Thursday, February 7, 2008

To Vote, or Not to Vote?

I don't really follow politics. I just don't find it very interesting. But sometimes I think I should know a little more about what's going on in government.

In any case, the recent developments in the Presidential campaigns has brought me to an interesting question. What do you do when you don't like or can't support any of the candidates? When it comes time for me to vote in the national election, what should I do? In the past I've taken up the stance of voting for the lesser evil, so to speak. But if I really have no preference, should I even vote at all?

I've grown up hearing that everyone should vote. There are always various reasons presented, such as:
  • "Your vote matters!"
  • "You should involve yourself the the democratic process!"
  • "You are expressing your opinion! It's your voice in government!"
  • "It's your civic duty!"
  • "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain about how things are!"

    But the problem is that my vote (in this instance) probably does not matter! The candidates I would have voted for are all gone! There are so many voters, but only a handful of candidates. And even if my vote does matter, it will only matter in my particular area of the country. My vote will either resonate with the popular vote in my state or will be drown out by the majority (there are precious few times where this is not the case).

    In some ways I feel it would be more of a statement to not vote for a Presidential candidate. I'd be basically saying that I don't approve of any of them. Silence can be a method of communicating too... unfortunately it is very passive. In voting it cannot be distinguished from apathy. But what would happen if a great number of people all abstained from voting for any candidate? Would that send a message, or would it just be an interesting statistical fact overshadowed by the drug addictions of the current pop star?

    Of course I will still complain, no matter the outcome. I feel I do have that right. I'll just file it here under "free speech".

    Now I'm not advocating that people shouldn't vote at all. (You can all put down your torches and pitchforks.) There are other issues and candidates for other positions to vote for. If no one voted, or if the general trend was not to vote then our democratic republic would quickly break down. But in this particular situation, what is to be done?

    In our government, our leaders are supposed to represent us. But what happens when they do not? I suppose that the current candidates represent a lot of other people in the nation, so there must be more that agree with them than agree with me. I just hope that they are average citizens, rather than vocal minorities or lobbyists.

    In the end, I trust that the check and balance systems of our government will ensure that one terrible President will not single-handedly destroy the Union. If things are all that terrible then in four years we'll get a new President. So for now I'll just have to ponder whether 'tis nobler to cast a vote callously, or to remain silent and uncounted. Ay, there's the rub.