“Speak up now, or forever hold your peace,” declares the minister at a Catholic wedding. Yet we would do well to adopt this Christian dictum here and now, in the Jewish State. Those who fail to report to polling stations shall automatically and absolutely lose their right to whine about anything.
Although this may sound like a cliché, voting is not the “democratic right” of citizens – it is their duty, on all this entails. Indeed, as opposed to some other countries, Israel has so for not imposed sanctions against those who refrain from voting. Yet make no mistake about it: Just like paying taxes or waiting at a red light, participation in the democratic game is an essential and vital part, long before we demand more rights.
The excuses for why we shouldn’t be voting can be heard by everyone: There’s nobody to vote for, there are too many options, there are no real differences, everyone lies, nobody’s worthy, and what’s the difference anyway – in any case, America will dictate to us. Yet that’s nonsense.
Our vote will determine directly and immediately how much the State will deduct from our salary, what kind of air we shall be breathing around here, when will we be called up for emergency reserve service, whether buses will run on Shabbat, and how many teaching hours will be taken away from our children when the next budget cuts come around. With all due respect to Obama, he will apparently not interfere in those issues.
Indeed, amid more probes and another war there was no election excitement in the streets this time around. Major intersections remained almost empty of activists and signs. We did not see mass rallies or fiery protests; we barely saw a symbolic petition to the Central Elections Committee.
We left the battles mostly for the virtual space; instead of yelling out, we sent a talkback. All of this does not take away at all from the fateful decisions ahead, and from our need to remember and remind others that we are the only democracy in this region and that we simply do not feel like living in an indifferent country.
Beyond all the lofty ideals, those who fail to vote punish themselves first and foremost, or if you will, the group they “belong to.” We may see a situation whereby a certain age group, doctrine, or social sector take a minor part in sharing the government pie or are not represented at all. They will likely feel alienated in the face of the decisions to be taken by the next Knesset, yet they would only have themselves to blame.
Similarly, the absence of mass participation by “centrist” voters would boost the influence of radical positions, which will be inflated much beyond their true weight within society. This may boost the influence of small-time political activists and all sorts of shady dealers known for their superb organizational capability and ability to bring the masses to the polling stations at the moment of truth.
So if we agree that one must not shirk the duty to vote under any circumstances, all that remains is to decide who to vote for.
You can vote based on hope for change, or because of fears of what’s ahead
You can vote for a leader, a team, a platform, or for an ideology instead
You can vote for larger parties, if you want a government that’s stable
You can vote for smaller parties, to make your sector more able
You can vote in protest, against those you already voted for before
Or by elimination, for those you think will cause less damage, not more
You can vote tactically, to restrain the PM’s voice
Or at worst, just flip a coin, and follow destiny’s choice
There is more than one way to vote, and different ways are right for different people, yet at the end of the day they are all legitimate – as long as we don’t abstain from voting, en route to yet another democratic nadir.
Guy Ronen is a Ynet news editor