There have been several articles written about the futility or the negative consequences of voting. But I wanted to put forward some of my thoughts about electoral politics. I do want to point out that I'm not taking an extremely hardline position against voting. There may be a time and a place for voting -- but I don't see it as particularly useful on the national level.
Foremostly... I don't see many candidates (at all) talking about many very key issues. For example, I don't see many candidates talking about curbing consumerism. Rather, most of them talk about "strengthening our industrial base" or "creating jobs" or "meeting our energy needs" to further promote consumption. And, realistically, those are the only candidates who have any chance of being elected -- because of the typical mindset of American voters, the mainstream media's influence, and because of the campaign funds such candidates will receive from corporate interests who promote issues which aren't in the best interests of the general public.
I could go on with various issues which I don't see being adequately addressed, but the point isn't necessarily that all of those issues aren't always addressed. Rather... I don't want to promote or support any candidate who promotes or supports any very negative aspect. Supposing a candidate did have some relatively favorable positions... I still wouldn't want to support them if they promoted any number of negative issues -- and I don't think it behooves anyone to support a candidate who promotes anything that may come back to seriously bite us all on the ass. The "lesser of two evils" may likely turn out to be pretty destructive to either our health or our liberty. To acquiesce to any particular evil is to support it.
Another issue that many have with voting is that supports the destructive system overall. Supposing that you find a supposedly decent candidate who champions many of the issues and projects you support... this candidate's token participation in congress (or the senate or the parliament or whatever) would only legitimize that governing body which has proven itself to be highly corrupt, wasteful and detrimental to all life. I don't support the authority of the larger ruling body, so why would I support one candidate who will likely prove to be ineffectual or just plain corrupt? And then, after electing such a candidate, the media and other supporters of the system will claim that the aforementioned issues have a voice in the governing body -- when really it may be just a squeak. And we desperately need much more than mere voices and words.
Authoritarian Right-Wing Backlash
Then there is the problem of a potential backlash. Suppose, in some unlikely way, that a majority of the representatives, or even a president, strongly supported environmental issues and curbing consumption. The simple reality is, if that happened, and if they enacted pro-environmental/anti-consumption policies, the economy would collapse. The modern economy is driven by waste and consumption. If that were to change, even over the course of a decade, there would be serious repercussions to our way of life. And, in the immediate aftermath, if property is still not equitably shared, and if the police forces are not reigned in... there will be great suffering amongst the masses far and wide.
If the system somehow survived the collapse (without splitting into several smaller nations)... because of the subsequent discontent it's very possible that a pro-corporate right-wing candidate would garner strong support and take office in the next term. It may be a matter of some lack of faith, but I'm not convinced that most people would really be able to recognize how their problems stem from the underlying system -- and I worry they would react within that system to undo what actually may be progress.
This may be underestimating people or overstating things, but the fickle nature of the people, along with those who are just stubbornly authoritarian and reactionary, should not be overlooked. At this point we will potentially see serious clashes between those who value freedom and sustainability versus those who value profit, power, and the destruction of anything as long it will bring them personal gain. If the clash doesn't rise up to the level of a civil war then, in America, we may see the rise of a fascist movement like that which occurred in Germany, Italy, and Spain during the 1930's. And the U.S. has, quite arguably, already taken many steps in that direction.
These paragraphs about a potential backlash may or may not be overstating things, but I'd caution against being too dismissive of the possibility and I'll remind the dear reader that it's not the primary argument for not voting within the current system -- it's simply a thought experiment.
Vote with your feet! Take to the Streets!
The long and the short of it is that we need fundamental change that is not likely come about by voting every couple years. We need to not only reduce the power and legitimacy of centralized government, but we need to change our underlying values as a society. And we need dramatic changes right away -- we need to force the warmongers and the pro-corporate anti-environmentalists to change their behavior. One of the few ways I can see doing this is by taking to the streets, en masse, to stop business as usual and demand immediate and serious reform against various banking and oil corporations, the military industrial complex, and the prison-industrial complex.
Some may ask, "If you can't get people to vote, how would you expect to get them to protest or be part of a general strike?" But I suggest that taking to the streets is more inspirational and offers more hope than voting. As it is, most people don't vote because they know it's a futile act, or they are generally apathetic, or they have been disenfranchised (re: millions of Americans with felonies). But taking to the streets in an act of solidarity with some clear messages... offers inspiring hope for all who might participate or witness such an action. And don't forget... such things have happened in the past -- in the USA and around the world.
Short of this sort of bold and courageous action on the part of the masses... we will get watered-down, piecemeal, regressive, and ineffectual responses to serious growing problems.