Rohit's Realm

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February 05, 2008

Vote or Die

As I sit here in my darkened 25th-floor apartment, staring blankly out at a completely frozen Lake Michigan, and anxiously awaiting the results of perhaps the most important Super Tuesday in my lifetime, I cannot help but be struck by the gross absurdity of the voting ritual that we idolize as the dearest representation of our collective freedom. It is a paradox I have puzzled over for years, never arriving upon a satisfactory answer: why do people, myself included, continue to partake in this farce that idealistic morons would have us believe is our civic duty? Put a different way—a way that is more suitable for the Realm—what incentive does any one have to ever vote? And absent any such incentive, why do people expend resources to do so anyway?

Will any single vote make even a scintilla of difference? One need only to look at the margins of victory in even close races to realize the exceedingly simple answer: clearly not. And even assuming, arguendo, that the margin of victory was a single vote, in a modern political landscape of gerrymandered districts and Rovian issue-splitting, what does that one vote in one district in one state really mean anyway? Not much, probably, if anything at all. And yet, I continue to vote, unburdened by the overwhelming power of impeccable logic and unsympathetic beauty of economic analysis. Moreover, I continue to passionately believe that voting is an important responsibility—nay, a privilege—and have for my part, never missed a single election since I turned 18. What is going on here? Have I really become one of those incorrigible imbeciles who believes in the power of government, or worse, the people?

Of course not, assholes! Don't be ridiculous! If anything, I hate the unwashed masses more than I hate myself. And that there is a lot of hate, either way you cut it. But if my newfound acceptance of the intolerable common man is not a reason for my rigid participation as a voter, what is? I suppose I could wax on about how I believe that voting is a privilege, not a responsibility (because I do), and bore you all with the same trite sob stories about billions of people on this planet who suffer in squalor under the yoke of ruthless despots (because they do), but coming from me, such talk is at best hollow, and at worst, disingenuous. I have neither suffered in squalor nor toiled under the yoke of a ruthless despot; moreover, starry-eyed hogwash about hope is about as believable coming from me as an announcement that I have fallen in love.

Had enough suspense? OK, I will tell you: I vote because my vote nullifies someone else's vote. That's it. That's the whole reason. Every time I vote, one racist, homophobic, misogynist, ignorant, uneducated, illiterate, under-employed, ill-informed, gun-toting, collar-poppin' (or some variant thereof) person's vote goes by the wayside. My vote may not count for shit, but by golly, neither will some other douchebag's. And if I cannot live in a system where I can make a so-called difference, the least I can do is to make sure that terrible people do not get to make more of a difference than I do.

More substantively, as I am sure many a ruthless despot (and bad movie villain) has ominously remarked, Either you are part of the solution, or you are part of the problem. If you think everything is hunky dory here in the good ol' U.S. of A., well then, fine, don't vote. But I am not sure anyone with any lights on upstairs could possibly survey the state of the union and believe that it's all good in the 'hood (so to speak). Problems abound from within and without; poverty, health care, and security are only a few. We may disagree about their scope, or their relevance, or even their gravity, but I think almost everyone can agree that we have not reached utopia yet. I mean, if we had, why the fuck is AT&T still dropping 1 out of 4 of my calls? You'd think utopia had better cell reception than that.

Having agreed (I hope) that there is still much work to be done, I have to believe that it is incumbent upon those of us with the power, and the skills, and the ability to exercise those talents and do something about it. Holding your nose and casting a vote for the candidate you think will do the most good—or least harm—is hardly much to ask. Don't like the system because you think your vote won't matter? Well then, get yourself a hammer and a sickle, and a little red book. ¡Viva la revolución! Can't be bothered to take 20 minutes out of your necessarily futile life (of watching reality television and jerking off, no doubt) to vote? Well, then shut the fuck up when it comes time to complain about this problem or that one. If it was that important to you, you would not be sitting on your ass periodically switching to the left hand when the right one gets tired.

In short, [d]emocracy [may] substitute[] election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few,1 but at least you can raise the average IQ of that detestable many by a minute fraction of a point. Hell, that's better than doing nothing at all. In the immortal words of a heroic man, Vote or die!2

^ 1 George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, "Maxims for Revolutionists" (1903).
^ 2 Diddy/P-Diddy/Puffy/Puff Daddy (or whatever his name is today).


I hate the unwashed masses more than I hate myself. And that there is a lot of hate, either way you cut it.

My head might explode thinking about all that hate. Also, this was a remarkably uplifting post. I hope you're not going to make this a habit.

Have you seen "There Will Be Blood"? A great portrait of an American capitalist who hates the unwashed masses more than he hates himself.

Long live democracy in America!

If a single vote doesn't matter, then negating a single vote definitely doesn't matter. So, when you say that is why you vote, you are lying. Negating the vote of somebody with a different viewpoint is not why you vote There is another reason why you vote...and I am guessing it is frighteningly idealistic .

Also, you seem to imply that the reason to vote is to enact change. "If you think everything is hunky dory here in the good ol' U.S. of A., well then, fine, don't vote." Well, even if you found things honky dory, you would still have to vote to make sure things kept going that way.

Finally, I'm not sure I want people voting who are only willing to take 20 minutes out of their life for the experience. A little more effort, and a little more sense of civic duty may lead to a more educated electorate and much better decisions come election day.

I agree with Darren above. You may have outed yourself as an idealist. For shame!

Hmm, I agree with Rohit. Voting is useless. However, voting is not useless because it is "only one vote," voting is useless because we can't elect George W for 4 more years.

4 more years! 4 more years!

(I am such an asshole)

God bless you Phil, and God bless America. Four more years!

Katie, sorry, looks like I am going to make this a habit.

Jon, it's now on my list to watch ASAP.

Darren and Sarah:

  1. No comment re: idealism.

  2. Yes, it is true that a person who was satisfied with the status quo would also have to vote to sustain it, but it's easier to consider the case of those who are dissatisfied and still don't vote since that pattern of behavior is more inexplicable. But you are right, I didn't clarify this point.

  3. You may be right: something may be worse than nothing when it comes to voting, but . . . I think it's expecting too much to assume people who don't even bother to vote will suddenly transform themselves into model informed citizens.

Phil (and Bush): I'm looking for a Huckabee/Jeb ticket in '08. It could still happen. Four. More. Years.

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