I began reading a book called Moral Politics last night. (It can be found on Google Books, here.) I plowed through the first two chapters which basically comprise an introduction for the rest of the book relatively quickly. So far, it appears that the author divides politics, and those who participate in them, into two basic camps: conservative and liberal. He then introduces the idea that the nation, the U.S. in particular, is a family (or at least that it is viewed this way by its citizens) with the government acting as a parent and the citizenry as its children. Finally, he lays down his main thesis that people's view of government comes from the moral structure by which they live their own lives. Ultimately, he arrives at the conclusion that conservatives view the government as a "strict father", and liberals view it as a "nurturing mother" (or "parent").
The strict father model holds that the government's job is to give "tough love" to its citizens to prepare them to be self-sufficient. As such, it should be tough on crime and make sure that discipline is swift and decisive. It should also not get involved with "entitlement" programs like social security, health insurance, or unemployment benefits. The strict father view is not heartless. Social programs may have their place for short periods, but the emphasis is always on discipline and self-reliance.
The nurturing parent model holds that the role of government is to support its citizens by understanding their problems and the causes of them and helping them work through them so that they can become self-sufficient. In this role, the government would provide rehabilitation programs to criminals while they "do their time". It would be understanding that people's economic troubles are not necessarily of their own doing and that things like health insurance and unemployment benefits are necessary to help people get "back on their feet" and become self-sufficient. In short, discipline and self-reliance are good things, but the emphasis is always on helping people find their way back to those ideals.
As I read these first two chapters, I couldn't help but feel that I didn't fit into either category. And maybe that's not the point. I think the author's purpose is not to help people fit into one camp or the other but to explain why the two camps think the way they do. Nevertheless, I couldn't help trying to fit myself into some neat little box so that I could then decide how I felt about what the author was saying. Eventually, I realized that my problem with this book (at least so far) is that the author never questions the existence, legitimacy, or authority (moral or otherwise) of the government (or as I like to refer to it in these types of discussions, the State). (I'd like to explore this in later posts.)
In the context of the book, the conservative and liberal labels only apply insofar as they describe political views. As far as I am concerned, conservatives and liberals are the same. While they disagree about the means (strict vs. nurturing) by which to achieve their ends (a disciplined and self-reliant society), they do agree that those means are best carried out by the State. They're statists. I imagine that statism is most closely associated with fascism in many people's minds and therefore typically associated with conservatives and those on the political right. Statism, though is the belief that the State has a major role, economic or otherwise, to play in people's lives. Given this view, statism can be equally associated with socialism which is a commonly associated with liberals and those on the political left.
Now, let me connect the dots between the title of this post and everything I've written up to this point. When a person participates in the electoral system and votes, he legitimizes the system. As such, he agrees to be bound by the outcome, and regardless of which person is put into power or which law is enacted, the result is always the same: the State is legitimized. No matter which person or law a person votes for or against, that person is always voting for the State. The only way to vote against the State is to not vote at all.
If you're still reading, you've probably realized that I don't vote. If you were paying attention, then you'll realize that the old line, "if you don't vote, you can't complain" is exactly backwards. By voting, you agree that the process and the outcome are legitimate and to be bound by them. I, on the other hand, by refusing to vote lend no such legitimacy to the process or the outcome. Therefore, I'm actually the only one who can complain.