Friday, February 19, 2010

On Voting And Not Voting

Please note that this post is about no candidate or person in particular. It just exists on its own in a little blog vacuum. Not a dyson vacuum, just, like, a dirt devil vacuum. One with less suck.

So, why and how should we use individual's voting records to evaluate their qualifications for a particular job, to determine their character, or otherwise judge them? Should we at all?

A few things seem clear to me.

First, I can't think about individual voting records without recalling my first day in Gov 20 at CMC. Professor Pitney pushed us all to defend the argument that every vote counts. You want to piss off and frustrate the hell out of a class of government nerds, by the way, this is the best way to do it. We all but shouted "yes." We used the "if everyone picks a flower from this garden, eventually it will be bare, thus of course each individual action matters" argument.

But you know what. In most elections (and there's a big * here, post 2000, of course), a single vote doesn't count. That's not say it doesn't matter, in the virtuous sense, but it probably doesn't count. Again, in most elections.

Second, I used to be angry at non-voters. Really, viscerally angry. Until I realized I should thank them. Every person who doesn't vote makes my vote that much stronger. I'm happy to be left to make the decisions, thanks.

Anyway - what's clear to me . . . .

There seem to be one main reason and one main excuse employed by non-voters. The reason: I was busy. The excuse: doesn't matter anyway. Is either the reason or the excuse valid? Ish.

Some people really are busy. I'd argue no one could ever be too busy to register to vote, but perhaps one could be too busy to cast a ballot.

What's the more, er, politic excuse, however? Certainly not "doesn't matter anyway." A candidate can't use that line and go on to ask for electoral support.

A better excuse: I didn't get it before! I was so moved by 9/11/Obama/California's budgetary woes/abortion/marriage equality/whatever that I just couldn't stay home, finally paid some attention, and got my ballot in this time. We love a lesson-learned narrative in this country, no?

What if, however, we tweak that a bit? What if, instead of "I had a come-to-Jesus moment with myself," the candidate instead explains that, while facing business challenges stemming from government regulation, the candidate realizes that "politics" is perhaps the only route to success?

What do we do with that explanation?

Do we allow a candidate to use politics and government interchangeably? Are they interchangeable? In all cases?

In the absence of a lesson-learned narrative, what will we accept as a legitimate storyline?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the theory is supposed to be that if a candidate can convince people to vote, that means he also has a better chance of convincing them to be involved in bettering their community which is of course supposed to be the ultimate reason for politics. By the way, in several countries, most prominently Australia, voting is mandatory and they fine you heavily if you miss an election. I think that's a reasonable concept. If someone is going to have to pay fees for whatever, it seems to me that the people not carrying the load of basic citizenship should have to make a higher sacrifice for the community.