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Ⓧ Voters: it’s not apathy, it’s non-consent

POC Thomas L. Knapp
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Coming out of the 2010 mid-term elections, it’s too early to compile exact statistics — but odds are a majority of Americans didn’t cast ballots on Tuesday.

Some are disenfranchised by age restrictions, incarceration or other legal obstacles. Others simply choose not to vote. The conventional wisdom writes them off as apathetic. The Ⓧ2012 Project begs to differ.

“Our reasons for not voting are our business,” says Thomas L. Knapp. “Construing the majority’s boycott of elections as ‘apathy’ toward politics makes no more sense than construing the fact that I haven’t specifically told you not to take my car as ‘apathy’ toward grand theft auto.”

Knapp formally launched The Ⓧ2012 Project on Tuesday as polls closed on the west coast. Its goal is to mobilize 10 million Americans to publicly declare that their refusal to vote in November, 2012 constitutes non-consent rather than apathy. “Ⓧ2016’s goal will be 50 million,” he says.

“The consent of the governed is the standard of a government’s legitimacy,” says Knapp, 43, of St. Louis, Missouri, citing the Declaration of Independence. “Without your consent, it has no right to rule you. And this government lacks the consent of a lot of people.”
In support of his claim, Knapp points to a July poll by Rasmussen in which only 23% of those surveyed said the US government enjoys “the consent of the governed.” Knapp notes that even those who say some consent to be governed don’t necessarily say they themselves so consent.

The Ⓧ2012 Project raises and spends no money, depending on its supporters to act on their own to promote “active non-consent.” Knapp declines any title beyond “that guy who started the web site.” He began running ad campaigns on social networks and other web sites — “in the low double digits, for now, from my personal resources,” he says — as the polls closed on Tuesday, and expects that other supporters of the project will do likewise. The project’s web site offers graphics and advice. “It’s a grassroots,
open-source/crowd-sourced effort,” says Knapp. “Everything conventional politics claims to be but isn’t.”

The Ⓧ2012 Project:

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    Anti-Confederate Flags in History: During the Civil War there were many anti-Confederate flags.

    These were modified American flags. Some Americans rearranged the stars in the phalanxes or square pattern symbolizing readiness to face attacks on America from any direction.[1]

    The popularity of flying an American flag started with the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War American flags were flown at Federal buildings such as the Post Office.

    With the Civil War the manufacturers were suddenly faced with a tremendous demand for American flags which people flew as anti-Confederate flags.

    The American flag with or without modifications was seen as the anti-Confederate flag.[2]

    The nickname “Old Glory” for the American flag comes from one Civil War episode.

    Capt. Driver, a retired sea captain, who moved to Tennessee in the Nashville area before the Civil War, had taken with him in his retirement the American flag he had flown on his ship.

    He was very proud of this flag and exhibited it frequently and called it “Old Glory.”

    When the Civil War broke out his flag was threatened and he hid it inside a quilt. When the American armies liberated Nashville, he was brought before the liberating troops and Capt. Driver exhibited his flag. This episode was picked up by the press at the time and though Capt. Driver and his flag are largely forgotten, the nickname “Old Glory” is still remembered.[3]

    The Confederates saw the American flag as an Anti-Confederate flag. Mobs in New Orleans tore down an American flag and dragged it through the mud of the streets and then “tore it to shreds, and distributed the pieces among the crowd.” In Memphis the burial of the American flag was publicly celebrated.[4]

    Unfortunately, with the overthrow of the multi-racial democracy of Reconstruction and the nation rejecting an Abolitionist vision of America, by the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan felt comfortable flying the American flag and even claimed that they were 100% Americanism. So the American flag by itself has lost an anti-Confederate meaning.

    The Phalanx flag and Capt. Drivers flags can’t be used since they are so similar to an American flag they aren’t distinctive and readily recognized as being something other than an American flag.

