Monday, November 03, 2003


I used to refuse to vote on the grounds that it didn't change anything, but I admit I've reached the opposite conclusion. These days I vote as often as they'll let me, although not because I think this candidate is truly superior to that one; in truth, very few politicians stand head and shoulder above the rest. However, in my reading on election reform, I've come to realize that voting is very important, but not for the reasons most people think.

Politicians ultimately care about votes more than money, because votes are what get counted on Election Day. Sure, money helps you get votes, but you can't actually trade in dollars for votes. (Neat idea, though.) Now, one might say, "Well that proves that politicians listen to their constituency", an assertion that is not quite correct. Politicians care about the opinions of their voting constituency, which do not always equate to the entirety of their disticts or states. It's well known that certain demographics vote more consistently than others, and that the whiter, older and richer you are, the more likely you are to vote. It therefore should come as no surprise that rich white folks wield an inordinate amount of power in this country. Don't believe me? Consider the third rail of US politics otherwise known as Social Security. Since old people vote in droves, if you touch it, you die, at least politically. Therefore, if you are a politician, you worry about the desires not of your entire constituency, but of the constituency most likely to vote. Who cares what people who sit home on Election Day think?

That being said, if poor folks voted in the same or greater numbers as rich folks, I guarantee we'd see a dramatic shift in national priorities. I predict that the minimum wage would rise, public transportation would see increased funding, and universal healthcare would become a topic of serious debate, instead of merely a pipe-dream. I'm not pounding the drums of patriotism here either; this is pure self-interest. My college philosophy professor once said that if everyone were merely smart egoists the world would be a better place, and I believe it. However, even for those of us who believe in altruism, voting matters.

That's why I vote.


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