On voting as consent

If you don’t vote in elections, you have no right to complain when things don’t go your way.

Well, that’s what I said and believed not too long ago. In the past few months, after witnessing what has been taking place in the United States, I am becoming less and less assured that voting will truly make a difference. In fact, I’m beginning to believe that voting will make it worse.

I’m basing this logic (False logic? You decide.) on the way that voting works to create consent. Democracy is a lovely form of governance when in its purest form. We give our consent for a person to represent and rule us based on their politics. This can work for the good, especially when we’re included in lawmaking processes such as referendums. However in practice politicians are, more often than not, duplicitous. They frame themselves as the best for the nation and present themselves to espouse the particular views of their party. Majority wins. Then the winning politician shows their true colours or allow themselves to be influenced by those who do not have the interests of the nation at heart.

More and more this nation has morphed into a corporatocracy. Or maybe it always has been one. The most funded politician wins, most of the time. Whoever wins, lobbyists and other representatives to large corporations influence the politician into serving their interests instead of the people’s. Corporate bail-outs occur when the real people suffering are the working class.

What do I truly mean by voting as consent? It’s about hegemony. Hegemony was theorised by Antonio Gramsci as an explanation of why socialist revolution had not occurred in countries like Italy and Germany, which had instead fell to fascism. Hegemony, simply, is a form of dominance not only through coercion, but also through consent. Ideologies which are beneficial to the ruling class are spread through the subordinate classes until they become common sense values. Subordinate classes therefore end up consenting to being dominated. For example, the very American belief that if you work hard enough, you will achieve the ‘American dream’ is apart of capitalist ideology, and veils the masses from the truth that social mobility is nearly impossible. The myth of upward social mobility serves the interests of the ruling class, because although wealth is becoming less and less concentrated in the hands of the masses, most people do not rebel because of this ingrained idea.

Hegemony can be applied to American ‘democracy’. Democracy as we experience it is not democracy in purity. The dominant discourses around democracy is that it is governance by the people, and that the people get to choose. However, we have an illusion of choice. All we can choose for the most part are our leaders and representatives, but we for the most part do not vote on bills as in a direct democracy. Therefore although, for example, the majority of voters are in favour of abortion rights to at least some extent, we are currently experiencing an onslaught of anti-abortion legislation.

Furthermore the choice we have is very, very limited. In the US you either vote Democrat or Republican, and how incredibly different are they, really? Well, to be fair there seems to be a huge difference now because all our Republican candidates seem very right wing. However, how many very left-wing candidates do you think would get to the stage that people like Santorum have gotten? People who want to have a sort of governance similar to countries in Scandinavia, where taxes are very high, social mobility is wondrous, and overall happiness is through the roof? You don’t get that sort of choice though, and those choices are very low funded. This is where, if I was writing this on paper, I would be drawing a nice big arrow back up to corporatocracy.

By voting, essentially you’re saying that the choices we’re given are enough, even if you don’t think that. Many people vote because they want the ‘lesser of two evils’ to win. But why do we have to have two evils fighting head to head? By voting for one of them, we’re consenting to corporations controlling us.

Will I still vote this November? Probably. But this is still at the back of my mind the whole time.


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