Sunday, October 28, 2012

Your Vote Doesn't Matter...So Go Vote!

For the people that have been on a strict No-Mainstream-Media diet for the past 8 months (which, from what I've heard, can actually lower blood pressure and actively fight depression), there's an election coming up in a couple weeks in the good ol' US of A. People are on edge about it. I know this for a fact because, since I installed a plugin that replaces all my friend's political posts on Facebook with pictures of cats, I've had a significantly cuter news feed.

This is what Democracy looks like
I'm in an interesting situation this election season as I'm part of the 3% of Americans that are not currently living in the USA. Throughout this entire election season, I've successfully avoided the slew of media campaigns and the poisoned rhetoric that has seemed to seep into our every day conversations. Rather, I get the residual "we need jobs" or "health insurance" debate topic that, living outside the USA, I have no real stake in. But, as per my patriotic duty, I voted via absentee ballot a couple weeks ago. I even got a free pizza out of the deal.

Now for my international audience reading: there's a common belief in American society that voting matters. Or, rather, that my vote matters. That's the beauty of Democracy, right? That each individual can have a voice and an influence on the way a country is going. People died for Democracy and the right to vote, so I must honor them by taking part in the Democratic process.

Well that's the Kool-aid of America that everyone's been drinking at least...and it's become a placebo in place of us actually tackling the problems that matter.

You see, every election season plays out basically the same way. The people that hate the party in power come out swinging, with the supporters of the party in power defending them with all the emotion and rhetoric that they can muster. People young and old draw lines in the sand and act like voting is a life or death situation.

I remember how young I was when I started noticing it. It was the 2004 election between John Kerry and President Bush. I was only a Sophomore in High School, so I couldn't vote at all. That didn't stop the majority of my class from getting involved, however. I remember groups of my friends dividing into tribes and mimicking the talking points you would hear on CNN. Frankly...at 15, you have no idea what outsourcing is or why a war in a far away country is being fought. Nothing is black and white.

Throughout that whole 2004 election season, I heard time and time again "if only I could vote. I could make a difference." I actually believed that one as well...up to the point where I actually did research on our Democratic process.

We are a Democratic Republic, not a true "democracy". Our Senators and Representatives are voted by the people, but the President and Vice President are appointed by 'electors'. The mass of electors make up the Electoral College, and these electors vote in December for the President of the United States of America. They are not bound by the popular vote, and can vote as they please. Often, however, the process is decided on election night as the candidate losing the popular vote often drops out as part of the 'show' that is our election process.

To sum it up? Your vote, in the grand scheme of this dog and pony show, does not matter. Who you choose and who you associate with has no significant impact on who ends up in the Oval Office.

Yet every 4 years, we as Americans gather together and vote for all the wrong reasons. We vote to fix all the problems we have. We think that casting a ballot is the way to pave a bright and prosperous future. That's our contribution to our country, and immediately afterwards we go back to looking at our bank accounts, counting possessions, and wondering how we can help ourselves in such a dire situation.

Do you see the problem yet? Rather...do you see the promise every election holds, and we somehow miss it?

I have another number for you: 122,394,724. That's how many people voted in 2008. That's how many people wanted a say in our country and how many people wanted better for our country. That's an astounding number. Most of those people, however, went back to caring about themselves shortly after that historic election. They watched as the economy crashed around us and the first thing everyone did was blame the Government. It was their fault. Their greed that did this.

They are right to a degree...but the economy didn't create the negative atmosphere that we exist in today. It was us. It was our fault. Rather than working with one another and turning to things that mattered, we focused all our energy on finger pointing and talking about how our party could have done better. Once you start doing that, any obstacle becomes exponentially more impossible to overcome.

So my message to my fellow Americans this election season? Your vote doesn't matter...but you should vote anyways. Voting isn't a process as much as a symbol that, we as a country, still care about where we are going and our place in the world. The Americans that came before us didn't fight for the right to vote...they fought for freedom and our country. They fought for us as a people. When we let elections and parties divide us like they do now, we jeopardize everything our country stands for.

We are still one of the greatest countries to ever exist on the face of the Earth, and that is because we learned to work together as one people while maintaing the freedom to do as we choose...to sieze our own destiny. It's not too late for us. This election won't change our country. Barack Obama or Mitt Romney can't save us. That power still lies with us and will always lie with the people as long as our election process still exists.

4 comments:

  1. Mr. Ryan = I agree to a certain extent. But know that your argument for the President only relates to the Pres/VP. On election day, I also decide City Council, State Senators, Senators, even laws to be presented in my own city. Does my vote not count their either.

    So yes, go vote. Because you will see more on your ballot than just a box to push for president. . . Please don't tell people their vote doesn't count. Plus, can you tell me anytime in recent history that a president that lost the majority vote became president? If that is the case, you argument is sound. . . if not, food for thought.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're absolutely right: there are plenty of things on the ballot that are worth voting for. For example, there's a Proposition in my state that increases the sale tax by 1% to help fund public education. Every voice and vote counts in that case.

    My opinion on voting stems more on the fact that you're voting on people rather than issues (save for Propositions). These people have their own agendas and often align themselves along party lines, and the average American tends to vote along party lines as well.

    The President is the most prominent example of this, but it does trickle down to State and City government as well. I know that, in my hometown, many people run unopposed or on the Republican ticket. What happens is voters vote overwhelmingly for one party, regardless if the person agrees with your values or that person is best for the job. Elections are nearly always pre-determined, and the same people stay in power and make the same decisions. In those cases, my vote doesn't matter because I know that my voice will not be heard unless I'm voting in the majority party. This isn't saying that the majority party is wrong, but more that the candidates who would represent the people the best who are not part of that majority are automatically silenced.

    Your vote counts in the context of knowing what your vote means. You're supporting a person to represent you, and the modern politician rarely does that. They align with their party's values rather than the values of the people they are representing, otherwise they run the risk of losing office. Independent politicians are rare, as there are only 2 in the Senate and none in the House of Representatives.

    This is also generalizing as there are people who represent their districts very well, but it's to illustrate the point that our 2-party system doesn't work. To have a voice in government on any level, you need to be a part of one of those parties. And, in that case, that's where my belief that your actual vote isn't as important as the actual act of voting comes from.

    Also, the last case of a person winning the popular but losing the election in a Presidential Election was Al Gore in 2000. He won by over 500,000 votes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The reason we have an electoral votes is because if it was solely based on the popular vote, then politicians would only focus on LA, SF, NY, Chicago, Atlanta, etc. . . only big cities. Those cities would decide because they are the popular. The electoral college gives smaller states the ability to have voice, even if they have substantially less people.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Now that is something I didn't know. That makes sense. The electoral definitely shouldn't be "winner take all", though. I think that's where alot of the frustration comes from.

    ReplyDelete