What’s the point in voting? The system is broken!
The people who need a voice cannot find it when our democracy only favours those already rich and powerful.
If such nonsense has crossed your mind in the past, you can hardly be blamed.
Democracy is a frustrating thing. It lumbers and limps at an impossibly slow pace, leaving problems of dubious import unsolved until the last second, if then.
Turns out your new hero may well be Russell Brand, a comedian and actor whose interview, conducted by the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, is going viral.
In it, Brand claims he has never voted, and not because he is apathetic but because he is indifferent (he may want to interview a dictionary next).
Brand believes that the system does not allow for change because it already benefits those who hold all the power.
The seriously disenfranchised are unable to implement policies that benefit them because no one in power wants those policies implemented.
No one who thinks differently from the power brokers can gain a foothold. Thus, the system perpetuates itself.
So he does not vote.
But not voting, surely, is an expression of apathy for democracy itself, not just one’s particular electoral system.
I, for one, am not happy with the first-past-the-post-system (Google it), and I would vote in a democratic election for the first serious candidate who vowed to change it.
Brand is embarrassingly confused.
Democracy has successes
But what’s really galling is that Brand is saying this merely five years after the election (and subsequent re-election) of Barack Obama, the least electable mainstream politician in recent U.S. history; who the country turned to when it saw that what it had been doing so far was not working; who subsequently introduced universal healthcare; who supports gay marriage; and whose attorney general has just pledged to end mandatory minimum sentencing, a policy which inarguably targets the politically disenfranchised.
And his fundraising left him beholden to no massive corporations; conducted at the grassroots level, Obama raised funds from millions of citizen donors.
All these things would have been unthinkable in the American political system prior to 2008.
And even all that may not be enough for some progressives, but say what you will about Obama’s actual presidency thus far; no one had any reason to doubt that he would implement many serious changes once elected. And yet, he won.
Brand’s ignorance of such recent history can only be because he is living in his own little counter-culture bubble.
In that bubble, all democratic systems boil down simplistically to corporate interests, compromising lobbyists and greedy white men.
The actual situation, as with most things, is more complicated than that and it takes more thinking than he has done to grapple with it, then finally to use it to the advantage of everyone.
Keith Hannaford writes from St. John’s.