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Why I’m leaning towards not voting

November 8, 2019

This piece represents the opinion of the author .
Kyra Tan

Back in 2016, like many others on Bowdoin’s campus, I voted for Hillary Clinton. I still remember standing there in the middle of Smith Union back in 2016 with a mass of others, anxiously awaiting the results of the election. I still remember the shock and despair on people’s faces when it was announced that Donald Trump had done the unthinkable. Surrounded by confused cries and rampant tears—as sensitive as I am—I had to get out of that atmosphere. I walked back to my dorm that night, disappointed in the country and disappointed in myself for casting my vote for someone I didn’t even like. Moreover, my greatest takeaway was that my vote did not actually matter as it did not affect the outcome of the election.

Near the end of my junior year of high school, I developed a talent for public speaking, a talent previously unknown to me. After molding my craft in my AP English Language and Composition class, I decided to run for National Honor Society president, solely to give my resume a boost in the leadership department. Only one other person ran against me and I decided to prepare a speech for election day. While my opponent merely listed off his accomplishments and extracurriculars, I attempted to show the other students my “morals,” speaking about how I wanted to take the NHS to greater heights and help combat more global issues like the war in Darfur, Sudan. I won by a landslide. Yet, due to overwhelming academics and newfound depression from sleep deprivation, I ultimately did nothing about the conflict in Darfur, which continues to rage on to this day. I was disappointed in myself back then and still am now. Though I had good intentions, I intentionally appealed to people’s emotions to win their votes. The manipulation would not end there.

At the end of my junior year, I was selected by my teacher to attend Massachusetts Boys State, a government-run program in nearly all 50 states for juniors interested in politics. In order to add another leadership experience to my resume, my father encouraged me to run for one of the top positions. I listened and decided to run for Attorney General. In the process, I honed my public speaking skills even more, finishing with the most votes in my party during the pre-primary and primary elections. However, while I will not knock my own abilities as a speaker, one of the reasons I was so popular was purely because of my name. At the end of each speech, I told my constituents to “Vote J. Cole for your Attorney General.” I knew well that a majority of the audience was familiar with the famous lyricist, and I used it to my advantage. By the time I got to the final state-wide elections, I had practically half the party chanting the name “J. Cole.” In the end, however, it was not enough.

One of the qualities I loved about being at Boys State was that there was hardly a competitive atmosphere. Everyone wished each other the best, and no one tried to bring each other down, in or outside of elections. Everyone, except my opponent during the state-wide elections. One of the ways I had inadvertently shot myself in the foot was that I had not taken the mock bar exam, simply because you did not have to—I was actually unaware of when it was even scheduled. Yet, apparently my opponent did, and he had used the fact that his opponent did not against him during the primary elections. I was unaware of this, and when we first met each other during the candidates dinner before the state-wide election, we had not said a word to each other. After a few minutes of silence, he asked me if I had taken the exam, to which I simply replied “no.” Of course, during his speech, he pointed this out in front of everyone at Boys State in an attempt to show the people he was more qualified, as well as to rattle me before my speech. Ultimately, I decided not to stoop to his level, and I went along with the speech I planned. I ended up losing by five votes.

Most people do not like politicians because they are some of the best liars in the world, which could not be more true. The biggest reason why I had stepped off the politician’s path after Boys State was because the experience, along with my NHS election, had thoroughly exposed the negative aspects of myself. I can be a very manipulative person if I want to be, and to be a politician, that’s a requirement. The job also involves putting other people down in order to elevate yourself, which is something I find very immoral from personal experience. I did not like the idea of who I would become if I pursued politics any further, so I decided to step away. Even someone like Barack Obama, who was a massive influence on me as a speaker, is someone who “played the game” in order to win the job.

The only candidate I would possibly vote for is Bernie Sanders due to his honesty and willingness to be himself, whether you like him or not. I’m also simply not a fan of the two-party system and how it has divided the nation. I don’t understand the purpose of even having other political parties that have no chance of ever affecting change. It also leaves people like myself who are politically closer to the center than the left with no place to go. Choosing not to vote is my way of showing that I do not stand for the current system of politics. I understand that this is an unpopular opinion, which is exactly why I am writing this. Personally, I don’t understand the purpose of writing in favor of views that are already widely accepted on Bowdoin’s campus.


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  1. James Pierce says:

    Choosing not to vote and climbing up on one’s moral high horse amount to the same thing. Thanks in part to your morally pure cohorts in 2016 an amoral, self-centered fool became president. Just spare me the hand wringing and whinging should Trump gain reelection.

    James Pierce
    Bowdoin 1969

  2. Sarah says:

    It is an immense privilege to not fear Trump’s re-election enough to refrain from voting. Please vote, if not for your own fears then for those who do have fear.

