I know this goes against conventional wisdom on the issue, but I seriously don't have a huge problem with the fact that so many Americans don't vote.
Today's Sun Sentinel has a rather alarmist article reporting that "40,000 fewer young Floridians voted last year than in 2002." This situation, the Sun-Sentinel would have us believe, is a very bad thing.
The "young people" interviewed for the article trot out the usual excuses for not being politically active-- variations on the "it's all bullshit anyway" argument that 19-year-olds who think they're too deep to be genuinely apathetic offer up when someone calls them out on their lazy self-centeredness. Both parties are exactly the same, my vote doesn't really count anyway, politicians are too negative, man.
So these people aren't voting. Good.
Don't get me wrong-- there's any number of reasons to hate the two party system. Neither Democrats nor Republicans truly represent my values either. The electoral college is discouraging and useless. Politicians are too negative.
Nevertheless, if you genuinely feel like there's no difference between the parties of Karl Rove and Dennis Kucinich, then you're woefully ignorant, and are probably intellectually ill-equipped to actually engage in a serious conversation about the issues. You'll believe anything, so long as the information being conveyed is easy to understand and not too difficult to find (requiring the bare minimum amount of intellectual effort on your part). In short, you'd make an excellent young neocon-- they see the world in simplistic terms too, and they're not big on thinking for themselves either.
So, if the above paragraph describes you, don't vote. That's right. Don't vote. You don't like politics? You don't understand why people argue about Affirmative Action? You can't decide how you feel about the death penalty? You don't have an opinion on No Child Left Behind?
Obviously, a preferable alternative to not voting because you're ignorant is to actually get online, buy some magazines, and get yourself a political education, then voting. That's not only your right-- it's kind of your responsibility. It appalls me to hear people say, "I'm not into politics," as if that's even a fucking option when you live in a Republic and people are dying every single day because of the decisions our leaders make. Make no mistake-- those of you who decline to participate are just as complicit in the crimes committed by our leaders as those who voted for them (see the Barack Obama quote at the top of this page).
Nevertheless, the people who decline to participate in our political system by refusing to educate themselves about the issues should decline to participate through voting. It's logical and consistent. It sucks that there are people like that in our country, but it sucks even more that some political operatives can count on the electorate not doing their research, so that they can be more easily manipulated by images and soundbytes, and then going out and voting anyway. The problem that needs to be addressed isn't really voter turnout; that's just a symptom of the larger problem of apathy and intellectual laziness. I'd like to see less hand-wringing over convincing people to vote, and more hand-wringing over convincing people that they actually want to vote because the issues actually are important to them.