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Blackberry's avatar

I'm having some trouble understanding the saying "If you don't vote, don't complain". Can you help me out?

Asked by Blackberry (31723points) September 1st, 2011

Where does the right to complain come from then, in this regard? Politics and government affect everyone, not just the people that vote. Is it the civic duty that gives you the right? Believing your vote actually mattered?

Help me understand, Fluther.

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24 Answers

digitalimpression's avatar

If you don’t exercise the power given to you to affect change, you don’t care enough to earn the right to complain. (at least that’s what I think its supposed to mean)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

If you don’t participate in the process of choosing our political leaders, it’s kind of hypocritical for you to bitch about who wins the election. They may be lousy leaders, but if you don’t exercise the rights the constitution give you, that’s your fault, so don’t complain.

thorninmud's avatar

Well, it isn’t actually saying that non-voters don’t have the right to complain—government is responsible to all citizens regardless of whether they vote. The argument this statement makes is more a moral than a legal one. It argues that citizens in a participatory system like ours have a positive role to play in shaping public policy. This is the work of being a citizen. The implication is that those who decline to do the work shouldn’t complain about the work done by the others.

If I never help prepare dinner, I can complain all I want about the menu and seasoning, but those complaints are just going to highlight my lack of participation in the process.

Blackberry's avatar

@thorninmud Light bulb: On. Totally makes sense, now lol. Maybe my brain was moving slow, but the dinner example made me understand lol.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It basically means that if you didn’t bother to even vote,then STFU because no one wants to hear you complain.;)

Cruiser's avatar

I think vote or no vote you have every right to complain when you are expected to vote for the lousy candidates they offer running for office.

Blackberry's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille I’m backing away, slowly…

Blackberry's avatar

@Cruiser I know, right?! It would be easier to understand if one was a messiah, and the other was Judas or something.

marinelife's avatar

Voting is the only way that you can have input into the process. Therefore, voting is the only thing that gives you the right to complain.

Yes, voting is your civic duty.

Blackberry's avatar

So what are some other civic duties?

Cruiser's avatar

@Blackberry I have always voted since I was 18 and I am pissed as hell that in the last 3 Presidential elections I have had to cast a vote for the guy least likely to mess things up. I don’t get why we don’t improve upon the process so people who are actually qualified to do the job aren’t afraid to run.

Plus I agree with @marinelife it IS your civic duty to vote and IMO it is additionally your civic to have a clue about who and why you are voting for that candidate and NOT because you think he is a “nice guy”. HS…am I complaining again?? I got to stop this!

marinelife's avatar


Many consider military service to be a civic duty.

Jury service is a civic duty.

blueiiznh's avatar

You have a right to complain no matter what.
Voting is only one way to have input to the process of government.

Becoming active on a local, State, or Federal level is the biggest way to make a change. In my mind, becoming active in government is the best way to “complain” and make change.

jca's avatar

People died for your right to vote. People went to jail so you have the right to vote.

You do have a right to complain no matter what. However, at least if you voted, you might say you at least put in some effort to effect change.

Allie's avatar

@marinelife I like that you brought up jury duty. The way I see it, voting and military service are on a different scale than jury duty. The former, you’re volunteering to take part (with the exception of drafts). As for jury duty, in my state at least, if you don’t take part when you’re called to, they come after you. One of my friends was summoned then forgot to go on the actual day and they put a warrant out for her arrest. So, in my opinion, jury duty is more like a forced civic duty… or at least a punishable-if-you-don’t-do-it civic duty.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

George Carlin- Voting He said everything I would say, but he makes it funny.

I do vote, but have little faith that if it actually counts.
I agree with @blueiiznh. Being active is a great way to bring about actual change, especially on the local and state level. I am a registered Republican, but lean more libertarian, which in my opinion, doesnt mean no government, it means very limited Federal government. I believe we need to move towards localizing government more. Local and state governments could be more much more efficient and accountable than a handful of people in DC, trying to make 300 million people happy, especially if we diverted the amount of federal income tax paid, to state and local governments.