  3. Laura says:

    Choosing not to vote comes from a very privileged place. Another four years of Trump means another four years of family separations, a finalized withdrawl from the Paris Climate Accords, more judicial nominations…

    I agree the system is bad. But it is a luxury to sit out.

  4. Alexander Kogan, Class of 2020 says:

    You wrote, “Choosing not to vote is my way of showing that I do not stand for the current system of politics.” What you are doing by abstaining, though, is giving up any say in how the system of politics should operate. Like it or not, the way to enact political change in this country is by working within the bounds of the system that exists. Okay, so you don’t want to legitimize a system you think is dividing the country apart. That is a noble concept. But how do you expect anything to change if you don’t participate? History is made by those who show up. And I certainly recognize that going to the polls and casting a vote does not seem quite so romantic as far as showing up is concerned. But it’s better than doing nothing.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Not voting is immoral. It is uncivic, and pretty much indefensible. People, literally, died for the right to vote, and to squander that opportunity is to make a mockery of their sacrifice. Again: indefensible.

  6. Do better says:

    There’s a difference between a hot take (which makes people think) and a bad take (which lacks reason and shuts conversation down). Not only does this article make zero sense (if you don’t think your vote counts, why would you think it matters if you don’t vote?) but it reeks of privilege. This is a bad take.

  7. Benjamin Vinel says:

    Besides all previous comments, which I agree with, I’d also like to point out what might be wrong with the following sentence: “Moreover, my greatest takeaway was that my vote did not actually matter as it did not affect the outcome of the election.”

    It is technically very rare that one single person’s vote will directly change the outcome of the election, and although you don’t clearly use this as an argument against voting, it is understated. I probably won’t be the first person to say that if everyone thought “my vote won’t matter” and didn’t vote, well that would make a massive difference, and not necessarily for the better.

  8. Penny Mack ‘22 says:

    And your alternative is what? Being victimized by the choices you don’t make?

    Other comments have already said it better than I can, but please take some time to consider your privilege.

    People have fought for decades for the right to vote and a substantial number of Americans are still fighting for that right. Please have some respect for those who cannot exercise their right due to voter suppression; go read up on the candidates and then go vote for whoever you think can make a change to the system.

  9. Jack ‘21 says:

    There are plenty of things that are wrong with the electoral system: both the USA and my home country of the UK have horribly unrepresentative systems that result in voters not really thinking their vote counts.

    Yet, not voting is, in my opinion, a stupid and weak form of protest. By not voting you make yourself indistinguishable from those who are simply apathetic about politics, and you’re simply giving more political power to those who vote, which may result in a result you won’t like. A single vote may not change the outcome of an election, but if you want to change politics, one of the most effective tools is voting.

    Edmund Burke wrote that ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ By doing nothing, you implicitly allow politicians to continue damaging policies. Be thankful that you live in a democracy, even if it is flawed, and use your vote to change things for the better.

  10. TGP 20 says:

    I truly hope you have not been successful in convincing peers of your stance. Bowdoin students are better than this ignorance, and the vans full of students headed to the polls last week assures me that you stand alone.

  11. Townie says:

    Just because you ran for office for all the wrong reasons (to pad your resume) that doesn’t mean everyone else is just as shallow.

    Bad politicians are elected by people who don’t vote.

    There actually have been at least ten races where one vote made a difference. Google it.

  12. Scott Fulmer says:

    While I could never in my most worthless dreams imagine voting for Hilary, I can relate to shock at Bowdoin when Reagan won in 1980. Let me tell you, the system has not gotten more honest or worth participating in as a voter. In another week, it will be the 56th anniversary of JFK’s assassination by CIA, et al., and Americans are supposed to continue the charade of governmental checks and balances, and act like the elections, fully dominated by billionaire media, aren’t fake, representing nothing more than affirmation of anti-democratic structure by uninformed electorate. How arrogant it is of people to claim voting is a privilege! Is it a privilege to vote in a system without any quality control? How did we get the current President in the first place? Don’t vote until pundits are face to face with a crisis of confidence of their own making. STOP THE BIGGEST LIES

  13. Craig says:

    “My greatest takeaway was that my vote did not actually matter as it did not affect the outcome of the election.”

    I would sign up for a course on logic while you are at Bowdoin and see if you can define the logical fallacy in your above statement. Or if that’s too much effort for you (seriously, voting as a student at Bowdoin could not be easier), just google the term “circular reasoning.”

  14. Care Bear says:

    Someone could disagree with the notion that it’s a luxury to not vote or that choosing not to vote comes from a place of privilege. It may actually come from a place of ignorance, not knowing how much voting (or abstention) impacts an individual’s life. Colleges across the board could do a better job of proving the importance of voting, not just providing vans on Election week. Not everyone will take an American politics course, but generally all US citizens have the right to vote by age 18. You might not convince Jared to vote by insulting him, though. *sigh*

    To Jared’s point, did the popular vote truly affect the outcome of the 2016 election? I’m concerned.

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