Why Intelligent, Caring People Don’t Vote

by Nate St. Pierre on April 29, 2012

I am 34 years old, I have three kids, I am a productive member of society, and I have only voted one time, in one election, for one person – just to make sure I had experienced the entire process.

This article is for all the people who hate hearing that . . . and also for those who want to hear more about the reasons why. It’s a long article, so if you’re in a hurry you can jump to the short answer here. I hope you read straight through, though.

I’ve been doing this online thing for about three years now, and I think we can all agree from the scope of my work that I’m an intelligent, caring person, yes? (If you don’t agree with that, you should probably leave now, since the rest of this article won’t hold any water for you.) In all that time, and through the hundreds of thousands of people I’ve interacted with, I don’t think you’ve once heard me talk about politics.

But I’m going to today.

I would assume that most people think I don’t mention politics because I don’t want to stir up controversy or get into an argument with anyone. On the contrary, I’ve been known to start a fight or two, and I will certainly stand up for what I believe in.

Their next thought would probably be that I don’t think politics or religion belong in the work of helping others. But that’s not quite right either. I definitely don’t think they have to be there, but I have no problem with them being brought in, as long as people are civil about it.

So here’s the real reason I don’t talk about politics:

I don’t care.

Okay, that sounds pretty harsh, so let me add a caveat to that and head off a bunch of arguments by saying that I do care about basic human rights, and if a potential elected leader were quite horrible, then yes, I would oppose that person, but my definition of horrible and yours are probably very different. In fact, both sides are already thinking opposite things about what that “horrible person” looks like right now. Get me?

I’ve given the “I don’t care” answer to people in person so many times over the years, and this is where they usually start to get huffy, before even listening to my explanation. I can tell they’re offended – breathing gets a little heavier, a bit of red starts creeping into their cheeks, and I brace myself to be slammed with all the reasons I’m not a responsible adult if I don’t vote:

  1. You have to care – it’s not a privilege of citizenship, it’s a duty
  2. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain
  3. You must not care about your kids and the world they’re growing up in

Those are the top three, but there are a bunch of others I get. I’d like to respond to these, especially the last attack (for that is what it is when people question the love I have for my kids):

  1. I don’t buy this argument. Voting is something that I have the privilege of doing in our system of government. It is something that I can choose to exercise if I so desire. It is not a duty or an obligation forced upon me. And exercising this right at this time is simply not important to me, for reasons that I’ll explain shortly.

    Let’s use a metaphor – say it’s family and friends pizza night, 20 people gathered around. Everyone has put in their five bucks, and someone’s going around taking topping requests. Five for mushroom, seven for pepperoni, two for pineapple. It gets to me, and I say “I don’t care what’s on it. I’m fine with whatever.” If you’re taking the order, what would you do? Would you start berating me and telling me that it’s my duty to choose a topping, and I’m somehow less of a person for not having a strong opinion on the topping choice?

  2. Um, I don’t complain. I don’t complain about taxes, I don’t complain about unions, I don’t complain about free market, I don’t complain about Republicans, I don’t complain about Democrats. And still I get hassled about needing to make my voice heard. I’m totally fine with not having my voice heard in this matter. When people tell me that if I don’t vote, I can’t complain, I’d like to respond that if I don’t complain about the government, then they shouldn’t complain about me not voting. But I don’t, because that only starts more fights.

  3. This is one where I don’t think most people realize how hurtful they’re being to people like me, so I try not to get too upset about it. But I’m not gonna lie, it’s still tough to hear, especially from those I care about.

    I care very much about the world my kids are growing up in. They are the biggest reason I began to build philanthropy projects that have touched millions of lives – I wanted them to not only grow up in a world that’s getting better than the one I grew up in, but I also wanted to find ways to involve them in the process, and let them know that they can make a difference.

    They’ll wrap their heads around politics in due time, and they’ll make their own decisions. But for right now, I can see the happiness in their eyes when we all sit down and write a letter of hope and friendship to another hurting child, or they help me deliver gifts and joy to a struggling family. Yes, voting matters. But so does touching someone’s life in a personal way. And right now that’s a more important lesson for my kids. So don’t tell me that I must not care about them and the world they’re growing up in. I don’t want to hear it any more.

Let me take my feisty pants off for a second and see if I can explain my thought process in one simple paragraph.

I believe that voting and politics are important things. But they are not important for everyone, and we must all respect that. For me personally, politics are not my battle. I am perfectly happy to live in the United States and appreciate the freedom and opportunity I have here. I know that no matter which side is in power, my family and I are already going to have a life that’s better than most other people on the planet. I choose to show my appreciation by empowering people to make a positive difference in the lives of others, and literally change the world for the better. It is simply not important to me whether a Republican or Democrat wins the next County Executive seat. Again, that’s not to say that it’s not an important discussion, but for me personally, investing my energy into something like that is not worth my time . . . which is why I don’t care about it. I hope that makes sense.

Additionally, I choose to believe that the vast majority of our leaders, no matter which side they’re on, have their country and their constituents’ best interests at heart as they govern – they just have very different ideas on the best way to do things. If I didn’t believe this, I’d have to conclude that the entire system was broken, which would then leave us with some much bigger problems. And I don’t think we’re there yet.

I realize that most intelligent and caring people do vote, and I think that is a good thing. I freely admit that I am in the minority by not doing it. But please don’t misjudge me as being lazy, apathetic, ignorant, or misinformed.

I’d like to leave you with one final thought: When intelligent, caring people don’t vote, they very well may be spending their time and energy on something equally important to the world.

Agree? Disagree? I want to hear from everybody on this article. It’s probably the only time we’re going to talk politics on this site, so let’s get it all out of our systems right now, okay? 🙂

If you don’t vote, tell us a good reason why. If you do, and think everyone else should too, give us your good reason why. If you have a friend that falls into one of these categories, pass this along to them – I’m interested to see how this discussion shakes out.

Aaaand, go!

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