  2. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] December 12, 2010

    The Crolian Progressive
    To: [Citizens For A Better Veterans Home]

    REgarding: Elizabeth Edwards
    Jeremy Young | December 11, 2010: Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

    MyDD ….. was still the go-to location for inside-the-beltway types to take the pulse of the blogosphere. One of those readers, apparently, was Elizabeth Edwards.

    I awoke the next morning to discover a multi-paragraph response from her in the comment section. Here’s an excerpt:

    “The problem with analyzing rhetoric — and remember, when I was in English graduate school, that is what I expected to spend a lifetime doing — is that it is rhetoric.

    Instead of analyzing the language of emails or snippets from selected speeches, it might be useful to think about the man himself, his career, his 2004 primary policies, his activities since 2004, and his 2008 policies. …

    And as for distinctions made above, I think I (as opposed to John, whose opinion on this I do not know) disagree with the way you have framed it, which may be a reflection of the time in which the rhetorical examples are drawn — the 1890’s and 1930’s. The rhetoric (if backed by action) that rural America wants in 2007 is complex – a combination of what you suggest, an intervening government, and what you don’t suggest, a less invasive government. And the urban example you gave is less “urban” than it is personal. You could say those words or words like them — and I suspect John has — anywhere in this country. …

    Will you find academicians who suggest that there should not be a personal responsibility piece in the answer to poverty? Yes, of course you will, but you will not be able to say that that means they are more concerned with urban poverty versus rural poverty.” —- Elizabeth Edwards, 2006

    You can find many progressive bloggers who received similarly thought-out comments from [Mrs] Edwards.

    Heilemann and Halperin wrote that “She would stay up late scouring the Web, pulling down negative stories and blog items about her husband, forwarding them with vicious messages to the communications team.”

    Maybe so. I didn’t feel attacked by her comment, though. Instead, I felt respected.

  3. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] December 9, 2010


    Does the Senate still work?

    By Chris Cillizza chris – Thu Dec 9, 11:47 am ET

    Several soon-to-be ex-Senators say partisanship has given way to political gridlock that is crippling the chamber. Are they right?

  4. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] December 9, 2010

    And in San Diego County:

    Breaking News

    The announcement by developer Barry Nussbaum that he is dropping plans for a condo-hotel from the Fairgrounds Master Plan demonstrates how important it is to establish – once and for all – local control over this important regional asset.

    For over two years Nussbaum has doggedly pursued development of a condo-hotel, convention center and health club on the Fairgrounds, despite widespread community opposition and incompatibility of his plans with the Fairgrounds mission. It took the threat of state legislation to sell the Fairgrounds to Del Mar to convince Nussbaum to (at least temporarily) abandon the hotel.

    But the bigger issue of local control remains. San Diego County residents deserve oversight of this facility by a locally-accountable board dedicated to preserving, not exploiting, this unique resource ……..

  5. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] November 10, 2010

    While the web may only be gearing up for its 20th birthday next year, some of the earliest websites are already in danger of being lost to history forever.

    That’s because when new versions of websites were developed, the older versions were often simply discarded along with the hard drives and laptops they were stored on, says Jim Boulton of web content agency Story Worldwide, based in London.

    In an attempt to preserve these websites, and the machines they originally ran on, Boulton has performed what he calls the first archaeological dig of the web, and the results will be displayed at an exhibition in London this week.

    Previous attempts to preserve the web’s history include a system called Memento, designed by Herbert Van de Sompel at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which finds versions of web pages from any date and time.

  6. paulie paulie November 5, 2010

    However, in possible good news for X-voters, it’s the 5th of November today…

  7. paulie paulie November 5, 2010

    A setback for X-voters?

