Vote, or else!

Mark Twain said, “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”

Emma Goldman expressed the same sentiment: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

At a town-hall event in Cleveland last week, Barack Obama raised the issue of mandatory voting:

It would be transformative if everybody voted—that would counteract money more than anything, The people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups, There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.

I can’t conceive of anything transformative if everybody voted. Because Wall Street power and wealth still would dictate.

I think about the campaign that inspired our young to register to vote for hope and change.

I think of the historic election, the first black US president, and the talk, all that talk, about a dream achieved. This outcome was proof positive that the USA is post-racial.

What would Trayvon Martin’s family say now? Michael Brown’s family? Rekia Boyd’s? Eric Garners? Miriam Carey’s? Tanisha Anderson’s? The list is long, a heartbreaking record of racial profiling, violence, militarized police departments, and nigger jokes.

I’m thinking of the speech, “A New Beginning,” delivered by candidate Obama in June of 2009 to the Muslim world—to mend damage. Soon he was commander-in-chief, a war criminal who expanded war, a president with a Kill List.

At the same event where he floated the idea of mandatory voting, Obama said that he regrets not closing Guantanamo Prison on day one. He received applause. For having regrets.

The Obama presidency is the Bush/Cheney presidency. A Hillary Clinton presidency, although also historic, would be an Obama presidency, a Bush/Cheney presidency. On and on and on. No hope. No change. No we the people.

And what about those of us who refuse to vote? A fine? Jail time? Water boarding?

Perhaps there should be new instructions that read: “You must vote. Vote for the lesser of two evils or vote for the greater of two evils.” Perhaps it should be called: The Mandatory Vote For the Lesser of Two Evils or the Greater of Two Evils Day.

Maybe there should be a special election to vote on making voting mandatory. Maybe this special election should be mandatory. Perhaps smiling enthusiastically while voting in a mandatory election should be mandatory.

Never mind. I just read that Obama’s retreated from mandatory voting, amid some backlash.

Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email:

One Response to Vote, or else!

  1. “And what about those of us who refuse to vote? A fine? Jail time? Water boarding?”

    We’d probably be put directly on Obama’s Kill List.

    With the most money spent and the lowest voter turnout since WWII in last year’s midterm election, the Knight Foundation is offering cash rewards for ideas to help get out the vote. I can think of a few, although I didn’t bother to submit them:

    1. Have a successful revolution and write a new Constitution to ensure that the popular vote must be counted, can be verified, determines policy, and cannot be overridden, overturned, or ignored (all these conditions are true in Venezuela, which is probably why Obama considers Venezuela a threat to US oligarchy).

    2. Have Homeland Security go door to door and shoot anyone who refuses to vote.

    Short of bringing about a meaningful vote (the first option), or forcing people to vote (the second option), I can’t think of any way to convince people to waste their time voting. Particularly since the Democrats (who hate the Koch brothers), and the Republicans (who hate Soros), may find out that the Kochs and Soros are working together in Brazil and deduce (if they have any reasoning power left after decades of brainwashing) that the Kochs and Soros are working together to get out the vote for continuing corporate rule here in the United States also.

    If there’s anything that Democrats, Republicans, and all other voters agree on in the United States, it’s that capitalism, a system to ensure that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, is the best system in the world (although it might be in need of some reforms). If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t vote in winner-take-all elections where capitalist-funded puppets have an unbreakable majority that always wins.

    Thanks for yet another very sensible article, Missy.