Who is “they?” I assume you mean the media?
That is one of the biggest problems with this country. We were taught about propaganda in school, but most of us were taught that “it cant happen here.”
The majority of Americans get their information from newpapers, tv, and radio, all owned by a handful of corporations that only care about one thing, and one thing only….. profit.
The easiest way to make a profit is to control the information that people hear. If you control the information, you can control peoples thoughts, ie. Input/Output.

mazingerz88's avatar

Oh, you have every right to complain even if you don’t vote. Just don’t be extremely annoying. Lol.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

In my opinion, if you pay taxes, you have a right to complain. There are other ways to participate in the system than by voting. A citizen can write letters to officials. I’ve found that to be quite effective in voicing my opinion on many issues. These days with email, it’s even easier.

Kardamom's avatar

You will always have the right to complain, because the Constitution gaurantees free speech. But if you complain about something that has happened or not happened, or something that you are angry about because an elected official (that you had no hand in voting in, or keeping out) or bitching about a law that you don’t like (even though you didn’t vote for it or against it) you are basically drawing attention to yourself as being a hypocrite.

If you don’t stand up for what you believe in and what you_want_ and what you think is right by voting for it (or voting against something that is the opposite of what is important to you) then stuff just happens to you. The only way you can make a change, is for you to be part of the process of change, which includes voting.

You are not obligated, in any way, to vote, but you look like an idiot if you don’t vote and then start complaining that things are not going the way you want. Because voting is one of the most important ways to bring about change.

One of my friends, an African-American male, was irate when George W. Bush won the Presidential election. He said that he was angry and upset, because he presumed that black people would be pushed a few rungs back down the equality ladder. So I asked him if he voted and he said no. I told him that he had, in fact helped to make certain that George Bush would become President. Let’s say that every person, black, white or other, who didn’t want George Bush to win actually voted (which they didn’t), that percentage of votes could have easily pushed the tide the other way, to the point that there wouldn’t have been a close vote. Even if only 5 or 10 percent more people (who didn’t want Bush to win) would have actually exercised their right to vote, it would have changed the course of history.

On the other hand, another friend, who is a Canadian citizen, but is a permanent resident of the US (his wife is a US citizen) also did not want George Bush to win, for the same reason as the fellow above. But he was not allowed to vote. So instead, he wrote letters, and went to rally’s and spoke to friends and relatives, and donated money etc. Those were the ways in which he, as a non-citizen, could try to do what he thought was right for our country. But letters and talking and donations will only get you so far. Voting is a much more powerful tool.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

At one time, it was seen that if you did not get involved in the process you should not get mad of the outcome. Kind of like if someone is building you a bard where you did nothing but sit back and receive it free, do not complain how it was built. However, in California that no longer applies, you vote, you win, but your vote does not count because the side that didn’t prevail sues, then some judge instead of going off the will of the people decide to shape policy his/herself. So, what is the use in voting?

Kardamom's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I’m guessing that you are referring to the vote on Proposition 8 (forgive me if I’m wrong). The problem with that situation is the fact that the proposition itself, was un-constitutional under the California Constitution. People can vote all they like, and “win” the election, but if the thing that they are voting on is un-constitutional in the first place, that makes it invalid and that’s why they bring in the courts and the lawyers. Any law that gets voted in, or changed has to pass Constitutional muster to be considered legal and valid.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Kardamom That should never have been an issue that needed to be voted for twice. According to the constitution, _and in the very first article too, it says it so plainly.


SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or
recognized in California.

That is another discussion though.

Kardamom's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central See that’s where the problem gets complicated. That particular section, is in and of itself un-constitutional because under the California Constitution, it is illegal to to create any laws of “statutes that reat persons differently because of their sexual orientation” or at least that such laws and statutes should be subjected to “strict scrutiny.

You can read all about it (and agree with it or not) here

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