    Ballot Access News:
    2010 Voter Turnout Seems Higher for a Midterm Year Than Any Previous Midterm Year Since 1982
    November 5th, 2010

    Curtis Gans, long-time student of U.S. voter turnout, has estimated that 2010 general election turnout is 42% of the number of persons who could potentially have registered to vote and then voted. While this is very bad relative to other nations, it is higher than any midterm year since 1982. The 2006 figure was 40.8%, and the 2002 figure was 39.7%. Gans estimates that 90,000,000 persons cast a ballot in 2010.

  8. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi November 3, 2010

    tk, hmm, do I consent to THIS State vs. the State?…interesting question.

    At the moment, I can’t say I consent to either. I accept both, with reservation, since I don’t see a plausible and practical alternative on the horizon.

    I’d like THIS State to be smaller. I’m likely to vote in 2012 as a symbolic gesture to express that opinion.

  9. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 3, 2010


    X2012 isn’t about whether or not you consent to the rule of “the state.” It’s about whether or not you consent to the rule of this state.

    Obviously anarchists like myself fit well within its parameters, since we don’t consent to any state.

    Other types of non-voters would also fit within those parameters:

    – People who believe that the election system is rigged, intentionally or through unintended consequences, to ensure that there are no circumstances under which they will receive the representation they believe themselves entitled to. That could mean various third party types, advocates of proportional representation, etc.

    – People who want more government than they think the current election system can deliver — monarchists, falangists, fascists, etc.

    – People who might consent even to this state if they were asked, but who aren’t asked (minors, convicted felons in some states, etc.).

    X2012 is ecumenical because it is negative toward a particular existent (“we don’t consent to THIS”) rather than positive toward a particular alternative (“we want THAT”).

  10. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi November 3, 2010

    Perhaps a more direct way to express non-consent would be to write in “I don’t consent” for all offices on the ballot.

    Whether I personally “consent” to the rule of the State is an interesting question. Some rules I like, others I don’t.

    At the moment, I accept the rule of the State because I can’t imagine a better alternative. I’d prefer to see it a lot smaller, though.

  11. tiradefaction tiradefaction November 3, 2010


    I understand (I think) your objectives, and I sympathize with them a lot. But I’m not sure why I should stop voting, given the relative ease I can do it, and I can simply refuse consent to the ruling parties of my state, by voting against them. Of course, to get any real victories, you’d have to get organized, but as a statement of consent, I might as well just vote differently. I also don’t want to withdrawal from initiatives and referendums.

  12. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 3, 2010


    I agree that electoral politics and outside organizing aren’t mutually exclusive, but for the moment I’m personally choosing one to the exclusion of the other.

    As far as goals go, X2012 is ecumenical. It’s about explicit withdrawal of consent, for whatever reason. Some people wear Nike shoes to jog, some to play basketball, others because that’s what their peer group expects them to wear. The idea is to make the “circle X” logo the “Nike swoosh” logo for non-voters.

  13. tiradefaction tiradefaction November 3, 2010

    Can’t say I will join this effort myself. I agree things practical reforms can be accomplished outside the electoral realm, but electoral politics and outside organizing aren’t mutually exclusive, especially when you have things like initiatives & referendums. I probably also have different ideas on what reforms should be passed than you do.

    Good luck on your endeavor though.

  14. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 3, 2010


    If you want to waste your time believing that part of my time inherently belongs to you, knock yourself. In fact, however, any time of mine that you get is time that I decide to give you.

    As to X2012, here are the facts that I’m working with:

    1) Elections aren’t the only way that things get done. Things get done all the time without elections.

    2) Non-voters are a huge demographic — the majority, in fact.

    Part of my hypothesis is that it’s easier to affirm someone in their existing habit than to change that habit.

    Another part of my hypothesis is that giving that existing habit a brand and an outlet of expression may help a diffuse phenomenon transform itself into an identity grouping — one possibly as powerful as, although probably less flexible/adaptable than, vote-oriented groupings of the same type.

  15. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi November 3, 2010

    Yes, although the self defense idea seems — I dunno — silly, unless one views it as a symbolic act of self defense. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that one vote in and of itself is consequential.

