacons of intellectualism” ?? Unfortunate editing miss.

By Shayla on November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am

“I’m not saying your vote doesn’t count (I’m an idealist, not an idiot), but what I am saying is this: unless you’re an ardent Democrat or Republican, your vote has essentially become as ineffective as my non–vote”
couldn’t agree more with that line. The only parties they hype up on TV and advertisements and things of the such are the Democrats and Republicans which basically takes the other parties completely out of the running. Most people can’t even name the other parties running for president. Some didn’t even know there WERE others running. Although I agree with these points, I think you went too far with your comparison of vanilla and chocolate with Obama and Romney. I mean come on, really? You were asking for it with that one. If you would have used a different analogy such as “strawberries and bananas” you might have had my full support on this one.

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