Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting is important.

This much should be obvious, yet to many people it is not. A quick check of statistics online shows that turnout for the 2004 presidential election was just a little better than 60%; this was up about 6% from 2000, but frankly, it is still not nearly good enough.

Now I'm sure that in the past few days you've heard a lot of people going about how crucial it is for everyone to get their asses out of bed and make a choice tomorrow. Unfortunately I am going to join their numbers for a brief moment, with a couple arguments for why I feel it is necessary that every US citizen who is able visits a polling place tomorrow.

In a nutshell, the crux of my argument is this: Democracy does not work without the consent of the governed. The dictionary definition of democracy is "government by the people," after all. How well is our democracy performing, then, when only 60% of those who are able to have a voice exercise it? Democracy can only reach its theoretical fullness when 100% of those governed are doing the governing, right? This is the only sure way to garauntee that the will of the majority of the people is heard. And this seems a small, small price to pay for what should be the most fair form of government. And how hard is it to go vote, really? It takes maybe 20-30 minutes out of your day... you might look at it as just another form of paying taxes, by which I mean that it requires a necessary (and in this case small!) sacrifice on your part to keep society running the way it should, which hopefully is in the best interest of everybody (the difference here is that this tax takes your time instead of your money). I think it is interesting, in fact, that paying taxes is enforced harshly by almost everyone in power while it seems that only some in power care about voting... but that is a topic for another time.

Of course we're talking about hundreds of millions of people here, and I think that always leads people to think "who cares if I vote, there are plenty of other people who will vote like I do, so what I have to say won't end up mattering." Of course examining this statement even a little shows that this is a logical fallacy (thus, those professing it are fallases... get it?!). See, this is a bad way of thinking because it assumes that you're the only person thinking that way. After all, to be honest, there are very few elections I can imagine where one vote would determine the entire outcome (shitty Kelsey Grammer movies notwithstanding). But the problem is that many, many people think this way, and then the issue becomes not about one vote but about, say, one-hundred million (ala 2004). It should go without saying that those one-hundred million votes could have (and I think you could reasonably argue would have) drastically altered the outcome of the election and the future of our country. Kind of makes thinking that your vote doesn't matter look kind of silly, huh?

I would be remiss if I did not consider, however, that there are some people who truly feel that their best choice on election day is to not vote at all... and I don't mean because they'd rather sleep in, or go home early and watch TV, or anything like that, but because they do not have faith in any of the candidates and wish to, in a way, opt-out of being governed. This is a symbolic gesture, of course, not a literal one, but I will concede that this is a perfectly valid reason not to vote if my generous readers will concede that most people make this choice out of laziness, not out of conviction. But if you, my friends, truly do not support any candidates up for election this year, it is your right as a citizen in a democracy to not vote for them. Similarly, to re-visit this analogy, it is your right as a citizen in a democracy not to pay taxes. Henry David Thoreau famously opted to not pay them, as did Wesley Snipes. There are punishments for that, yes, but you still must recognize that it is your right to not consent to being governed, just as it is the government's right to take the approrpriate action for said lack of consent. The issues that blossom out of your feeling like you do not want to be governed are myriad and complex and I couldn't possibly talk about them here, but it is still important to recognize that this is valid stance to take on election day.

Of course this whole time I've been talking from a very idealized, almost theoretical standpoint, both about the idea and process of voting and about how democracy is actually run. The last few elections in particular have been plagued with accusations of voter fraud and other such illicit conduct, and these are things that would not happen in an ideal situation. However, only crazy conspiracy theorists think that our situation is absolutely hopeless and that we can't do anything, and I am not one of those people. I refuse to believe that there are 10 filthy rich men in an underground bunker somewhere who have already decided who the next president shall be based on the almighty dollar... no sir, the only Illuminati I believe in consists of representatives of all of the Marvel Universe's super-teams (and besides, this theory that money governs all would fail to explain, among other things, the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter). I truly believe, and maybe this is stupid of me, that it will be us, the common man and woman, who will decide tomorrow who runs our country for the next 2-6 years. To think otherwise is probably not supportable, and probably the result of laziness.

Now, because this was such a serious post, I'd like to end by sharing a couple video clips I really love from an episode of South Park. This is one of the few episodes that I do not agree with philosophically; however, it is damn funny.

Now... vote or die, motherfuckers.

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