The Chipotle guy: in defense of dissent

| Op-Ed Submission

The umbrage I take at Ms. Croner’s column “Chipotle and voting” [Oct. 2] is not presumptuous: I wholly admit to being the “Chipotle Guy.” I am certain of this identity, due to personal acquaintance with Tess and our proximity during the well-justified wait in line for our respective burritos. However, I must contest several of the claims made in the column, as well as its overall insinuation. Especially since several of the phrases in the article constitute serious interpellation (i.e. “you heard me Chipotle guy”), I must respond. I feel personally responsible for the views criticized in Tess’s column. Call me sensitive, but I dislike seeing my statements ascribed to a vapid ideologue in the abstract.

Therein lies my critique of Tess’s column. The hypocrisy ascribed to my statements (that I would wait in line for Chipotle but not for voting) is no doubt deduced from my bombastic tone and loudly contentious attitude. I apologize to Tess for my lack of manners during the event she accurately recollects. I constantly have to remind myself that speaking loudly against the grain is neither endearing nor persuasive. However, I must defend resistance (c.f. Brian Dorne’s Oct. 3 column, “The conscious non-vote,” for a related view on this).
Though Tess rightly opposes the thoughtless non-participation I promoted during Chipotle Day, she erects a straw man argument by reducing my dissent to apathy. Therefore I must put forth an altered argument, espousing meaningful resistance rather than the indolent rebellion.

To begin with, the substance of my polemic is against the electoral system, not against the premise of voting. I am vigorously opposed to the appropriation of my vote to legitimize the election of a candidate who I will most assuredly not support. Thanks to the Electoral College’s methodology, in virtually every state one candidate walks away with each voter’s voice. This gives the victor a greater share of legitimacy (the more people who vote, the more significant is the majority of the population who voted for him). Simply put, that someone whose platform I abhor may receive even the paltry authentication of my vote is appalling. This leads me to the general conclusion that our “bipartisan” government receives undue legitimacy from inherently uncritical electoral participation.

That being said, I must agree with Tess that “political issues are not abstract—they get at you on a personal level, they affect almost every arena of your life.” However, I realize that legitimizing the system is not always the answer. Voting is not the “little taste of all those American rights and freedoms” that she’s “heard so much about,” especially if the choice is coercive, a constructed selection of one of two supposedly different candidates (c.f. Randy Brachman’s ironic Oct. 1 column, “How the cookie crumbles”). The false dialectic we are presented with operates on the supposition that by all voting in a two-party system, we can somehow promote a synthesis (read: bipartisanism) between the two poles. Our democratic process ostensibly seeks to attain a compromise that moves us toward an approach to government that is simultaneously progressive and traditionally sound. Our system tells us that we can reach a conclusion that rises above the destructive tension between Democrats and Republicans.

Yet, as Theodor Adorno states so succinctly, “Freedom of choice means the freedom to choose your ideology.” The problem lies in the fact that our system demands
unquestioning obeisance to the tenets of American dreams and ideals: The only difference between the parties is the path taken to this mutually stated utopia. This is why we cannot productively move our society beyond pure ideology and promote realistic approaches to governance, and why the bipartisan “dialectic” is detrimental to democracy. It is impossible for dynamic tension to exist in a unipolar political system.

My indignation is real and my refusal to participate is conscientiously justified. How can we so emphatically demand participation in a system that excludes minor party candidates and marginal voices? How can we blithely invest our voices in support of a system that heaped vituperation on Ralph Nader for Al Gore’s loss in 2000? Why is anyone who does not want to vote characterized as a lazy and unproductive iconoclast? Finally, why is it anathema to express discontent with the coercive, false choice that we are given?

I defend the “exuberance” with which Tess describes my defiance. I am hopeful when I violate the norms of the electoral process. By emphatically rejecting the false dilemma set forth by our bipartisan political system, I subscribe to a means of political progress through effective negation, even if it remains a subjective endeavor.

I will cast my vote, or refuse to participate, depending on where my issues lie and not where ideological pressure attempts to pigeonhole me.