Vote! Or don’t.
So it’s election time again, and for the first time, I will be able to vote for the President of the United States. I do have my political views, but I generally try as much as possible to avoid discussing my views these days for fear of alienating friends, whom I think are great people, but may not be prepared to tolerate my political beliefs. So yes, I am voting this year, but don’t ask whom I choose. (And for those of you who DO know whom I’m voting for, SHADDUP!)
With that being said, there’s one issue I’d like to discuss. Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of buzz out there about how it’s our “political duty” to vote. Celebrities, Hollywood, the music industry, talk radio, news stations, and political activist groups are all pushing their respective campaigns to reach out among the people, track down those who choose to stay home, and convince them to register and “rock their vote”. Granted, this has been going on for a long time, long before this election cycle. But this is the first time I’ve actually had to notice a lot of it in order to follow the elections. And frankly, I’m already fed up with it. To me, it’s peer pressure under the false pretense of encouraging responsibility.
There’s a certain group of Americans who can be classified as non-voters. There are many different reasons people have for not voting, but these reasons can usually be traced back to a lack of interest. Granted, if you have political views, I think it’s best to vote, even if you feel like you’re one vote doesn’t matter. Voting is a group effort, and choosing to participate encourages others to participate. Even if you don’t live in a swing state, and you’re in the minority, not voting dooms your state to never get a chance to be a swing state in the future. However, the non-voters I am concerned about here are those who are indifferent to or dislike all the candidates, or simply have no interest in politics. I think if they want to stay home on election day, that’s their choice, and we should respect that. I often think of voting as choosing the lesser of two evils. But if all candidates look equally crappy to you, that’s your opinion, and I respect that. And then there are those who aren’t concerned with how this country is run, just so long as it’s still working. To me, I may view the policies of the guy running against my guy as running to country into the ground, but let’s be honest here. This country has been a democracy/republic for about 236 years now. We’ve had some terrible presidents, but as bad as they’ve been, we’ve more or less been able to solve or at least live with the problems certain knuckleheads in office have caused. I may not like how the other guy might run the country, but at least the country is still RUNNING. It’s not like we’ve descended into complete anarchy, dictatorship, etc. under 1 president. For some people, just so long as America is still functioning properly, it doesn’t matter to them who’s in charge. If that’s how you feel, it would be a waste of time for me to argue that guy X will ruin everything if he gets in office. Realistically, what difference will it make to you if you aren’t concerned with whether funding infrastructure or scientific research is more important?
Lastly, my main concern here is the motives driving the groups demanding that you go to the polls. Do you really think these groups really care about making sure that YOUR voice gets heard? I certainly don’t. I think these groups only visits the demographics they think are more likely to, if convinced to vote, to vote for the person THAT PARTICULAR GROUP wants. For example, say the Celebrities Are Not Stupid Organization, a.k.a. CANSO, wants more Democrat voters. CANSO would probably go to a college campus because younger voters tend to lean left. While there, CANSO may find me and discover I’m considering not voting, and then convince me that I would be a terrible person for letting my country go to shambles. Once they’ve convince me to vote, they’ll encourage me to look up the issues, but CANSO know I’m in an environment that will steer a naive mind like mine towards their way of thought. Meanwhile, the Stuck-Up Rich People Society, a.k.a. SURPS, is visiting a gated community, looking for more rich old people to vote Republican, since many of them do. There, they find my grandmother, who is considering staying home on election day. The SURPS also tell her she’s a terrible person for letting her country go to shambles. Once convinced to vote, SURPS won’t specifically tell her to vote Republican, but encourage her to look to her peers for advice. Within the walls of that old folks’ home, those old fogies will create an echo chamber for my grandmother in which voting for the right-wing seems like the only way. I have a question for CANSO and SURPS: What happens when those who don’t want to vote get tired of your sneaky propaganda, and decide to vote for who you’re AGAINST?
My main point is, it’s not your duty to vote, it’s your duty to vote CAREFULLY. If you think the guy I hate is the right guy, go ahead and vote for him. Just so long as you’ve done enough research to know you like his principles and goals, I am fine with that. If you decide you don’t want to vote for anybody, that’s fine as well. But whatever you do, don’t vote because someone gave you one-sided evidence and told you that voting is mandatory. It’s not. A misinformed vote is worse than no vote at all. You’ve got the right to choose the future of this country, or to not choose at all. I’d give voting a shot if I were you, but I’m not.