Friday, October 08, 2004

Why Should You Vote?

All right, it's getting down to the wire, people. If you haven't registered to vote by now, it's likely you're SOL for November 2. Now the question is: will you vote?

Will you vote on November 2?

It's amazing how many registered voters in this country do not vote in any given election. It's mind-boggling, in fact. I've voted in elections with a turnout of less than 50%, a pathetic number by any stretch of the imagination. Granted, presidential elections usually have a better turnout, because people care more about the outcome -- nevertheless in the 2000 election most states' turnout hovered between 60 and 70 percent.


A sizeable section of the population didn't care about the outcome, in other words. Those who opted out might have wanted to leave the voting to someone who did care. They might have thought their apathy would register as a protest.

This "protest" has never made sense to me. "I'll take my toys and go home if you don't pony up the perfect candidate?" What, you'd rather live in a totalitarian state? You'd rather not be able to vote? Yeah right, that'll show 'em. I'll just go and vote, while you're having your little protest...


Anyway, this year, with one of the most contentious elections in our country's history, voter registration has boomed. It's likely that many of those newly registered voters will turn up on election day, and I hope you will too.

Whether you approve of Bush's foreign policy or not, you can't have missed one of the central arguments made on behalf of the war itself; that the US would bring "democracy" to the Middle East, and that the Iraqi individuals would be better off with a say, however small, in the formation of their own government. Whether democracy has any potential to flourish in such a place is a thorny question; my point in bringing it up is that an underlying assumption of "bringing democracy" to a place is that democracy is desirable. It's not perfect, as a system; there's the distinct possibility that a majority of a voting population will be misled into voting against their own best interests. But as a system it's the best thing humans have come up with yet. It utilizes a collective decision-making process, and as long as citizens have free and unfettered access to information with which to make their choices, it is likely to result in fairly good government.

Or at least government whose mistakes can be reviewed every four years or so. *ahem.*

It's not a perfect system, and yeah, it would be great if our individual votes were more powerful than they are. It's a collective endeavor, voting, and there's little that compares to the humbling sensation of being a tiny grain of sand in a huge dune. And if statistical insignificance is what bothers you most about voting, if that's what is keeping you away from the polls, can I make a suggestion please?

Run for office yourself. See, the reason we elect representatives to do the work of government is that it would be absolutely unwieldy to hold a vote for every single decision it would take to run a city, a state, or a country. They're called representatives for a reason. They represent the majority of their constituency. They're the ones who make decisions for large groups of people. That's how it works.

So here's why you should vote on November 2nd: because you can. You are immensely fortunate in living in the place you do, at the time in history you do. You don't live in China, or North Korea, or a country whose dictatorship might hold mock elections to cement its lock on one-party power; no, you live in the United States of America, and it's about time you started to act like an American. You have more power in the mark on your ballot than most people in the history of the world ever had in their lifetimes. It's time to choose the representation in your government, and I would take that seriously if I were you.

Don't be lame!

(essay also posted on Spanglemonkey)

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