Tuesday, November 4, 2008

V for Voting

By Hanno

Yesterday in the Philosophy club, several people voiced the opinion that early polls were anti-democratic. The argument goes something like this:

If you believe that the candidate you are going to vote for will lose, you are less likely to go vote for your preferred candidate. Polls let people know that their candidate is likely to lose. Therefore, polls make it less likely for you to go vote for your preferred candidate.

This was separated into two separate arguments, first simply polls, and second calling the election (even when right) early, so that people in CA find their votes irrelevant, since the issue is already decided.

If this is right, then in suppressing the vote, polls function anti-democratically.

It must be granted that turnout is lower when you know your candidate will lose. How much lower is very debatable, but excitement about voting leads to higher turnout, and close elections and knowing your going to win lead to excitement, and hence higher turnout. That is why campaigns try to make people excited about voting, flags waving, bands playing, balloons flying, etc.. So let us grant the argument.

The error is in the beginning. People are told they should vote "to make a difference" "so their voice will be heard." This is simply an anti-democratic view. The only time your really make a difference is when your vote is the deciding vote. The will to make a difference is therefore an anti-democratic will, the will to be the one making the decision. The will to be heard is similar, but also misses the basic point in a modern democracy: your voice will never be heard as an individual. You are 1 of 300,000,000 in the country. Your voice as an individual is the squeak of a mouse at a Rolling Stones concert. If you vote to make your voice heard, do not vote, it will never happen. It is the view that your vote must effect something, that your vote must make difference which is the anti-democratic spirit, and suppresses the vote more than anything else. With that view, your vote really does not matter, so why vote?

Now if your voice is part of a choir, a large choir, and the choir is only large when each individual sings her part, then your voice is heard, but not as an individual voice. We hear the choir, not the individual. That is the role of a vote in a modern democracy. And hence polls, or previous outcome, or it already having been decided is irrelevant. Whether the choir you join is the winner or the opposition, you are being heard. And if you have that in mind, the arguments above are beside the point. You vote win or lose, and as you vote, you take your place among the 300,000,000. When you vote, you become a citizen, a part of the body of the United States of America. Isn't that good enough? No, isn't that better than anything else? If you are not content to be one of 300,000,000, then you are not content to be a citizen of this country. It is that simple. And then what would you be content with? Your vote making the difference, your vote deciding, you being the decider... you being the dictator, which will never happen.

So the choice is yours. Do not choose to vote because your candidate will win or lose. Either choose to vote and be an active citizen of this country as it is, or choose not to vote and be a bystander with empty dreams of unachievable anti-democratic power.

7 comments:

ce said...

Well, you're right obviously, but that aside:

Can a person hand over their vote? That is, a friend of a friend was not and is not interested in the election or politics to any great degree, and offered to allow my friend's husband (who is Canadian, btw) to decide the vote for her. As such, if he could do the research and convince her that he knows the issues well enough to make an informed decision, that she would vote as he decides, though it would be her vote he would be utilizing.

Is that allowable? Why or why not?

Anonymous said...

If you are not content to be one of 300,000,000, then you are not content to be a citizen of this country. Do not choose to vote because your candidate will win or lose. Either choose to vote and be an active citizen of this country as it is, or choose not to vote and be a bystander with empty dreams of unachievable anti-democratic power.

You have turned the idea of democracy itself into a dictator. "Either you are with us or you are against us."

And then what would you be content with? Your vote making the difference, your vote deciding, you being the decider... you being the dictator, which will never happen.

If I don't believe in Democracy am I automatically a dictator? False dichotomy anyone?

Anonymous said...

Hanno, I finally agree with you, and had a humerous thought about the Rolling Stones, mice, and the electorial college. If the stones walk on stage and find an empty auditorium, do you think they would say "the hell with it, lets rock it out anyway" or would they smash their guitars and say "fuck it, lets just get drunk?" We are the mice, the stones are our voice, and the auditorium is our nation.

DocMurphy

Hanno said...

They are the Stone... They'd do both.

Anonymous said...

There are several undemocratic features of the primary process in this country. The most glaring is the processes that ensure only two parties will possess meaningful chances for victory.

Add to that the effects of modern mass media on society, and basically the election process results in a choice between two candidates whose plan or vision are fundamentally identical.

Modernity offers many fruits to a nation, but many of them are not so fresh.

ce said...

and basically the election process results in a choice between two candidates whose plan or vision are fundamentally identical.

Can you give us a for example?

Anonymous said...

All you need for an example is listen to the presidential debates. I'll admit to not watching much of the McCain-Obama debates, but going back to Bush-Kerry, or Bush-Gore, or Clinton-Dole, just listen to how many times each of them respond to their opponent with "I agree with X, but instead of a 5% increase I favor a 6% increase..."

Campaigns are generally the time where they most differentiate themselves, Republicans appealing to their anti-big government base and Democrats appealing to their anti-big corporations base. But no matter who wins, there is more laws, regulations, and bureaucracy, and businesses seem to have more power, more money, and more control over our daily lives.

If you must have a concrete example, take the current home mortgage crisis. What you did not have was a libertarian-minded Republican saying,"The banks got themselves into this mess. Let them fail," or a regulatory-minded Democrat saying,"The banking industry is too important to be left in the hands of these irresponsible capitalists. Government needs to take over these failing institutions." No, both candidates supported a plan where the government would infuse the banks with a ton of capital so they could use it to buy up their competition.

The reality is that both parties used to at least try to distinguish themselves during the election season. Now (with a two-minute response time during the debates) they don't even bother. Both parties represent a political policy of the merger of State and corporate power.