Exactly one week ago, I received a number of texts from people asking me if they should vote. My response was always "YES!!!!"
But one word didn’t seem like enough. In fact, 50 didn’t seem like enough, which was why I kept it short. Fortunately, fate has given me a soapbox upon which it is socially acceptable to stand for 800 words every two weeks. Unfortunately, it has given it to me a week too late. Or a few years too early, depending on your perspective.
So here it is—all the reasons why you shouldn’t vote in any election…and the reasons they’re completely, totally, 100 percent wrong.
1. “I’m not informed enough.”
I like people who use this reason. I agree with them about the fundamental problem that uninformed votes are detrimental to elections, and I admire their commitment to take that philosophy even further and not worsen the problem.
They’re still wrong. They’d be correct if the population who voted was informed, and putting their uninformed vote into the mix would skew opinions. But this is not the mix of people who vote. Existing in far greater number than the informed are the uninformed, and there are two types of uninformed people—the uninformed people who think being informed matters, and the uninformed people who think that it does not. And their priorities should be reflected, too.
For instance, the group of uninformed yet eager voters—those who aren’t in the habit of consciously seeking out and synthesizing information before acting on key decisions—are also likely correlated with people who, for instance, deny climate change. Your reticence is giving their lack thereof even greater prominence.
2. “The system is broken anyway—because of gerrymandering, parties that don’t reflect nuanced political opinions, money in politics, etc., this government will never be truly representative.”
Revolutionizing the United States government would be an enormous, cataclysmic event. It would lead to instability. It would be scary. It could lead to total ruin. We should not do it if we do not absolutely have to.
And we’ll never be able to tell whether or not we absolutely have to if we don’t give the current system a fair shot. We can’t complain that the government isn’t representative if we haven’t done everything that we could in order to ensure that our views are represented. If gerrymandering is a huge problem, vote for candidates with good ideas to combat it. If money in politics is a huge problem, vote for candidates who push campaign finance reform. If the two parties don’t represent you, find a third party candidate.
3. “The candidates are all the same anyway.”
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I’m the first to admit—politics is often a game of picking the lesser of two evils. This is not a fun job. It is a necessary one.
Don’t believe me?
Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma is the senate’s leading climate change denier. He has written a book called "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future." His favorite phrase is “I’m not a scientist.” With the Republican Party having won the Senate, he is about to become the chair of the senate committee that deals with crafting environmental policy.
There may not be a good choice.
But there are plenty of really, really bad ones.
4. “My vote won’t matter.”
The response to this reason is more complicated than the above. It is also more important.
This society is extraordinarily individualistic. We like to focus on what we ourselves can do to change the world. Voting is not one of those things. To illustrate how true this is, consider the following hypothetical that I heard from a friend today:
“I was going to ride to the polls with my friend. She is a Democrat. I am a Republican. Our votes would have just cancelled each other out. Same result, and we saved half an hour.”
The problem with this reasoning is that we do not exist in a vacuum. Every single action we take helps to create a culture of voting—or not voting—that influences people on the margins.
People with the most extreme viewpoints will always vote. Those who believe President Obama is the devil will always vote. Those who believe he is the Second Coming will do the same. But those who are more moderate, who have the more nuanced views that we often bemoan as being absent from our political discourse, are likely very influenced by the behavior of their friends. If a girl who thinks she should go but isn’t eager to asks: “hey, you going to vote?” and you tell the funny story about you and your Republican friend instead of saying “oh yeah, I’m going at 5. Want to come?” she’s not going to vote. Or if a fellow Computer Science major sees your “I Voted” sticker and asks you where the bus to the polls leaves from and how often, and you can tell him, then he’s going to vote when he wouldn’t have before.
Voting is not about any individual. It’s about reflecting the collective, the aggregate. Your tiny little contribution–be it one single vote more towards the party that is better for the nation or just your presence waiting in line for a bus to the poll–is what matters.
Our generation likes to be too cool for things, to out-logic others or go against the grain. That doesn’t work here. We can’t in good faith keep touting the cynicism towards the world that is our generation’s other favorite pastime if we don’t do our infinitesimally small part to combat it.
Ellie Schaack is a Trinity senior. Her column runs every other Tuesday.