Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I won’t tell you to get out there and vote. In fact, I think it would be disingenuous of me to tell people to register if they haven’t already.
First of all, I doubt that this would work anyway. Are there people out there who are right on the edge of registering to vote, haven’t quite gotten around to it, and my nagging them puts them right over the edge? Somehow, I doubt it. I am fatalistic about telling people to vote, the same way that people are fatalistic about voting itself – will my one voice really make that much difference?
Second of all, I do understand the idea that the greater the voter turnout, the “healthier” the democratic system. There’s a certain collective goodness that comes from more participation compared to less participation. On the other hand, to my mind that depends on how people cast their votes. There are candidates and proposals that are disastrous if they win. I don’t want people voting in such a way that makes the situation worse.
Frankly, not every voter acts in a responsible way. I do not want to encourage lunatics and the feebleminded to cast a vote just to cast a vote, or just to be "part of something." I am not convinced that an ignorant, thoughtless vote is always better than not voting. The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were originally crafted with the assumption that the majority of voters can be wrong and that you have to protect the country against irresponsible forms of democracy.
Along the same lines, if you’re waiting for someone else to remind you to vote, you are probably not highly informed about current events in the first place. If you are only swayed when somebody reminds you to vote, then you may be too easily swayed to be a responsible voter. If you need me to tell you to vote, then you really shouldn't be a voter.
If you're silly enough to think that refusing to cast a ballot will be an effective political strategy, then you are terribly misguided and therefore should not vote in the first place. If you are silly enough to think that your one vote makes no real difference, that actually shows a bit of mathematical wisdom on your part, but you can't see the forest for the trees and therefore should not be voting anyway.
Third, there’s my own political self-centeredness. I only want to encourage you to vote if you’re going to vote the way I do. I don’t want to encourage the other side, which is of course made up of the worst sort of people, and it’s beyond me how anyone can vote for them. And, the fewer other people vote, the more relative power my vote has. Being one out of 40 million gives me more power than being one out of 80 million.
Finally, I think telling people to vote has become clearly counterproductive. I suggest we try some reverse psychology in order to increase participation, especially if you want to get more young people to vote. Tell people NOT to vote. Tell them that the government does not want them to vote, and that this is “for your own good.” Tell younger voters that they are too young to have such responsibility and should leave these decisions to people who know better. Make some sort of absurd movie called “Voting Madness,” in the style of “Reefer Madness,” that shows people the horrible dangers of casting a ballot. Get some disgraced authority figures to tell people to stay away from the polls. Have both Obama and Romney tell the people in the other party to skip the election.
Make voting into more of an act of rebellion or counterculture and less one of those boring things from high school civics class, and you may be getting somewhere. Tell people not to, and watch them thwart you at every turn.
Of course, I will be voting. I will vote for all the reasons you are supposed to vote. I actually believe in all the great reasons to cast a vote. If you don't have any of that commitment, then please stay away.