Why I Won’t Vote: An Open Letter to Obama for America

The following letter was submitted to the ‘Questions or comments’ page of BarackObama.com.

To the Obama Administration:

I will not vote in the 2012 Presidential Election, but a sense of civic responsibility has prompted me to explain why.

As the Republican and Democratic campaigns have picked up momentum, it is extremely challenging to believe that these two parties are competing for the power to do nothing. The Romney campaign exploits the fear of a fundamentalist base by intensifying that fear under false pretenses. Meanwhile, your platform appears to insist on bipartisan compromises that the majority of your base consider unwise based on the effectiveness of the last term on that front.

While I am not the most well-versed in the political landscape as someone dependent on the 24-hour news cycle pretends to be, my impression of the impact this election will have on the average American is typical of any average working person whose concerns are far too immediate to get mired in a fear-charged theatrical debate among the Washington elite.

But assessing the work your administration has done since 2009 and hearing how this race is being framed builds trust in neither party to consider the best interests of the American citizen, whose birthright is to be protected in the pursuit of happiness. The common attitude among Americans toward “choosing the lesser of two evils” is hardly a new sentiment, yet has gained strength in response to the Battle of the Campaign of Lies versus the Campaign of Empty Promises (Redux). Which party is which depends on whom you ask, of course, which is quite telling about how meaningful this process really is.

Perhaps this sentiment is childish in the way that the fight Mommy and Daddy are having is far too complicated for the average American to fully comprehend, and therefore should not question. Perhaps we should all just go to our voting booths and do as we are urged in hopes that choosing one side will mean better Christmas presents. Perhaps the Constitution is filled with fine print listing the exceptions that preclude the rights all Americans thought they had. Perhaps Washington could have just explained that to us.

Perhaps Washington is not our America.

The country that Washington governs is owned and operated by the best interests of corporations that refuse to consider the humanity on which they depend when influencing policy for exclusive gains. Although citizens and corporations are mutually dependent, Washington has us convinced that Americans—nay, the world—would be in irreparable danger without Big Business. The belief that this dynamic unilaterally favors corporations is what frightens the individual into finding more comfort in focusing on unjustly sensationalized issues that have no real bearing on American life as its founders envisioned it. And it also has a lot to do with why Bill Clinton’s DNC speech on CNN received lower ratings than a cable series about an overweight family with a sassy child pageant queen that they pump with caffeine. The least demanding farce is usually the one to which Americans will gravitate.

I do not condemn the Obama Administration for being complicit in how reliant our elected officials are on the financial benefits that they exchange for their influence, although I do remember the 2008 Obama campaign pledging to change Washington in that regard. The pledge, although an incredibly tall order, was refreshing to hear.

I realize now that it was naive to expect this administration to successfully champion honest government beyond gamesmanship just because it stood to benefit people like me. Conforming to the American way, I felt entitled to believe what prospective leadership claimed to espouse because I had more reasons to believe in it than not. The idealistic energy of the first Obama campaign carried with it visions of an America truer to its founding than the recent administrations before it (or so it seemed from the speeches).

This time around, one Democratic National Convention—although it was electrifying—will not convince me to renew the vigor I had toward participating in a system that I now realize is not influenced by citizens, regardless of whether the electoral process was designed as such. A common response to an apathetic decision to not vote is “If you don’t participate in the process, then you have no right to complain about it.” My response, however, does not stem from apathy. Rather, it is a deep sense of contempt for Washington writ large that brought me to what I consider an objection as powerful as a vote for a political candidate (and no one can deny that supporting a third-party candidate is a laughable enterprise given the current political environment).

As for whether I care about the policies that a Romney/Ryan Administration would enact, of course I do. Legislative impositions on women’s rights and the continued parasitic financial behavior of the rich will impact all Americans. But American’s have fought the government to overturn policies that disregard humanity before, and we will again if it comes to it. An Obama reelection may save us from some turbulent times, but President Romney’s policies would show us what America is really made of. Either way, as President Obama said in the last campaign, it is the people who buckle down and do the hard work that makes change a reality. In that case, how much does it matter who wins the election if the American spirit can prevail despite who gets sworn in come January 2013?

So thank you for the exciting campaign in 2008, and good luck during this one. I hope that you understand my position in not coming along for the ride this time. The effort to try to restore the country after Bush the Younger’s presidency should be commended. Unfortunately, understanding that the President of the United States can control but so much, even in the best of times, suggests that the fight will last for as long as Big Business can wait it out. And the American people simply do not have that kind of time.

Concerned yet resigned,

Cleaver McLean
Brooklyn, NY (where my vote will not matter, but my opinion still should)

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