Your Blogmeister’s Desk
I think this point deserves some further intellectual development, beyond my superficial treatment of it here in this space in the past.
This (not so) bon mot about “if you don’t vote, then you can’t complain” is probably the most stupid bromide that is tolerated as common sense in American political discourse.
For anyone to say that non-voters don’t have a right to complain is not only plainly wrong on its face, (the First Amendment doesn’t allow for Congress to abridge the civil liberties listed therein for people who don’t vote, meaning non-voters have the right to freedom of speech, assembly, REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES (i.e. complaining), etc.), but think about the message you’re communicating if you say and think it: For you to say that people who don’t vote don’t have a right to complain is the equivalent of giving government or even private actors the permission to pave over and brutalize people who don’t vote.
The political process is necessary to make murder a crime and hire the agents who investigate homicides, arrest the suspects, and try and convict and punish the murderers. For you to say that people who don’t vote have no right to complain is also saying that it’s not a crime to murder people who don’t vote.
Another issue: Why do we assume that people who don’t vote don’t have an opinion or don’t care? Not voting is a form of voting and expressing a political opinion, if you think about it. (There were 11 million fewer ballots cast for any Presidential candidate in 2012 compared to four years ago. Do you think that at least some if maybe not most of those 11 million non-voters were trying to send a message?) Hell, not having an opinion about anything could be construed as having an opinion. And they all have rights in this world, or they should have.
To net it out, you have a right to bitch, moan and complain 364 days of the year then not vote on the 365th, and if your bitching, moaning and complaining is rooted in some public or private foul play or malfeasance, your non-voting on the 365th day doesn’t mean that those doing you dirt shouldn’t be punished, and it doesn’t mean that public and private actors shouldn’t practice the self-restraint necessary for you to be able to exercise your rights.