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Terry Manning

Nonvoters say the darnedest things 

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Oh boy. 

“When are y’all going to realize they are never going to do right. The system is rigged (and it) doesn’t matter how many times you vote, they are going to put whoever they want in that chair.” 

This was the first response I saw to a Facebook friend’s lamentation over the results of Georgia’s gubernatorial race: “Why does Georgia continue to fail Stacey?” 

It’s a legitimate question, especially from a young, college-educated Black woman who recognized the difference in platforms between a charismatic progressive thinker who defends democracy and a low-energy keeper of the status quo. There are the secondary contrasts of an establishment middle-aged white man and a Black woman a decade his junior trying to unseat him. 

For most Georgia Republicans, though, I’m sure the only difference that mattered was he is a Republican and she is a Democrat. Ptui! 

In response to this person’s comment, I replied, “That’s not true,” and explained how tough a task it is to outvote red-state Republicans when almost every lever of power is at their disposal to guarantee favorable outcomes. Not to mention sheer numbers, especially when younger voters don’t turn out. 

His comeback? “Keep believing. It may change, but not in this lifetime.” 

I wasn’t surprised it was a young Black man saying these things because of my experience with that demographic over the past several years. I have written before about the negative reactions I witnessed to the 2016 election of Donald Trump, but that was not the end of it. 

I heard folklore the likes of which I could never have imagined covering everything from the origins of coronavirus to the COVID-19 vaccines to health risks of 5G. These new paranoia were layered atop longstanding myths (and some truths) about the creation and weaponization of HIV, drugs in the Black community, and mistrust of the healthcare system. 

The young Black people I interacted with were distressingly eager to accept anti-establishment conspiracy theories and to disenfranchise themselves by saying their votes didn’t matter, so the tone of the commenter’s posts rang familiar. 

I wrote, “Sitting around saying ‘Ain’t nothing gon’ change’ is the safest way to make sure it never will.” 

Then came the justifications: 

“The last presidential election proved that the system is rigged. Months after Biden was sworn in they were finding voting machines with uncounted ballots. There was a machine found not too long ago that was purchased off of eBay that had a ton of ballots in it unaccounted for.” 

“None of the politicians care about the people. They just want to keep their pockets padded and that is it.” 

“We are all too worried about putting faith in someone who has never walked down the street you live on. You know what problems exist and they don’t. So we just keep putting them in office?” 

“I mean this with no disrespect by any means but it’s the older generation who are still the sheep following the same system that has failed over and over again. Y’all were given the right to vote just to say you can do it. So congratulations … a participation prize.” 

I took offense to that last comment, because he was referring to the fact I had posted a temporary frame on my profile photo indicating I had voted. So to me, listening to a member of the participation trophy generation mock anyone for having a “participation prize” was pretty rich. 

I was ready to take the kid gloves off (no pun intended) when it occurred to me to ask a simple question: “Did you vote?” 

His response: “I don’t have to disclose if I voted or not. That’s personal.” Which it is. But the discussion was over at that point, as far as I was concerned. 

I have written here and said elsewhere that I don’t care who you vote for as long as you vote. I don’t mind a debate over candidates or issues, but the price of admission to that debate is voting, and to my mind this person had not paid. 

Thank goodness more young people don’t feel like he felt. Numbers from the midterms show young voters turned out in sufficient numbers to almost literally negate the votes of everyone over the age of 65 who voted. 

That’s no tragedy in my mind. It’s their world, they should get to shape it. 

The tragedy is people who take themselves out of the conversation but insist on being heard from the sidelines, criticizing those trying to make a difference in performing their most basic civic duty. 

Terry E. Manning is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com. 

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