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Election Day In America

Every time an election rolls around, you’ll hear a lot of people remind you of your right to vote. This is not one of those posts, because I have a somewhat more philosophical point to make, and one which gets an unsurprising amount of pushback from the cynical.

Today is Election Day in America. If you are an American citizen and of legal age to do so, you have a responsibility to vote.

We live in a participatory democracy, with a government made up of fellow citizens. Both the representatives that we elect and the civil servants who actually execute the business of government are our neighbours and fellow members of society. There is not, in principle, a “ruling class” from which our leaders are selected. (There certainly seems to be in practice, but that’s not an ideal situation.)

Because this is a participatory citizen government, you have the ability to be a part of it. You can run for office, or work for someone who is. You can speak to your representatives in the government, and discuss the issues that are important to you. You can go to town meetings, raise awareness of issues, and generally make the wheels turn. If there are no candidates to your liking, you can encourage like minded peoples’ campaigns by supporting them, raising awareness of them, and generally boosting the signals that correspond with your worldview. The only thing that limits the amount of involvement you have in your government is the amount of time and dedication you’re willing to commit.

Given all of that, actually getting off your duff and voting on Election Day is quite literally the least you can do.

I will not say, as I’ve seen others suggest, that if you fail to vote you forfeit your rights to free speech, or that you don’t love your country or care about it. No one is going to force you to go to the polls and cast your ballot. You certainly have the right to forfeit your turn at the lever, if that’s your desire.

But you shouldn’t, because voting in elections is one of the most basic and fundamental responsibilities of being a citizen in a participatory democracy.

So if you are able, take the time….make the time…to go to your polling station and vote for the people who will best represent you in the coming years.

It’s the least you can do.


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  1. Yep. As usual, with great power comes great responsibility.

  2. I’ll note two things about voting.

    First, there are people who don’t vote but who do a great deal of work in the political arena, including actual governance, working to alert people of current and upcoming issues, etc. is a good example; it was he who convinced me that while voting is important, not voting doesn’t necessarily indicate political irresponsibility.

    Second, this quote from Robert Heinlein that someone posted at FB:

    Elections are won not by converting the opposition but by getting out your own vote, and Scudder did just that. According to histories I studied at Boondock, the election of 2012 turned out 63% of the registered voters (which in turn was less than half of those eligible to register); the True American party polled 27% of the popular vote… which won 81% of the Electoral College votes.

    In 2016 there was no election.

    I sincerely hope that’s not prophetic (no pun intended) and fear that it could too easily be.

    • I agree that those things are important, but I disagree that this excuses one from actually voting. This is a point I’m willing to agree to disagree on, but I do — strongly — disagree.

      • I certainly see your point of view. For the most part, I hold it. It takes an extreme amount of actual work to make up for the simple act of voting; I only know a very few people who do that amount of work who wouldn’t actually vote. (Most of the folks who do that sort of political slogging are very protective of their franchise.) Some folks, though, do get that involved and make that much of an impact; enough to matter.

  3. Election day

    User referenced to your post from Election day saying: […] of legal age, please remember to go out and vote. Autographedcat has a post you should read. […]

  4. Thank you for this post.

    I have already voted, but will point to this from my LJ

  5. I usually vote — I admit that I am not always up enough on local issues to vote sensibly, which is my own fault. If I don’t have the Trib recommendations handy, I almost always vote against retention of any judges, on the grounds that anyone who gets turned out because of my single vote must have deserved it. 🙂

    Given the gerrymandering that’s gone on in my neighborhood (I found myself moved from a safe Republican suburban district to a safe Democratic lakefront district ten years ago), my vote doesn’t tend to make a difference.

    But then again, it’s almost always true that no single vote does. I look at voting as being almost an exercise in sympathetic magic: if I get off my duff and go vote then other like-minded people will do the same; if I don’t vote, then they’ll choose to stay home.

    So Gretchen and I will pile the girls in the van today around lunch time, head over to the polls, and go in and vote in series while the other one stays in the van.

    And then we’re going to McDonald’s. 🙂

  6. Thanks so much for this. I ranted about voting over at my journal, but I’m not a citizen (working on it, working on it, slowly, slowly, slowly, because do you know how much it costs to become a citizen, but i digress) and hearing that message from people who can vote, in the sane and reasonably way you wrote it, is like water to a thirsty woman.

  7. My father linked me to a European pundit, Daniel Hannan who commented that in America, grassroots parties like the Tea Party who get their candidates into local and state and federal offices by getting the vote out are really only possible in America. In Parliament-run countries, the upper elite in each party hand-picks who will run for office for the public to vote upon.

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