The country I live in is preparing for an election. As a non-citizen, I cannot vote, but since I live here, the results will certainly effect me. Especially all the competing proposals to make life harder for immigrants and would-be immigrants. Still, I'm not going to tell anybody how to vote, although I do think a hung parliament might help keep them out of trouble. Instead, I want to share a story.
Ten years ago, in my home country, we had a couple of tossers standing for election. They both went to the same sort of schools. They both had fathers who had held high offices. They both had major connections to oil companies. They both had all the personality of plaster. It was tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. It seemed not to matter which got in. One was coming from a supposedly more left party, which had done all kinds of horrible right wing things while in office and had widened the gap between rich and poor and had done a lot of bombing overseas. The other came from a somewhat farther right party which had an alarmingly bad record from its time in power in the 1980's.
Still, there wasn't all that much difference between the published platforms of the parties. One of them seemed to hate LGBT people slightly less than the other. One seemed to care a tiny bit more for poor folks (not that you'd be able to tell from the 8 years immediately preceding). In short, aside from empty words, it seemed like voting would be an utter waste of time. "Don't vote!" we said, "It will only encourage them!"
As it happened, the slightly more right wing candidate got into office and it turned out that he was a bit more right than he had represented himself. Indeed, he was George W. Bush
"If voting changed anything it would be illegal" is only half true. Voting is perfectly legal because it allows a way to put a stamp of public approval on sociopathic policies that harm the general public. The structure of western democracy is such that you cannot actually ever seem to vote for anything good. You can only vote against things that are bad. Because the political process is controlled by the rich and powerful, only things they like are ever going to come up for a vote at all. The power of the masses resides in our numbers. We can take to the streets and demand things. Our needs and wants are raised via activism, not via voting.
This, however, should not construed to mean that voting is a waste of time. You cannot vote in positive change, but it's possible to vote in negative change. Ergo, voting is not an expression of hope and change, but of damage control. Essential, important damage control. It's a grim, ugly and strategic business. You do it because you've got to do it. Because you love your country. Out of a sense of responsibility; no matter how ugly or evil it is, you've got to prevent George Bush-like disasters from befalling you and your countrymen.