This article was originally published in the Viet Tide on March 25, 2016. It was written by Ness white and has been edited accordingly.
Last week, we covered the topic of voter apathy -- specifically sharing that while there are reports about the mainstream American public not fully participating in its electoral rights, the Vietnamese-American community largely exercises its vote. We also pointed out that the leading presidential candidates’ campaigns that are galvanizing American voters this year do not seem to be aligned with the Vietnamese-American community’s interests.
We raise a question then: If none of the leading presidential candidates seem worthy of the Vietnamese-American vote, will the community that turned out in large numbers in 2012 do the same this year? Should members of the community even vote for the next president if there is not a viable candidate to choose?
To help us with our dilemma, we offer some arguments for and against voting this year.
In a Waking Times article published last week, contributor Stephen Parato laid out the case for not voting, sharing that he is not going to vote this year because he does not want to comply with a “broken system.”
“I choose not to vote, not out of ignorance, nor out of apathy (actually quite the opposite), but out of noncompliance with a broken, fundamentally corrupt and laughably ineffective system,” Parato wrote. “If given the choice between stabbing myself with a knife or stabbing myself with a fork, I would choose neither (after questioning why I would even stab myself in the first place).
“We shape society based on our daily actions, not by hoping someone else will come and save us.”
Delving more deeply into his reasoning, Parato wrote that the system is corrupt because the U.S. government is basically controlled by big banks, and U.S. lawmakers are nothing more than “lapdogs” for big business. Rather than support such a system, he opts to use the “power of noncompliance” by peacefully resisting the vote. Instead of voting, he urges, Americans can work to create real changes within themselves before seeking a cure for their woes from the outside.
“We’ve been focusing all of our energy on external authority figures for so long that we can’t even fathom what the world would look like if we all stepped into our inherent power,” Parato said. “And that is exactly what needs to happen for any real change to take place.”
Unlike Parato, Sara AbiBoutros -- a Queens, New York-based community coordinator, activist and law student we interviewed for an article on the importance of open, public space earlier this month -- believes “voting is a real threat to those in power”; and if the right people are voted into office, social and political change can be enacted.
“The laws that politicians pass really do have an impact on our day-to-day life,” AbiBoutros told the Viet Tide recently, adding that these laws can be life-altering -- as is the case with laws governing abortions and rent increases -- or not so much, like laws that provide free lunch in public schools. “If having the right to vote was not a powerful tool, then those in power would not try to take it away from us.”
Though, showing some understanding for views against voting, AbiBoutros said that plenty of people feel as though voting is pointless because the people being elected are not truly committed to social and political change. Yet, it’s difficult for well-intentioned politicians to pass progressive laws because of the way the U.S. system of government works. This can be disheartening and lead to people becoming apathetic and disinterested in politics as they feel their voices are not being heard, regardless of who they vote for.
But this election, people are not going silent, AbiBoutros continued, adding that the same fervor was present during President Barack Obama’s first election in 2008.
“Eventually people get tired of the status quo and start to raise their voice so loud that it's impossible not to hear it,” she said. “It's the people who organize and are actively putting pressure on politicians to push a progressive agenda.
“[The people] are the real champions of social and political change.”