In the upcoming midterm elections, voters are caught in a political system that is exploiting our country’s division and capitalizing on our fears in order to win votes. It’s still a battle of ideas — not whose ideas are better, but whose we want to silence.

This system does not provide the best outcomes nor is it representative of what the majority of Americans want for their country.

As member of Generation Z, I’m tired of being given a choice between the lesser of evils and will not be a participant in that form of democracy. This year, I will not be voting in the gubernatorial election in the state where I live, Arizona.

Since I first became eligible to vote in 2016, the politics I’ve been dealt has been characterized by partisanship and growing division. I was a Republican, but I’ve watched the party I knew become dismantled and beholden to ideals presented by former President Donald Trump. At the same time, the Democratic Party has become the party of identity politics, driving social division through racial and economic differences. Neither of these get at what Americans are looking for right now, which is leadership and a break after the last three years.

The candidates I have to choose from include the Republican Kari Lake, a MAGA zealot who won the endorsement of Trump, and Democrat Katie Hobbs, who would most likely trot out the same tired Democratic policies we’ve seen tried around the country unsuccessfully. To some, these candidates are in no way similar. But to me, they both represent two things that’s wrong with our politics today.

Lake has motored through this race atop Trump’s platform and standing out nationally as a devotee to the new Republican Party. She’s not alone in this strategy in Arizona, where the party is a shell of its former self, and many GOP candidates repeat the same talking points and cater to the loudest voices on the right.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, Lake touted a near-total abortion ban in Arizona. This was despite 87% of Arizonans saying they wanted abortion to remain legal in all or some cases. This kind of disconnect makes Democrats gleeful, so much so that some are promoting far-right candidates in hopes of improving their own chances of winning. (These are the same candidates that President Biden called “a threat to democracy” in September.) This gamification of our political system is shameful.

Perspective: Why young people are down on democracy — and how we can change that
Opinion: Are young people not voting because they don’t care — or because they don’t know how to care?

On the other hand, Hobbs brings to the table the same tried-and-failed Democratic policies that have sent some Americans running from blue to red states during the pandemic. This is the second problem with our political system: The failure of candidates to present fresh ideas in order for the country and our states to move forward.

During her campaign, Hobbs has gained the support of three defund the police organizations. With crime being among the top five issues that Arizonans care about, it’s hard to see how this helps her, or the citizens of Arizona. Democrat-run cities that have championed decreasing police support have since either reversed their stance or seen an uptick in crime.

This is not what Arizonans want for their state, so why would Hobbs accept that support? Because other Democrats have.

If Lake wins in Arizona, it will strengthen the state’s ties to Trump and empower those on the fringe. If Hobbs wins, she will likely embrace the same sorts of policies that have already led to the brink of recession and an increase in crime.

Neither of these are appealing to me. Arizonans could benefit from some sensible, middle-of-the-road policies.

Trump-endorsed candidates won in Arizona. Here’s what it could mean in the general election.
Who is Kari Lake? Meet Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial nominee

The problem is that our current political system has forced leaders to stand behind parties, not policies. It incentivizes candidates to vilify their opponents in the crudest of terms and to cater to the loudest voices. This type of politics isn’t sustainable and continues to divide us. It has allowed for all-or-nothing approaches to problems like climate change and immigration, and has made policy-making a response to those on the fringes. It is a system that I don’t want to indirectly support with my vote.

I know that voting is a privilege and a cherished right in America and democracies around the world. However, a vote for the lesser evil is not the same as a vote for progress. While I will still vote for other candidates and policies on the ballot, I do not want my vote for one of the most important seats in state government to go to candidates that are a product of a failing political system. The politics I want to see for Arizona is one that champions constructive disagreement and new ideas. I want to see a method of engagement that emphasizes open, honest debate and working across differences to find common solutions.

Choosing not to vote for governor this year is my silent protest. I acknowledge it will most likely not make a difference. But I think all of us deserve better when it comes to choosing those who will decide our laws and shape our communities. Yes, we have the right to vote — and also the right to abstain. Choose wisely. I think I did.

Jessica Carpenter, an Arizona native, is the chief marketing officer for BridgeUSA, a youth-led nonprofit that facilitates productive conversations about political issues across lines of difference. The views expressed here are her own and not representative of BridgeUSA.