Get the Vote Back In

Warning: sociopolitical analytical post.
This is part two of a two part series. The question for this post is: “Why do Americans vote?” The analysis is broader than the U.S., however and can be applied to any large western country.

Why do people vote?

In Australia and certain other countries it’s because the law demands it. I’m still not sure how I feel about that, but it seems to work fine most times. In other countries where it’s not compulsory, people vote because they don’t want to ‘shirk’ their democratic rights and responsibilities, because they have a candidate or issue they ‘care’ about or (in the case of my friend Frank) because they just hate incumbents.

Sadly, I think Frank is on to something. At the very least he has a reason to vote. Most times, people go out on election day to help a bill or candidate pass (or to hinder its progress). Unfortunately, these bills are rarely local and so one vote makes so little difference that it’s no more effective than just crossing your fingers.

Additionally unfortunately, there is usually more than one bill or candidate on any ballot box. So what do people do when they finish voting for the issue or person they care about? They keep voting.

They wouldn’t want to shirk their democratic duty to add randomness to any electoral outcome, would they?

A few special interest groups, motivated by their own rational self-interest (not that there’s anything wrong with that. . .) spend millions in advertising to try to ‘get out the vote.’

Far fewer groups advocate informing potential voters about just who they’re voting for (in fact, only two I can think of, Vote Smart and the LWV).
So some people vote, most people don’t. Depressingly, most of the people that vote, don’t know what they’re voting for.

Quoth the H.L. Mencken:

“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”

This makes me sad. I hate the concept of politicians winning because they have nicer names or are first on the ballot. It’s the reason I advocate ‘get the vote back in.’

Don’t vote. I don’t think anyone should vote if they only know state-wide or national issues, because these are surprisingly the least important. What is important is the local races nobody cares about.

All politics are local. National politics follow local trends. Vote local and you might not make a difference, but you’ll at least have a better shot. And besides, if the local citizens don’t care about local candidates, what does that mean for the process.
Your ‘democratic duty,’ if it exists, is to vote only when you know what you’re casting a vote for. Your ‘duty’ begins at home. Vote local or don’t vote at all.

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