126 million people do not care about political theatre.
There has been a lot of discourse over the upcoming presidential election this coming November. All kinds of people have had deep arguments revolving around the following concerns: “Why should we vote?” “What are the downsides of not voting?” “Reasons why we should never vote” “Why voting is anti-Black and colonial,” etc.
In the end, debates about all of these positions around voting re-center the American political machine, whether or not people feel sympathetic or apathetic towards the political institution itself.
However, there has been very little discussion that mentions the large mass of people who do not vote. Here are a few basic statistics:
- There are about 330 million people living in the US.
- There are about 16-20 million people who cannot vote because they are undocumented, felons, or ex-convicts.
- There are about 246 million people who are eligible to vote in the US.
- There were only about 136 million people who turned out to vote for a president in 2016.
So, these numbers and some simple math show that there were about 126-130 million people in the US who did not vote in 2016. We argue that these people will never be fully absorbed into the system and its political institutions, and we should explore the potentialities that underlie this reality.
In particular, we want to ask some questions about all the debates regarding voting: Who’s having these conversations about voting in the first place? Are we speaking to educated, college degree audiences? Are all of the debates on voting – whether defenses for or rebuttals against – even relevant to the over 126 million people who do not vote? If we all know that the political system is failing and dying, how can we side step and move beyond the need to center the political institution in the first place? If there are at least 126 million people who frankly do not care about politics or the nation’s political theater, what can this mean for autonomous movement building?
The debates around voting tend to be very saviorist, which imply a desire to “save” others from acting “improperly.” This is a form of paternalism. We hope that we can one day render all political institutions (and the police that underlie them) irrelevant to our lives, and maybe that begins with the 126 million who are apathetic about politics – as we should all be.
Autonomy will never be achieved at the voting booths.