    Vote if so moved. Don’t vote if so moved. Our individual conscience can arrive a very different conclusions about the very same act.

  16. paulie paulie November 3, 2010

    Personally I haven’t been voting lately, partly because there have not been very good choices on the ballot, partly as a protest against election tampering, but mostly because I can’t get my ID renewed due to no longer associating with the SS number, thus I’m probably barred from voting. Otherwise, I still lean more towards the “voting as self defense” side than the “voting as consent to the system” side, although I understand both arguments. My last vote in a regime election was in 2003 (California recall…I wrote in abolish the office of governor, and voted for ending government classification of people by the pseudoscientific concept of race).

    Of course, as you know, I still participate in the electoral system in other ways and have no immediate plans to change that.

  17. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi November 3, 2010

    There are several reasons not to vote other than apathy or non-consent: ambivalence or lack of time come to mind. I don’t buy that non-voting = non-consent.

    Yes, those who don’t vote and are using that non act to can view that as of non-consent, but I wonder whether that’s the best way to express non-consent. Perhaps Friedman’s ship might be better. My choice would be the Nonarchy Pod Initiative.

  18. Robert Milnes Robert Milnes November 3, 2010

    Your project will -at best- be ignored by those in power-the reactionaries. At worst…
    “…won’t admit to unless forcefully confronted about it.”
    Ummmm. Non aggression?

  19. Robert Milnes Robert Milnes November 3, 2010

    No, Tom, that is too easy. No one is an island. When you waste your time, some of that belongs to others, if not everyone else. This is a major flaw in rightist, including libertarian ideology. If everyone was capable of being a well rounded, well grounded rugged individualist, maybe you could say that.But we are not. We re all dependent to some extent, at some time on others. & since we fail each otherso often & so much, that explains why things are so messed up.
    I’ve said cop out before.

  20. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp November 3, 2010


    I now believe that winning elections is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieving positive change.

    I have no problem with those who disagree, but my time is mine to waste, just like your time is yours to waste.

  21. Robert Milnes Robert Milnes November 3, 2010

    You are wasting time. You should be actively trying to organize an inclusive movement & win some elections.
    BTP could win the 2012 elections. With enough ballot access & a fusion ticket. Why don’t you work on that?

  22. paulie paulie November 2, 2010

    further explanation from the website

    by Thomas L. Knapp in General Principles

    Comments (4)

    If you choose not to vote because you do not to consent to “the system as it is,” and if you’re willing to say so, you’re an ? Voter.

    Yes, it’s really that simple.

    Maybe you’re a member of one of the political parties which finds it as hard to get on the ballot in Oklahoma as a non-Shiite-fundamentalist party does in Iran.

    Maybe you’ve gone unrepresented in Congress your whole life because geographical districting, gerrymandering, “first past the post” elections and other features of the existing system make you part of the 49.9% instead of part of the 50.1% (of those voting — in most cases and most places, the majority don’t vote).

    Hell, maybe you’re an authoritarian who doesn’t truck with all this election stuff — you’d prefer a Maximum Leader and universal conscription.

    Or maybe you are (like me) an anarchist.

    ?2012 is ecumenical — if your reason for not voting falls under any heading other than “apathy,” and if you’re willing to say so, you are an ? Voter.

    ?2012 isn’t a total agenda. It’s just a first step, an umbrella of sorts, for all of us whose political agendas start with “NOT THIS.”

    ?2012 is, in a way, an intervention. Like the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous say, “the first step is admitting that you have a problem.” The current system has a problem — a problem its supporters, like many substance abusers, won’t admit to unless forcefully confronted about it. Its problem is that a supermajority of its subjects don’t consent to be governed by it.

    ?2012 itself isn’t what’s next. It’s a tool for mobilizing that supermajority to clear the road so that we can get to whatever’s next.

Comments are closed.