Which is worse, deciding to vote on someone you think will fail or failing to decide? Recently I experienced a rather heated series of posts on Facebook related to political candidates. One of the men took a strong position in support of his parties’ candidate.  Two others were far less zealous in their support of the options the party was putting forward. All three, however, agreed that the incumbent posed no greater option, and were unhappy with the incumbent. As the banter continued, one guy stated that he simply wouldn’t vote, as the options weren’t satisfactory to him. One of the other in the conversation then exploded, saying that no vote is apathetic.  When there is no candidate we support in a race, is abstaining from voting the best alternative? Isn’t there most always a lesser of two evils?

 

I’m not the political type. I’d much prefer discussions about sociology – why the human animal does what it does and thinks how it thinks. Still, I concede that political discussions tell us a great deal about ourselves and inspire a tremendous amount of passion. When otherwise uninvolved people can galvanize behind a movement and find meaning, where they had none before; how can that be a bad thing? It’s the MY CANDIDATE is BETTER THAN YOUR CANDIDATE mentality that reminds me a lot of a Super Bowl contest. There’s bragging, boasting and moments of elation, until the victor wins and the rest of the field is left behind.

 

Perhaps we feel closer to power, when our candidate wins. Maybe we are empowered by the notion that our one vote contributed to something – like being on the winning team. Hooray! So is there anything wrong with someone who chooses to sit out a game? If you don’t play, you can’t win, but sometimes it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about the freedom to choose whether or not you want to play. Consider the person who you know (there aren’t many) who couldn’t even name the teams playing in the Super Bowl.  Not only that, they have no opinion on it and don’t even care about it. On Super Bowl Sunday, that person will enjoy the empty movie theatre, where they can go to view an afternoon of the Oscar hopefuls. They will drive on empty highways and fill their grocery needs at empty supermarkets. I know this because I’ve been that guy.

 

Being uninvolved isn’t always an indication of apathy. It can be a resounding statement of freedom. It might even sound like “I am not controlled by the system (let’s face it, politics is a system thing) and I will not succumb to the illusion that this thing called politics is anything more than a charade.” And when you look closely, politics is very theatrical. There is one important miss in not being a part of the system – that idea that DREAMS CAN COME TRUE with a different president. Well, we’ve all learned that most dreams don’t come true, and in fact, most elected officials end up feeling more like nightmares than dreams.

 

The alternative of sitting out a race, benching oneself, as it were, seems like a healthy option to the disenfranchised. It’s a powerful statement of non-conformity and in that moment of non-action, is actually very action oriented. If not for the love of the game of football, I wouldn’t really care which teams are in contention. If I don’t love the game of politics, and my candidate isn’t in the field, why should I stick around? Let the other fans of politics enjoy the theatre. There’s no halftime show, but there most certainly are winners and losers. When considering the options, sometimes even the lesser of the two leaves us cold and detached. Those are the times when sitting out the game makes sense, and our freedom to do so can feel so good.