The Magazine

Apathetics Anonymous

The joy of deciding not to decide who should be the next president of the United States.

Nov 17, 2008, Vol. 14, No. 09 • By MATT LABASH
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

I'm not disparaging voting, just saying that it's grossly overrated. I voted this year, just not for president. On Election Day, I woke up early for a journalist (9 A.M.), made my way down to the polling place in the rain like all the other heroes, and said hello to my friends in the Republican tent in the parking lot, who were passing out donuts and literature. I caught the eye of a high school buddy's mother, who seemed happy enough to see me, until I informed her of my vote for president: none of the above.

"Go home," she commanded.

"That's okay," interrupted a freshly scrubbed baby-faced stranger in a suit, named Matt Swanson, who was running for the Board of Education. "Just as long as you vote for me," he said, handing me a flyer.

At the Democratic table (more literature, more donuts), a stubbled union member shook his head in disgust when I broke the same news. "If you don't vote, you can't complain," he said sternly, repeating the common sophism that makes about as much sense as saying that you can't stay sober if you won't get drunk. "Don't worry," I tell him, "it didn't stop me last time." When it comes to dispensing blame, I'm a committed redistributionist.

Inside, I stood in front of the touchscreen and voted my conscience. "Yes" for Matt Swanson, since we've got history. "Yes" for Slots for Tots, a Maryland ballot measure which will fill state coffers with gambling money from newly installed slot machines, money which will pay for teachers and schools and, more important, be a hedge against my state taxes' getting hiked further to hell.

As for president, I left my ballot beautifully, gloriously blank. No vote is a vote too, as the libertarian kids like to say. In my case, a vote of no-confidence in the available candidates is simultaneously a vote of confidence in the stability of our system to withstand the whims of any individual. I felt so good about my nondecision that, wearing my "I Voted" sticker at Starbucks afterwards, where I'd come to get my free tall Pike Place Roast, I tried to cadge a piece of blueberry crumb cake as well. "You're on your own in 2012," my shotgun-riding wife said.

So no need for me to congratulate you on voting. As you sit there with your free Krispy Kremes, Starbucks Thanksgiving Blends, and Silver Bullet vibrators, everyone from T.I. to Diddy already has. Instead, I'd like to leave you with a thought, something voteaholics don't treasure as much as a free cup of Ben & Jerry's. They are the words of the 17th-century English politician Lord Falkland: "When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision."

Matt Labash is a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.