I've written two posts recently about the persistent awfulness of the Democrats, neither of which mentioned voting. Despite that the discussion on both of them has turned to voting.
I would say voting is completely irrelevant in a discussion on the extent to which the Democrats suck. First you discuss how much the Democrats suck, then once you've reached consensus (or not) on that you discuss what impact that would have on your voting habits.
On the thread about Freedom Movement Amanda's first question was:
What’s “support”, then? Are we permitted to steal into the election booth and shamefacedly vote for Democrats while publically condemning them and helping them lose elections by increasing the number of people who don’t vote on the theory that they’re all the same?
My answer is it doesn't matter.
Well it matters if people don't publicly critique the Democrats because they're afraid of the consequences. It's unprincipled and bad politics. One of the first jobs of the left (wherever you are on the left) has to be to raise people's expectations. Part of raising people's expectations means saying that left-wing governments are not good enough.
But it doesn't matter whether or not people steal into the election booth and vote. Sometimes it really doesn't matter - since she's from Texas Amanda's vote in the Presidential election will be as important as mine.* At other times voting may have an effect, but if it's the most important, or anywhere near the most important, political act you take, then you're unlikely to achieve what you're going for.
A lot of my friends don't vote ever; I think even that is giving voting too much weight. Voting doesn't do any harm (and America is proof that not voting doesn't give the government any less legitimacy). I've no problem with people voting, or not voting, on the flimsiest of reasons. I've voted for the most left-wing party in parliament up until now, but at the next election I won't do so, because of the co-leader of that party.**
But, and this really shouldn't come as a surprise based on what I write, I don't think real positive change comes from voting, which is why I see political energy focused on changing voting patterns, as wasted energy. I'm hardly the first person to observe that progressive change is driven from below, not given from above. That means that we should focus our energy below, not above.
* I'm from NZ; I don't get a vote
**I should point out that New Zealand has a welfare system, and a national health system. Our Prime Minister even acted like a feminist for a few days this year (it's not going to last). The parties I've voted for have been to the left of the Labour party, which is turn to the left of the government