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David Anderson
Matthew Stockett
English 2010
1 April 2016
Position Argument
Audience: Voters under 30
Vote, Dont Vote, Whatever
The 2016 presidential race has so far been a fascinating mess. People delight in bashing
both frontrunners. Facebook is replete with links to all sorts of think pieces and blog posts
decrying Clintons duplicitousness and Trumps entire platform. Ive never seen Americas
voting pool so activated. When I went to the Democratic Caucus to cast my own vote in the
primary, they had prepared for a record turnout but were still overwhelmed. Queueing over 3
hours in darkness, slush, and cold canvas shoes I was constantly reminded by the people around
me why we were there, why this was important: the ancient American proverb, If you dont
vote, then you have no right to complain! But is that idea really valid? Is your participation in
the democratic process really a condition to your right to speak out against the things you
disagree with? Of course not! Thats silly. If you dont want to vote, then dont vote! Your voting
privileges and your right to complain are not related and we need to quit pretending they are.
After all, when have Americans ever let anything so insubstantial as electoral platitudes
stop them from complaining? Ive spent my entire working life in the service and retail
industries, which means Ive spent my whole working life being complained at. Do you think I

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have ever once asked someone to provide proof theyve done their democratic duty before
considering their complaint? Obviously not! That would be stupid. I do whatever I think will
keep the business alive and the customer happy. And how can the government afford any better
than me to refuse complaints based on imaginary restraints? When veterans call on the VA for
help with medical and other problems does anyone ask for them to produce an I voted! sticker?
When veterans complain of the VAs incompetence do we stop for a single second to even
consider if they have voted? No! We immediately call for reform and trip over ourselves to
respectfully say, Thank you for your service! Its the same across all government interaction
from filing complaints with the FTC to writing your senator. Tired clichs can never stop us from
And our complaints will not be any less valid for not having voted. While I can certainly
see where the urge to judge others for not taking part in decisions they then decide to complain
about would come from, all the coulda-shoulda-wouldas in the world dont do anything to
change facts or policy. Consider the current controversy around raising or not raising the
minimum wage. When the politicians leading the arguments on either side consider the
complaints of the lower economic classes, who brings up whether these complainers have voted?
Even the snidest senator wouldnt be heard following up whatever stinger theyve thrown out
insinuating laziness among the underprivileged with, Nyah, I bet they didnt even vote! This
probably wouldnt really do much to affect their credibility, but still no one will do it because it
wouldnt be productive to their cause. Do you know why it wouldnt be productive?
Because after the election no one cares whether you voted. The politicians running will
always drum up the duty of the citizen to take part in the vote, and the voting public will usually
echo this sentiment. We repeat the tired clichs to feel important, to feel superior, to feel like

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were part of something, and I dont think thats necessarily a bad thing. The rising fever around
the voting process every election creates a huge amount of discussion and is often a wonderful
social experience. My own time at the caucus last week was so positive! But after the voting
occurs we dont ever bring up this non-right to complain until the next election. Its like a threat
of shame that we never deliver on, and if we never deliver on it then why are we making threats
to begin with? The social experience around elections is great, and Im not even denying the
importance of voting, but we need to stop pretending we care enough to even bring voting up
when someone complains.
What bothers me the most about the idea that voting and your complaining privileges are
connected is part of the phrasing people always use. If you dont vote, you have no right to
complain. No right. As an American reasonably conscious of the history and founding
principles of this country, rights are very important to me. The Bill of Rights is a set of
amendments to the Constitution that prevent our government from limiting certain rights set
apart by the founding fathers as being fundamentally important to what this country is and was to
be. The first amendment reads, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the
press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a
redress of grievances. The language is pretty clear. The right to freedom of speech and
petitioning the government are spelled out right there with no conditions whatsoever. No guilt
trip about democracy in action, no addendum about being the change you want see in the world.
If you are an American citizen you get to complain about whatever you want, period. Voting is an
important expression of that right, not a condition.

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We encourage each other to vote as a sign of community and to get ourselves excited for
the election, to feel that were forwarding our candidates cause; its a good thing. When we
moralize voting by conflating a non-vote with guilt, however, it confuses things needlessly. It
reduces our ability to have a clear, productive discussion. So if you decide not to vote, please
dont feel guilty! Dont withdraw from the national conversation! Complaint is the right of every
American, platitudes notwithstanding.

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Works Cited
"The Constitution of the United States," Amendment 1.