Don’t Care About Voter Apathy? I Do.

Tuesday marked the end of the Global Primary voting window — we’ve had outstanding preliminary results, including a higher turn-out than 2008, and more of the votes for Bernie overall than went for Obama. The final numbers will come out on 21 March. I worked long hours over the last couple of weeks, and annoying people by talking about Bernie 24/7 for longer than that.

As part of trying to get people to go out and vote, I sent some personal messages out to people I know last week, to give the details of how to vote in the Global Primary. I expect that most of them would vote for Bernie, but as long as they voted their conscience, I was happy to make sure they knew the best way to go about it.

One of the people I contacted, who I’ve known for a very long time, wrote me back the following:

I appreciate your position, and I am glad you care so deeply. However, I have no interest in participating in the US voting scheme, nor any belief at all that the president has the power to change anything. Please do not invite me to any political events for Bernie, although I have nothing against him personally. I wish you luck with the campaign.

Normally I would read that and move on. A lot of Americans don’t believe in voting — so many that there’s a joke about definitely getting the government you deserve if you don’t vote. But this response was a surprise — the message was from someone who witnessed, first-hand, the effects of George W Bush’s Presidency in Iraq. And I kind of assume that most adults are generally aware that Obama has brought both Cuba and Iran in from the cold, despite Republicans controlling both the House of Representatives and the Senate. I can’t think of better examples of both negative and positive examples of the impact of the Presidency.

I don’t expect to be able to change everyone’s mind, nor do I even want to attempt to do so. But I have to wonder how we — Americans, Europeans, Asians, whatever — can persuade people to believe in a system which is definitely flawed, but better than most other options? And if you’re still disconnected, even after hearing the heart of Bernie’s message, which is fixing the broken campaign finance system and tackling income inequality — well, I can’t imagine anything I could say that could turn that ship around.

What would you do? What would you say? How do we even attempt to engage people who say that the system can’t be fixed, and won’t try? Me, I was speechless (probably to the great relief of most people I know). But now that the campaign abroad has slowed down, I’d like to spend some time thinking about it. All ideas are welcome!