Feature photo by theresasthompson

It’s understandable why voting is sometimes perceived as a waste of time. After all, one vote will not make a difference in your life. Whether you research the ballot down to the last judge or spend November 2nd ripping a bong with the day off of work, neither will ostensibly affect your life in any way. Why give a shit?

The reason many people will stay at home on Tuesday is the very reason they shouldn’t: disgust and apathy. The chorus of “things will never change” is already being muttered to disgruntled selves across the land despite the fact that this election represents a monumental moment in history. Things are going to change, no matter who wins. Here’s a few reasons to assert your right to shape it.

The Way Democracy Should Work

One of the most common complaints about the inefficacy of casting a single measly ballot is that it is a drop in the ocean. This is a misguided take on how popular government works. In our free society, we spend so much time being autonomous that when decisions must be made collectively, we feel exasperated. Don’t focus on how insignificant your vote is. Think of it as your presence in a huge town hall meeting.

A vote is not supposed to be an endorsement of some slimy politician but a representation of your interests. Individuals vote for candidates who they think will help them the most. The tabulated results paint a picture of a sort of aggregate civic interest, which the politician is then obliged to serve. Hence, the greatest good for the greatest number is achieved. It’s not that your vote doesn’t make a difference, it’s that everyone else’s does too. This is a good thing.

The Way Democracy Does Work

Elected powerbrokers are only beholden to those citizens who they know will show up to re-elect them. Politicians are blank slates, puppets animated by the will of their constituents. Election is the mechanism that keeps this process honest. Government pursues agendas designed to keep its representatives in office, which is a power conferred exclusively from the voting booth. Without Latino voters, Bush would likely not have attempted his stab at immigration reform. The same is true of the elderly vote and prescription drug legislation, Medicare, etc. A vote represents not only your choice, but your presence. The schemers in charge only care about the first if they are assured of the latter. Only by being a consistent voter will you be catered to.

The Way Democracy Shouldn’t Work

Too often, voters do not understand what they should be getting. Many Americans rely on public officials to explain the world to them. It’s sad that unprecedented access to information has so dumbfounded our society that we no longer have any idea where to go for it. If you have a credit card or a loan, how exactly did TARP affect you? You have no idea. The best you can do is absorb as many expert opinions as possible and pick one.

The vast majority of this country feels frustrated with the direction we’re headed, and the cause is that flows of information have gone from bottom-up mandates of the people to top-down explanations and action plans coming from self-serving agendas. In other words, apathy—comfort that the slimeball on TV is trustworthy—is what allows us to be fooled into things that serve only to calcify and enrich existing power structures. Most of the electorate today is so used to being duped, they don’t even mind that our two major parties have entirely different sets of “objective” facts. Such a system of government is not democracy. It is a plutocracy with the tacit permission of a clueless public.

I encourage everyone who is eligible to vote to do so. But if you are going to do it, know what you’re voting for. Vote for something that makes sense to you, something that aligns with your beliefs. Do not ask someone else who to vote for. This country does not need another careless voter convinced that his opinions have anything to do with him.

And I swear to God: anyone who lets a campaign ad sway them should have to reapply for citizenship.

The Way Democracy Never Works

Not voting represents a citizenry slowly abdicating control of their country. It aids those who appropriate our government for their own gain. It vitalizes the forces responsible for the disenchantment that has come to replace civic pride—and that keeps non-voters at home.

The American government is the most preponderant entity the world has ever seen, and those who can wield it profit obscenely. The discourse that Washington encourages serves mostly to distract and disenfranchise the average American so as to prevent them from feeling they have a stake in this country. The fewer people vote, the smaller of a hurdle public opinion becomes, and the easier it is to clear it with a plunderous agenda. The partisans who are tearing this country apart know that their virulent bases will turn out for them. But if the moderates who don’t align themselves with that triviality stay at home, they fail to place reason in government and even more people lose their voice from the American plurality. Those who surrender their right to vote out of disgust directly worsen the problem by empowering the reasons they were disgusted in the first place.

The only way to extract good governance from elected officials is to demand it of them. On Tuesday, you will have the chance to do that.

Your bong will be there when you get back.

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